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Hyperconvergence: Is it an option for your business?

Hyperconvergence, which appears to be ushering in a new era of data centre architecture, is one of those emerging technologies many clients have lately been asking us about. So in this post, we’re going to introduce you to the basic concept of hyperconvergence and then dive right into the big question: is it significantly beneficial to business?

Hyperconvergence in a nutshell

Hyperconvergence basically brings together all the building blocks of an IT infrastructure, namely servers, storage, and networking, and bundles them into a single, modular appliance. These appliances are typically made out of commodity x86 hardware with built-in or direct attached storage (DAS).

Yes, it essentially eliminates the need for a centralised storage such as a SAN or NAS but still retains the functionality of having a commonly shared storage for the VMs, mostly for data replication and high availability purposes. Most data reads are done on the direct attached storage (and not over a network), making data access significantly faster.

With hyperconvergent systems, you can start with as many or as few  appliances as you actually need. To grow your “infrastructure” (i.e., to raise overall performance, speed, and capacity), you would scale out by adding more appliances or nodes.

What’s really interesting is that this is the kind of data center architecture employed in places like Amazon and Google. The next section might help you understand why.

How can hyperconvergence help businesses?

While hyperconvergence is obviously an exceptionally innovative piece of technology, the big question really is: How can it contribute to the bottom line? In this section we’ll take a look at 4 major benefits that hyperconvergence can potentially bring to your business.

Reduces CAPEX

IT infrastructures can be very costly. Even those that leverage (traditional) virtualisation technologies still require a huge capital investment. When virtualisation first emerged, many businesses thought it would significantly bring down CAPEX for IT infrastructure. But that was before they realised they still had to break the bank for the underlying hardware (SAN, NAS, servers, network equipment, etc), datacenter infrastructure, real estate, and licensing.

What’s worse is that, many of these costly infrastructures remain grossly underutilised for long periods of time. The reason’s because these infrastructures are built to support peak utilisation. Unfortunately, that rarely arrives in the first few months or year. So, in the meantime, large chunks of storage, memory and compute resources remain idle while you deal with heavy amortisations that seriously impede cash flow.

Hyperconverged systems are poised to succeed where virtualisation has so far failed – slash capital expenditures. period. Because all the CPU, storage, network, etc. are bundled into a single, compact appliance, you don’t need to spend a fortune up-front for the underlying infrastructure. You just need to spend on what you need right now. And then as your needs grow, you simply add more appliances and scale out.

This kind of IT infrastructure growth is easier to handle and will enable you to have a more robust cash flow; one which you can leverage to finance other business projects.

Reduces OPEX

Traditional datacenters gobble up energy and spew heat, resulting in high electricity and cooling costs. And because of the ever growing sophistication of storage, networks, and software, these facilities also require highly specialised, highly trained, and yes, highly paid technical staff. All this naturally translates to a correspondingly steep operational expense. It even gets more burdensome if your sprawling infrastructure sits on rented space.

This is another area where you can see the advantage of hyperconverged systems. Hyperconverged systems aren’t just modular. They’re also small in many ways. They’ve got a small form factor (and hence need a smaller floor space), they consume smaller amounts of energy, emit smaller amounts of heat, and they’re much easier to manage.

In fact, in many cases, hyperconverged systems can be managed by as little as a single administrator. Because of that, you can either maintain a much smaller IT department or re-assign the rest of your IT staff to more productive endeavors.

Makes enterprise-class IT more affordable

Generally speaking, whoever has the bigger war chest has the better chance of winning the war – or at least outlasting the enemy. In business, enterprises backed by large financial resources can invest in superior IT solutions that can boost productivity, efficiency, and resiliency.

For instance, if a company can invest in enterprise-class disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, that company would be able to recover from major disasters and interruptions faster than a company with lesser capabilities. If these two companies happen to operate at ground zero of a major catastrophe, only one of them may be able to survive. You know who that would be.

Unfortunately, for the smaller players, BC/DR facilities require redundant systems, i.e. another set of servers, networking, space, power, cooling, etc. Clearly, not all companies can afford it.

Hyperconvergence can level the playing field in this regard. Each hyperconvergent system already comes with high availability capabilities. But that’s not all. Because hyperconvergent systems are easier to deploy (a single appliance may require less than an hour) and more affordable to deploy, smaller companies can now build robust BC/DR infrastructures with off-site redundant systems just like their bigger competitors.

Reduces risks to data

If most of the benefits we’ve mentioned so far actually sound familiar, that’s because they’re the same benefits you’d gain if you subscribe to a public cloud service provider. With a public cloud, you can realise benefits like virtually zero CAPEX, manageable cash flow, and better BC/DR capabilities. So why not go that path?

Public cloud solutions have one major disadvantage compared to an on-premise infrastructure that uses hyperconvergence. Public clouds stack up poorly when it comes to data privacy, security, and ownership. You just don’t know who handles your data or where they’re stored.

With a hyperconvergence-based on-premise infrastructure, you’ll be able to realise the benefits we mentioned without compromising control over your data. You know exactly who has regular access to it, you know whether the necessary controls are in place, you know whether policies are implemented, and so on. Thus, if you’re not comfortable with your risk levels, you can easily do something about it.

What to do next?

So what’s the next step? Now you know some of the advantages of hyperconvergence, the next obvious question is: what can you do to implement it in your organisation?

There are two paths you can take. The first path will lead you to companies like Nutanix, SimpliVity, and Scale Computing. As of this writing, they’re the leaders in the field. These companies have products that are ready to be deployed out of the box. What used to take a day or a week to set up (as in the case of traditional IT infrastructure) can now be done in less than an hour.

The other path is for those who prefer to build their own hyperconvergent systems using technologies like VMWare’s VSAN or HP’s StoreVirtual. Of course, just like anything you build by yourself, you’ll have to get your hands dirty and you won’t be able to get your system up and running as quickly as in the first option but you will have a more customised system in the end.

Need advice about bringing hyperconvergence into your business? Contact us now on 07 3251 9333. We’ll be happy to assist you.

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