Virtualization and Hyperconvergence

For any modern business that prides itself on staying on top of the tech trends of the day, virtualization is something that must factor high on the agenda. That’s because tech-focused businesses aim to have as few moving parts as practically possible while at the same time offering expanded resources to their users.

IT virtualization, in simple terms, is the creation of a virtual version of a server device or resource (as opposed to physical). It involves emulating the functionalities of a physical system (storage or network resources, for example) within a software system, the result of which is a creation of the virtual version of the hardware in question. In so doing, virtualization makes it possible for businesses to operate hundreds of servers as if they were just a handful of machines. The result is that organizations are able to optimize their server operations while making them easier to run, more cost-effective and manageable.

However, organizations whose infrastructure is housed on-premise find it challenging to optimize their data center capacity and performance, more so considering the fact that conventional virtualization mechanisms tend to result in complex resource islands that are not only under-optimized, but also largely unmanageable.

This is why introducing hyperconverged infrastructure and platforms in your organization makes sense: it allows you to expand your business’s IT capabilities while eliminating the bottlenecks involved in traditional virtualization. This way, downtime can be reduced significantly, scalability becomes easier, and plenty of other benefits. This is achieved by employing separate servers, storage arrays, and storage networks.

What Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure

What is Hyperconvergence?

Hyperconvergence in computing refers to the consolidation of compute, storage, and networking resources into a single integrated system or platform. It combines these traditionally separate components into a unified architecture, typically leveraging virtualization technologies.

In a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), compute, storage, and networking functionalities are tightly integrated and managed through software-defined technologies. This means that organizations can manage and allocate resources from a centralized interface, simplifying administration and reducing complexity.

How Does HCI Work?

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) works by unifying compute, storage, and networking resources into a single, integrated system. It leverages virtualization technologies and software-defined approaches to create a flexible and scalable infrastructure.

At the core of HCI is the hypervisor, which abstracts and virtualizes the compute resources. The hypervisor enables multiple virtual machines (VMs) to run on a single physical server, effectively pooling the computing power. This allows for efficient utilization of resources and enables organizations to run different applications and workloads on the same hardware.

By eliminating the need for separate hardware components and leveraging virtualization, hyperconvergence enables organizations to achieve greater efficiency, scalability, and agility in their IT infrastructure. It allows for seamless scaling by adding nodes to the existing cluster, making it easier to accommodate growing workloads and changing business needs.

Applications of Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Hyperconverged Infrastructure is a versatile solution that can be used for a wide range of applications across industries.

  • Data Center Consolidation: HCI simplifies data center management by integrating compute, storage, and networking resources into a single platform. It enables organizations to consolidate their infrastructure, reduce hardware footprint, and streamline operations. HCI also provides scalability, allowing businesses to efficiently add resources as needed.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI): As mentioned earlier, HCI offers the performance, scalability, and resource optimization required to deliver virtual desktops and applications to end-users. HCI's integrated approach simplifies VDI management, improves user experience, and ensures high availability.
  • Private Cloud Deployment: Hyperconverged Infrastructure can serve as a foundation for building private clouds. It provides the necessary infrastructure and management capabilities to create a self-service, on-demand cloud environment. HCI simplifies cloud deployment, improves resource utilization, and enables organizations to deliver services quickly and efficiently.
  • Remote/Branch Offices (ROBO): For organizations which need IT infrastructure in remote locations, HCI is a viable solution. HCI compact form factor, simplified management, and centralized control make it easier to deploy and manage IT resources in distributed environments. HCI ensures consistent performance, data protection, and simplified scalability across multiple sites.
  • Disaster Recovery (DR): Organizations can consider HCI as it offers robust disaster recovery capabilities. Organizations can replicate data and applications between HCI clusters to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster. HCI's integrated data protection features, such as snapshots and replication, enable efficient and reliable DR strategies.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure vs Converged Infrastructure

Of course, before the birth of HCI came another important virtual solution - CI or converged infrastructure. CI and HCI systems alike have evolved from the approaches of traditional data centers, whereas CI was first introduced to simply reduce any complexities involved with data center infrastructure. The aim was to combine separate commodity hardware components such as storage resources, servers, and networks into a single solution that was pre-packaged and pre-integrated, effectively simplifying management and deployment.

Essentially, CI worked as a springboard for hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions, where all these ideas for creating a singular system were taken a step further. HCI integrates all these components into a single HCI appliance as opposed to a single system made up of different appliances. This results in a more compact and scalable solution for businesses, especially SMEs or organizations with limited IT resources as it enables them to easily deploy and manage a highly-integrated infrastructure internally.

Why Organizations Should Consider HCI

HCI offers a range of benefits that can significantly enhance IT infrastructure efficiency, simplify management, and improve overall business operations.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure brings together compute, storage, and networking resources into a single integrated solution. This consolidation eliminates the need for separate hardware components and streamlines the deployment and management processes. By reducing the hardware footprint, organizations can save space, power, and cooling costs in their data centers.

Scalability is another key advantage that HCI offers. Organizations will be able to easily scale their infrastructure by adding nodes to the existing cluster, allowing for seamless expansion as business needs grow. This scalability eliminates the need for large upfront investments and allows organizations to scale their infrastructure incrementally, optimizing resource utilization and reducing costs.

HCI also offers simplified management and administration. The software-defined nature of HCI enables centralized management and automation of key tasks, such as provisioning, configuration, and resource allocation. This centralized control improves operational efficiency, reduces human error, and frees up IT staff to focus on more strategic initiatives.

TechTarget conducted a survey and found that businesses have already been implementing HCI technologies back in 2020, citing higher storage performance and management simplifaction as their main reasons for the move. In addition, Emergen Research has predicted that the market size for HCI may reach up to USD 124.52 billion USD within the next 10 years. This demand can be interpreted as an indicator as to how reliable this technology is, and how it can be seen as an investment for companies to improve their IT infrastructure. Understanding its benefits and investing in HCI can put organizations ahead of their competitors.

Benefits of Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Hyperconvergence introduces a set of key benefits to the IT environment and business in general. They include, among others:

  1. Agility: One of the advantages of a hyperconverged platform is that all the workloads in the organization fall under the same administrative banner. For this reason, shifting workloads from one location to another tends to be easier.
  2. Scalability: Scaling up your HCI data center is very easy due to the node-based architecture. All you need to do is just add or remove nodes to match your current resource demands.
  3. Ease of deployment: While some quarters might be overstating it when they describe HCI as a turnkey technology, one of the broader appeals of hyperconverged platforms is the ease of deployment. Typically, an HCI system is easier to deploy compared to other separate technologies since the supplier has already preinstalled and preconfigured the key tech aspects – server, storage and in most cases, networking and virtualization. This not only makes HCI an attractive proposition for SMEs, but remote and branch office location with no IT staff can find it easy to roll out or scale up their IT needs too. The same applies to startups and other fast-growing organizations.
  4. Cost efficiency: Any IT department can benefit from hyperconvergence in a cost savings sense as the infrastructure reduces resource wastage while enhancing cost effectiveness. Not to mention, the recurring costs of supporting a hyperconverged data center tend to be lower since the business is investing less in the purchase and maintenance of equipment, as well as support.
  5. Software-defined storage: The storage in a hyperconverged platform is software-defined and there are benefits that come with that. Notably, the storage nodes serve as a super reliable pool of storage that is rarely affected by issues such as downtime. In the event that a particular node goes down, this doesn’t affect the others. HCIs are often characterized by reliable connectivity and uptime. Of course, this will also depend on your vendor of choice, which is why you need to be meticulous when evaluating potential vendors.
  6. Data protection: With a hyperconverged platform, organizations don’t need to lose sleep over the risk of losing data. The risk of data loss is always there when dealing with digital information since cybercrime (and system failure) is an ever-present threat. However, hyperconvergence embeds elements of disaster recovery and backup into your infrastructure, making it easy to restore data.

What to Look for in a HCI Provider

When organizations are searching for a Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) provider, several crucial factors should be considered.

  • Comprehensive Solution: Seek an HCI provider that offers a complete and integrated solution encompassing compute, storage, virtualization, and networking. A comprehensive solution eliminates the need for separate components and ensures seamless compatibility and management.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Your HCI solution should support easy scalability to accommodate evolving business needs. It should allow organizations to add resources, such as compute and storage, in a modular and flexible manner, without disrupting ongoing operations.
  • Performance and Reliability: Evaluate the performance capabilities of the HCI provider, including factors like latency, IOPS, and data throughput. The solution should deliver consistent and high-performance results to support demanding workloads and critical applications.
  • Integration with Cloud and Virtualization: Consider an HCI provider that supports seamless integration with cloud environments and various hypervisors. This flexibility allows organizations to leverage hybrid cloud architectures and deploy applications in their preferred cloud environment.
  • Data Protection and Security: Ensure that the HCI solution includes robust data protection features, such as backup and disaster recovery functionalities. Additionally, security measures like encryption and access controls should be built into the solution to safeguard sensitive data.

Sangfor HCI - Hyper Converged Infrastructure

Sangfor Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) provides innovative 3rd-gen cloud computing architecture that reduces at least 70% of the TCO, simplifies operations, and multiplies network security. It converges compute, storage, networking and security on a single software stack. Watch the introduction video to learn more.

Sangfor HCI provides a comprehensive and integrated software-defined data center solution, making it easy to deploy and manage business-critical applications. It is compatible with commodity servers available in the market, allowing flexibility in hardware selection.

With Sangfor HCI, organizations can build their private cloud, extend to a public cloud, or create a hybrid cloud environment. The platform supports advanced capabilities for data processing and cloud computing storage, enabling agility and elasticity for development and testing environments. It ensures data consistency through timely synchronization.

Sangfor HCI Success Stories

  • Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center is the biggest public hospital in Llocos Norte province, Philippines. To solve the performance issue of its legacy system, it deployed Sangfor HCI. The hospital finally improved its efficiency and business continuity.
  • The Ministry of Human Resources (MOHR) is a ministry of the Government of Malaysia that is responsible for skills development, labor, occupational safety and health, trade unions, etcs. With Sangfor HCI network virtualization, MOHR can operate and maintain the entire IT infrastructure effortlessly with the “What You Draw is What You Get” feature.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure and how it can benefit your business, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure FAQs

By nature, hyperconvergence can improve your IT infrastructure by simplifying everything down into a single appliance. It combines compute, storage, servers, and networks. This makes it a lot easier for organizations to identify and resolve issues without having to look at a number of different appliances, improving management and maintenance.

Determining if any system is compatible for an organization relies on several factors, for example size and complexity of the IT infrastructure, the organization's specific needs and goals, and any particular factors you require from the technology resource.

As converged infrastructure (CI) systems are made up of different appliances and are generally larger than HCI systems, CI might be more ideal for organizations that house larger data centers and more complex storage systems.

Alternately, the simpler infrastructure of HCI might appear to be better suited for organizations with smaller data centers or limited IT resources but because of their scalability and efficient deployment method, it also makes them an attractive option for fast-growing organizations or companies with multiple locations.

HCI is designed to be highly adaptable, which makes it easy to integrate with a wide range of hardware and IT systems. However, it does depend on various factors. For example, if your organization were to try integrating HCI with a hybrid cloud environment, you would first need to make sure that your HCI solution can seamlessly integrate with the public cloud platform you are using.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is specifically designed to support many different kinds of applications, both traditional and modern. It popularly supports workloads such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), big data, cloud-native applications, databases, and more.

the time it takes to integrate HCI into an organization's systems can range from a few months to several months, depending on the circumstances. Generally, implementing an HCI solution will be split into the following phases:

  • Evaluation and Planning: The initial evaluation and planning phase typically involves assessing the organization's needs, defining requirements, and selecting the appropriate HCI solution. This phase can range from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the complexity of the organization's infrastructure and decision-making processes.
  • Deployment and Configuration: Once the organization has reached a conclusion on its needs, the next phase involves physically installing and configuring the HCI hardware and software components. Depending on the scale of the implementation and the level of customization required, the deployment and configuration phase can take several days to weeks.
  • Data Migration and Application Integration: If data and applications need to be migrated from the existing infrastructure to the HCI environment, the time required will depend on factors such as the volume of data, the complexity of applications, and the migration strategy employed.
  • Testing and Optimization: After the integration is complete, organizations typically perform testing and optimization to ensure the HCI solution meets performance and reliability expectations. Fine-tuning the system and addressing any potential issues can take several weeks or even months.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) brings numerous benefits, but it also presents certain security risks that organizations need to consider. These risks include:

  • Data Exposure: Consolidating storage and compute resources in a single system increases the potential impact of a security breach. If an attacker gains access to the HCI environment, they may be able to compromise sensitive data stored within it.
  • Shared Resources: HCI involves sharing resources among different virtual machines and workloads. If proper isolation measures are not in place, there is a risk of data leakage or unauthorized access between different VMs.
  • Vulnerabilities in Software and Firmware: HCI relies on various software components, including hypervisors, virtualization management software, and SDS controllers. Any vulnerabilities in these components could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access or disrupt the system.
  • Lack of Visibility and Control: HCI environments often have complex architectures and distributed data storage. This can make it challenging to have comprehensive visibility and control over all components, potentially leading to blind spots and security gaps.
  • Insider Threats: Hyper converged infrastructure environments may be managed by multiple administrators or third-party vendors, increasing the risk of insider threats. Unauthorized access or malicious actions by privileged users can have severe consequences for the security of HCI infrastructure.

Implementing HCI may pose a challenge as HCI typically involves upfront hardware and software investments, as well as ongoing maintenance and licensing costs. These expenses may be prohibitive for organizations with limited budgets. Additionally, HCI requires skilled IT personnel to manage and maintain the infrastructure, which may further strain the resources of smaller organizations.

That being said, it's important to note that vendors have been developing more affordable and tailored hyper converged infrastructure solutions. These offerings may provide a more cost-effective entry point for smaller organizations.

Organizations should consider the following limitations that HCI has in terms of scalability:

  • Scale-Up Constraints: HCI solutions have a maximum limit on the number of nodes that can be added to a cluster. This can limit the scalability potential, especially for organizations with extremely large-scale infrastructure requirements.
  • Performance Impact: Should organizations opt to scale HCI clusters, the performance of the overall system can be affected. The increased resource demands across a larger cluster may result in reduced performance and higher latency. Organizations need to carefully monitor and manage resource utilization to maintain optimal performance.
  • Storage Capacity Limitations: As HCI relies on local storage within each node, the storage capacity of an HCI cluster is limited to the cumulative capacity of its nodes. When the storage demands surpass the available capacity, organizations may need to add additional nodes solely for storage purposes, which can impact the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the solution.
  • Vendor Lock-In: HCI solutions are typically tightly integrated, leading to a certain degree of vendor lock-in. Once an organization adopts a specific HCI platform, migrating to a different solution can be challenging, potentially limiting scalability options in the future.

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