As a result, the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) market has grown dramatically over the last year to meet these demands. With the large number of organisations planning to adopt HCI within the next two years, this growth is accelerating at a very steep rate. HCI is also expected to be the fastest growing segment in the market, with predictions to grow from $1.5 billion in 2016 to nearly $31 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37%. This is with Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and VMware amongst other key players.
What is hyper-convergence?
At its most basic form, a HCI platform integrates computing, storage systems, networking and virtualisation technologies under a software-based architecture. A single vendor combines the aforementioned resources and allows IT to manage all of them through a consolidated and centralised platform.
Benefits of hyper-convergence
1. Centralised systems and management
In hyperconvergence, all components — computing, storage systems, backup to disk, cloud gateway functionality, and so on — are combined in a single shared resource pool with hypervisor technology. This simple, efficient design enables IT to manage aggregated resources across individual nodes as a single federated system. Consolidating storage within the HCI platform allows organisations to consider a data protection solution that manages data protection across the entire infrastructure, rather than server by server. Resources will also be able to be better managed whilst across multiple physical data centers with a centralised interface.
Products like Cisco’s HyperFlex for instance, being a consolidated product, has low maintenance, enabling management of all resources through a single pane of glass. This is especially ideal for companies with limited IT resources.
2. Greater agility in technical operations
As businesses continue to transform, there is an even greater need for cost savings, business agility and responsiveness. As hyper-convergence requires scaling out, many organisations have the belief that this would result in excess networking and computing resources, leading to a total waste of time and space. However, the truth is that most hyper-converged platforms are now agile enough to allow different ratios of computing, storage systems and networking capacity to be scaled-out at different times, reducing any short-run costs incurred. In addition, these platforms are also quick and simple to deploy.
Organisations have been known to record as much as a 50-85% reduction in time to administer and manage hyper-converged platforms. This feature ensures an elimination of performance lag, and an enhanced consistency throughout the system.
3. Cost savings
Compared to traditional converged infrastructures, hyper-converged platforms have a lower cost of entry. The latter is ideal for use in smaller cases such as virtual desktop farms, remote offices, test and development and line of business applications. That said, it is by no means limited to these smaller working environments as it can also scale to accommodate a full virtualised data centre deployment.
The emergence of hyper-converged technologies marks a shift within the industry. Organisations are gradually realising the benefits of shared and merged resources. Hyper-convergence was created to accommodate new technologies and evolving working habits. It offers a new perspective of thinking within the IT sector which more businesses are beginning to embrace.
Limitations and impact on IT teams in the sector
The internal resistance to change was the top challenge associated with hyper-convergence. Currently, IT teams need to understand how this technology would mean a shift in some roles within the department to that of an IT generalist, as it seeks to eliminate silos between computing, storage systems, and networking.
Unfortunately, most cost-savings are instead cost-shifting at present as most IT teams lack the experience and desire to integrate complex systems together. For example, the incorporation of storage in a hyper-converged appliance may cut spending on storage administration, but the organisation may end up spending on the creation of scripts to automate tasks within a HCI environment.
The adoption of hyper-convergence can be a big change for IT managers and directors who are well-versed in traditional infrastructure deployments. This may be a challenge to the practices and functions that they are used to as bringing together these IT resources - like storage, networks or server administration – which was once known to be separate entities, can be pretty daunting.
One particular area CIOs and IT directors need to look at – what admin skills may be needed when hyper-converged systems are used. Furthermore, as network engineers sit at the heart of the infrastructure, they are now required to have a deeper understanding of all applications as well as data riding across the network. This is especially true given the fact that the silos of server and storage administration are being torn down thanks to technologies such as virtualisation, containers and more recently, hyper-convergence. As the network is the nucleus that binds these technologies together, a network engineer is therefore responsible for understanding any end-to-end integration.
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Sources: Computer Weekly, Network World, InfoWorld, TechTarget, Network Computing, Computer Business Revie, Hyperconverged.org, FedTech