What is Hyper Converged Infrastructure?

Future competitiveness of today’s enterprises will be dictated in part by smart choices made by their business and IT leaders around IT and Datacenter operations. Public Cloud providers have removed the boundaries for startup companies to stand their IT without any capital investment to enter a new market. With the barriers to entry into any established market decreasing every day, these organizations are under threat for their business(or part of) taken away by a start-up or a competitor with better IT operation and client services.

Enterprises, large and small, have attempted digital transformation under different names, with mixed results(more than 70% failure – FORBES). Digital & Cloud transformation programs  have often failed or produce suboptimal results, especially when legacy applications are involved and/or regulatory controls are required. The number of tool choices and methods available within the open source community and with public cloud providers can create unnecessary complexity that derails the project; often not including Day Two production operational readiness.

Legacy applications pose a unique challenge for established enterprises on their digital transformation and cloud migration journey

  1. Legacy applications are difficult to re-factor into Cloud Native architecture due to cost and complexity
  2. Public Cloud Solutions may not be a good fit for all legacy workloads. 
  3. Enterprises have to keep data on-premise for security and regulatory reasons.
  4. Legacy applications could be tightly integrated with many on-premise security and audit solutions which may not be available in public cloud
  5. Public Cloud may not be the cheapest option to run Legacy applications depending on the nature of the workload.

This realization has led enterprises to establish a private cloud which offers similar agility, resilience and elasticity as a public cloud but adds better governance and control. Innovations around Hyper Converged Infrastructure(HCI) have been primarily to meet the demand for a private cloud from the industry and have matured significantly in the past decade. 

Hyper Converged Infrastructure(HCI) Defined

Hyper Converged Infrastructure(HCI) combines compute, network and storage on standard x-86 servers into a software defined linearly scalable horizontal building blocks under a unified management. Innovation around HCI started with niche offerings like Virtual Desktop, Web Applications etc. and have evolved into mature offerings to handle mission critical enterprise workloads. 

Storage optimization for better cost and resiliency is the key for successful implementation of HCI strategy at large organizations with petabytes of data which is doubling every 3-5 years. Existing storage infrastructure needs specialized hardware, network(switches) and skillset which is costing a fortune.  Most of the enterprises are stuck with dedicated storage(SAN-Storage Area Network) and  specialized switches(iSCSI, Fibre Channel etc.) which get integrated with the compute infrastructure.  Implementing a well designed HCI solution should eliminate the need for a dedicated storage system altogether.

Hyper Converged Infrastructure(HCI) Defined

1. Infrastructure Cost Reduction, primarily storage

HCI uses commodity x86 servers as building blocks in the scale-out model. Enterprise can start with a small footprint and keep on adding additional nodes as that will scale compute and storage linearly. Elimination of dedicated storage like SAN and related infrastructure has huge potential cost savings.  

2. Resilient and self-healing hardware platform means less issues and downtime

With a single unit to scale with commodity x-86 servers, HCI solutions offer better resiliency and self-healing. In many scenarios, just replacing the failed unit in a timely manner is what is required to make the cluster whole without any downtime. Upgrading and patching process is also simplified.

3. Business Productivity Benefits

Business benefits with HCI just in time provisioning. They do not have to wait in line for months for IT to configure the solution to enable faster client on-boarding to time to market solutions. 

4. Elimination of Infrastructure Silos

HCI eliminates the need for specialized skills, particularly around storage, as storage scales along with compute 

5. Less care and feeding of Infrastructure 

Modern HCI solutions have unified management built in with REST api for provisioning to enable automation and integration with rest of the enterprise tools. This reduces manual steps which is needed to hook together compute, storage and network in the 

Establishing a Private Cloud with HCI technology in place would enable enterprises to get the feel of software-defined IT infrastructure within their Data Center with added cost savings, security and agility. This will also help align silos within the IT operation team which would be needed to operate any public cloud. With successful implementation of HCI technology and migration of some of the existing application workloads on the Private Cloud platform, enterprises will be in a better position to start adopting public cloud.   

HCI Vendor Analysis

Offering elasticity, just in time provisioning, ease of use, resiliency, performance and DR capability across multiple data centers using locally attached storage to the x-86 servers should be the prime factor in deciding upon the HCI vendor.

HCI can truly become a part of multi-cloud strategy for large enterprises and as such vendors should be evaluated keeping this long term strategy in mind. The Garter link below compares the current offering from multiple HCI vendors. 

https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/ 3894101/magic-quadrant-for-hyperconverged-infrastructure

What Is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

How Cloud Control Solutions Can Help

Cloud Control Solutions (CCS) AppZ Platform consists of proven software, framework and methodology to accelerate Digital Transformation and Cloud Migration.  CCS AppZ has a business application centric control plane which is cloud agnostic and can make Private Cloud with HCI or Public Cloud or both immediately available for business to start consuming with full control and governance. 

AppZ enables a true GITPOS model, where application/infrastructure changes are traceable to Source Control Systems (i.e. GitHub) with user details, reasons for the changes and timestamps.  The AppZ platform enforces separation of duties between Application Developers and DevOps Stack engineers/Infrastructure admins. With this approach, OS/Middleware build and certification are separated from the application development process. This removes a tremendous amount of risks of all kinds: unverified open source vulnerabilities, malware etc., from the overall application deployment process. 

The AppZ Control Plane offers out-of-the box views into deployed software inclusive of privileged access, drift from policy, build and operational status and resource consumption from one single pane of glass.  It can integrate with all enterprise tools and provide governance and control for building, deploying and monitoring applications and infrastructure with least privileged access as well as automated alerts and resolution. 

Equally important, the framework can easily be deployed for applications residing in a hybrid environment: Legacy Data Centers, Private and Public Clouds. This proven approach is far from a lift and shift, as it can enhance applications to use key and secret management and allow legacy applications to take advantage of Cloud infrastructure via using containerized Docker and Kubernetes for added security, scalability and resilience.

The Cloud Control team has helped migrate thousands of complex and intricate legacy application workloads to the Cloud while modernizing the IT infrastructure with full control and governance at major financial institutions, healthcare providers and start-ups.

About The Author

What Is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

Sanjeev Kumar

Head of Product, Cloud Control

Sanjeev has more than 20 years of experience in design, development and architecture of FinTech solutions at BNY Mellon and State Street. He is passionate about automating and reducing the challenges of overall IT implementation. He is a firm believer in IT becoming a utility with major Cloud vendors like AWS, Azure and Google providing the backbone with simple/standardized interfaces for secure and faster application development at reduced cost and complexity.