June 07, 2016. Technical Data Centre Author: Jon Laycock

Hyper-Convergence Explained

Is HC the next evolution in virtualisation?

Is HC virtualisation “in a can”?

Is HC simple to implement and manage?

The answer to all of the above is yes!

Why Hyper-Convergence?

Organisations are crying out for simplicity - speed, agility and cost reductions are the major drivers.

Hyper-convergence has been created to resolve these customer needs:

Simplicity – with a simple price model, ease of deployment, simplified management schema.

Speed and Agility – HC platforms allow resources to be delivered as and when required. Scale up/out easily, non-disruptively.

Cost Reduction – reduced TCO model including; CAPEX, implementation and administration efficiencies and environmental/footprint advantages. 

 

Today’s Hyper-Converged examples include:

Appliance Based

Reference Architecture

Software Only

Simplivity

SuperMicro and Dell based on EVO:Rail

Datacore SDS

Nutanix

 

IBM Spectrum Scale

VxRail

 

 

The birth of the HCIA, the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance

With the HC wave gaining momentum several players, including many start-ups, have entered the market with HC offerings. Billed as the HCIA, or SDDC (Software-Defined Data Centre) building block, devices are in reality compute, storage and virtualisation packaged as an appliance to support tens to thousands of applications, Virtual Machines or VDI users.

SDDC – The Virtual Data centre

  • The vision for future IT infrastructure
  • Extends virtualisation into ITAAS (IT-as-a-service)
  • Elements delivered as a service - such as applications, compute, storage networking and security

Hyper-Converged, Arrow Blog, Jon Laycock

The Marketplace Today

  • Nutanix and Simplivity offerings are well established in the market, typically providing appliances with multi-compute nodes, storage and native/proprietary hypervisor. Or alternatively, optionally purchased, retro-fitted VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V from the main virtualisation players.
  • Several other main stream vendors have also dipped their toe into the market - some have since pulled out or drive you to one of their bigger ticket Converged Infrastructure solutions. Others have partnered with the emerging players, examples include Dell+Nutanix and Lenovo+Simplivity. Some remain, HP and Hitachi, as minor players.
  • Recently into the market, announced February 2016, is VMware’s own offering VxRail, a jointly developed and marketed offering from VMware with federation partner and majority shareholder EMC and converged infrastructure off-shoot VCE.

The HCIA Appliance

Typically 2-4U including compute, storage, virtualisation and service/support – virtually all you need to fire up virtual services. All you need to bring to the party is network switch ports, your operating systems, apps, and your favourite VDI package, if VDI is your thing. The units set themselves up, in most cases in less time than it would normally take to read a decent newspaper and require little or no hypervisor, compute or storage skills.

Scaling is usually achieved by the addition of further appliances from your HCIA vendor; once again this is a simple process requiring little or no skills. Once physically racked the process is completed in the time it takes to make a strong cup of tea.

VM deployment, and management is completed via simplified GUIs and workflows, no longer is storage/CPU/memory requirements a complex series of questions, rather “small”, “medium”, “large”? Data and application protection is delivered via under-the-hood clustering of the server nodes within the appliance or appliances.

Hyper-Converged, roads crossing, infrastructure

Converged Infrastructure (CI) versus Hyper-Converged – What’s the difference?

Packaged CI solutions: 

  • Utilises standard switches (SAN/NAS), storage arrays and servers/blades 
  • Typically purchase at the rack granularity level 
  • Sold as a single SKU/part number, from a single vendor
  • Normally attract expensive CAPEX (initial and upgrade) and support costs

Hyper-Converged: 

  • Does away with dedicated storage area network (SAN)
  • Moves away from expensive servers to commodity x86
  • Embedded Servers SAN replaces storage array
  • Setup time and costs vastly reduced
  • Smaller deployment footprint, fractions of a rack. 

 

Where does HCIA fit? Due to the simplicity, TCO and packaging model, the HCIA approach is an ideal solution for many scenarios, including: remote branch office (ROBO), Enterprise Edge, larger departmental, virtualised apps and VDI. Download the infographic below for simple look at Hyper-Convergence.

Hyper-Convergence, IT Insider, Arrow Blog, Jon Laycock

It’s an exciting time for Hyper-Converged Appliance, the market is growing rapidly, with ever more organisations considering HCIA as an alternative to the traditional DIY server approach. The HCIA offerings delivers what customers are crying out for – simplicity, cost reduction, with flexible scale and agility.

In Part 2 I take a more in depth look at VMware's new HCIA offering, VxRail.

If you have any questions or thoughts about Hyper-Convergence I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Jon is a Technical Account Manager within the EMC team at Arrow.

 

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