Top 5 things to consider when moving to hyper-converged infrastructure

By Rajesh Ramnani, Regional Director at VCE

For many of us, time is a precious commodity. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to juggle everything that’s thrown at us, let alone build an IT infrastructure from the ground up. In an era where doing more with less is the mantra, companies are exploring the use of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). HCI effectively redesigns the data center to address the cost and complexity of legacy IT infrastructure. It’s one of the fastest growing segments in the SME space because it offers ease of use and lower costs for businesses by bringing together compute, storage, networking and virtualization into a single integrated appliance, managed by one toolset.

Its convenience, functionality and lower CAPEX and OPEX costs are the reasons why 85% of respondents in a recent ESG survey have said they already use or plan to use a HCI solution in the coming months.

The radical benefits lead to radical changes in buying behavior, purchasing cycles and staffing needs, meaning that a hyper-converged infrastructure shouldn’t be approached, planned and thought about like traditional infrastructure. Furthermore, not all hyper-converged offerings are the same. To help you identify the best system for your needs I’ve pulled together the top five things to consider before moving to a HCI solution.

1.Build vs Buy

HCI comes in two primary flavors: software-only (you deploy on the hardware of your choice) or fully integrated appliances. Consider what’s important to you.  Do you want to spend time assembling your own solution or buy one ready-made? How much of a systems integrator do you want to be? How important is it to have a solution that is manufactured and supported as one?

Sorry, lots of rhetorical questions here but the answers are required to get the right solution that meets your business requirements. For many, the allure of a HCI is in its simplicity – which is a rare treasure in business. Steve Jobs once said “Simple can be harder than complex. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” For FujiFilm Medical Care, HCI equals simplicity, which leads to higher velocity in delivering their medical informatics applications and an improved bottom line.

2.Ecosystem

You also need to consider how the hyper-converged solution will work with your existing IT infrastructure. After all, you’re not sweeping the floor and replacing everything with a HCI solution, so understanding how it will integrate with your data center is critical.

Once you’ve got this locked down, you’ll need to assess your tolerance of small islands of management silos. A streamlined environment will give you one management layer for all your tools, processes and staff. To some extent, your decision-making will be determined by cost and your willingness to embark upon a new learning curve.

3.All Flash Options

Think hard about All-Flash solutions.  To reap the full benefits, Flash needs to be planned from the outset. In my mind, Flash is the difference between a Maserati and a dusty hatchback. It boasts greater performance and reliability than magnetic media but unlike a luxury sports car, it’s not as expensive as you’d expect. ­­ Today some all-flash solutions can be bought for the same price per gigabyte as hybrid solutions, and data efficiency services will drive the price down even further.  It’s a golden opportunity to take advantage of high-octane speed and agility.

4.Networking

The backbone of a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance (HCIA) is the network. It’s where the magic happens – a.k.a. data exchange and management communication between the nodes.

Understanding the network will help you assess the impact an HCIA will have on performance so you can prepare accordingly. You’ll need to know whether you have sufficient ports (HCIAs require at least two per node), how to set your switches to support device networking requirements and how the solution will deal with network issues such as latency and loss. My advice is, do your homework first. You need to know whether your network is ready for a HCIA and conversely if the HCIA of choice is ready for your network.

5. Services & Protection

Just like any component in your data center you need a game plan for how you’re going to protect the HCIA solution. Disaster recovery and backups should be top of the list. Find out whether your appliance is interoperable with your other processes and disaster recovery systems. Look into the other data services on your workloads (like QoS, data integrity and checksums etc.) and investigate whether the HCIA offering is comparable.

In summary, HCI is hot property right now and even when you separate the hype from the hyper – it’s still the latest and greatest route to innovation via a dynamic infrastructure that adapts to business needs. With a bit of groundwork, you should be able to easily determine which HCI appliance is right for you.

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