The days of cobbling together makeshift data centre systems and wrestling with complex hardware, software and data integration are waning fast.
Organisations realise greater value and efficiency when deploying fully integrated compute, storage and network gear as one unit. Convergence IT infrastructure has moved far beyond simply bundling and pre-integrating a selection of different manufacturers’ data centre IT systems offerings. Vendors from traditional IT sectors such as storage and servers or virtualisation, as well as specialised companies, have embraced the notion of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). Vendors are competing to be the single source for all enterprise computing needs.
Kalyan Kommuru, business lead, Cisco Data Centre Business at Ingram Micro’s Aptec, said hyper-converged infrastructures are quickly capturing the fancy of end-user organisations everywhere. He said converged infrastructure bundles hypervisor, server and storage in a single node and provides the flexibility to scale-out to form a single logical entity. “The most important difference between the two technologies is that in a converged infrastructure, each of the components in the building block is a discrete component that can be used for its intended purpose - the server can be separated and used as a server, just as the storage can be separated and used as functional storage,” he added. “In a hyper-converged infrastructure, the technology is software-defined, so that the technology is, in essence, all integrated and cannot be broken out into separate components.”
In the past data centres were slow to adopt converged IT infrastructure due to its all-or-nothing nature. Why make the investment in convergence when other servers or storage resources are still viable?
Kommuru concurred and said hyper-converged infrastructure, although still an evolving technology, has been receiving increased attention as a technology that can simplify the architecture of virtual environments at a low cost. “Products in the hyper-converged category integrate compute, storage, networking and virtualisation resources that have been preconfigured to work together,” he said. “Hyper-converged data centres have a single node that contains storage, networking, compute, and virtualisation. The beauty is that it’s scalable by just adding more nodes as you go.”
However, Kommuru added that in some cases, the transition from traditionally integrated infrastructures to converged IT ones could be difficult. For example, he said an application running on a traditional server might not be able to access storage in a converged system.
He pointed out that while hyper-converged IT infrastructures are still new to data centres, products are quickly maturing to meet the scale and manageability demanded by enterprise IT administrators. Kommuru said hyper-converged infrastructures can appear in almost any organisation based on a wide range of technical justifications and return on investment goals, but some common drivers push interest in hyper-converged versus converged or traditional IT deployments. “Hyper-converged systems are being used in companies where the IT department is looking for simplicity which can come in many forms. Hyper-converged infrastructure is an ideal solution for companies looking to optimise their resources around data centre or larger companies where managing a virtual infrastructure has become too complex,” he said.
Pundits say the most overarching driver for hyper-converged and converged IT infrastructure use is the ongoing need for server and data centre consolidation projects. Consolidation makes use of virtualisation, allowing many more workloads to operate on far fewer physical servers. The opportunities for consolidation abound as aging data centres are retired, remote data centres are decommissioned or renovated, and organisations migrate some workloads to the cloud.
Kommuru pointed out that given the growing demands on infrastructure, vendors have been forced to further innovate in the hardware domain and hyper-convergence is one of the results of the disruptive innovation that has taken place within the infrastructure space. He added that hyper-converged infrastructure essentially collapses core storage, computing, and networking functions into a single software solution or appliance. “The Middle East, Turkey and Africa is currently still only in the adoption phase when it comes to converged systems, so hyper-converged systems are very new to the region,” he noted.
However, explained Kommuru, as the level of discourse around software-defined everything (SDE) increases by the day and the demands placed on infrastructure by the adoption of cloud, mobility, analytics, and virtual desktops continue to ratchet up, the disruption caused in the market by the emergence of hyper-converged systems could be quite significant.
He said another pervasive driver for hyper-convergence is supporting the deployment of important new enterprise technologies without renovating or refreshing other resources already at work in the production environment.
Kommuru said Ingram Micro is here to help its channel partners succeed in a variety of ways.
First according to Kommuru, the company listens to its partners so that they can better understand the business challenges they face when it comes to helping them meet the evolving needs of their clients. He said closely related to that is supporting various reseller partners needs through sales and technical trainings, pre-sales and professional services support to solution providers with broad solutions offerings on converged and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions. “Converged and hyper-converged infrastructure are one of the top go to market strategies of Ingram Micro and we are investing on domain expertise resources, developing skill sets, demo capabilities around converged and hyper-converged infrastructure to support all our channel partners in the region,” he said.
Hyper-convergence also improves areas where enterprise IT that have traditionally been weak. For example, a hyper-converged platform often includes backup, snapshot or other disaster recovery tools to simplify data protection and disaster preparedness. A hyper-converged product replaces a mix of diverse and often disconnected systems management tools as well.
Kommuru agreed and said converged IT infrastructure proponents made a strong case for greenfield, remote and data centre renovation projects - especially in highly virtualised data centres or organisations making forays into the private cloud. “Vendors have increased the level of convergence in their offerings to attract data centre customers and channel partners should note that,” he said.
He added that while hyper-converged IT infrastructures are still new to data centres, products are quickly maturing to meet the scale and manageability demanded by enterprise IT administrators. Perhaps the most overarching driver for hyper-converged and converged IT infrastructure use is the ongoing need for server and data centre consolidation projects.
Going forward, Kommuru reiterated that it’s vital for reseller partners to grasp that a hyper-converged platform is a turnkey way to support important new deployments without refreshing or cobbling together additional hardware. “Convergence eliminates the hassle of using disparate sets of tools, accessing individual web-based switch configurations, learning vendor-specific management utilities and other difficult error-prone setups,” he said. “A single interface handles provisioning, monitoring, reporting and other features. Additional or remote hyper-converged IT infrastructures can all be managed as a unified system.”