Emerging approaches to HCI for IT services

Today’s accelerated business processes are placing new demands on data center performance — and these demands must be on budget, often with limited IT staff. Adoption of emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning, IoT and data analytics has created challenges for administrators and IT leaders at every level.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) meets these needs by offering a modular pathway to long-term resource viability. As HCI has evolved, its prepackaged integration and deployment speeds have improved data center sustainability. Disaggregated HCI (dHCI) offers new possibilities to customize compute and storage to align with cloud and edge resources, support containers, and complement composable architectures.

Why organizations are adopting HCI for IT services

IT administrators and teams have long dealt with heterogeneous data centers comprising hardware from different vendors. This resource model lacks agility and requires high levels of IT specialization and expertise, particularly regarding scalability to meet new compute demands.

HCI addresses this dilemma by offering a compact appliance that an organization can install and manage through a single pane of glass. Standard HCI is based on prepackaged nodes and compute and storage allocation, so administrators can add nodes as resource demands change.

Data center heterogeneity has certain advantages, such as improved affordability through enabling IT leaders to align hardware precisely with performance goals. Achieving resource integration through a single HCI appliance improves IT efficiency and supports a range of deployments, from applications and virtual workloads to edge computing and geographically dispersed data centers.

Composability can extend the benefits of HCI as more data centers come to rely on intelligent, AI-fueled operations and elastic cloud resources.

Because HCI availability is based in a reliable array of independent nodes, or RAIN, it offers exceptional redundancy. This protects against data losses due to node failures, unlike traditional storage area networks and network-attached storage systems.

HCI is also an excellent fit for organizations pursuing cloud initiatives, regardless of industry. Companies expanding their IT capabilities with the cloud can use a single on-premises HCI appliance for mission-critical apps and data, then manage both environments through one HCI interface.

Businesses can also deploy HCI as software to improve resource availability and avoid hardware investments. But software-based HCI is complex to install and manage, and lacks the close system integration that is possible with physical appliances.

HCI drawbacks for IT services

Resource underuse is the main drawback of HCI. Disproportionate demand for one resource — for example, memory or compute power — increases other resources that aren’t needed due to HCI’s linear scaling. Overprovisioning to compensate for shortages in one area can lead to resource waste in another.

Future-proofing systems presents another hurdle for complex IT infrastructures. For instance, standard HCI struggles to maintain parity between software and firmware versions within systems as they age, although the next generation of HCI applies advanced analytics to operational data to predict future use requirements and offset imbalances.

Composable infrastructure, dHCI and container support

The ability to independently scale certain resources to adapt to changing workloads is a key feature of dHCI. More flexible infrastructures enable admins to maintain discrete resource components within different modules and tailor them to the organization’s precise compute and storage needs without overprovisioning. DHCP further supports infrastructure management by offering IT teams increased automation in addition to improved agility.

Strict control over resource use can align dHCI with cloud services and edge deployments. Modular storage capabilities and flexible compute capacity are key goals in a number of remote use cases. Easily configurable and ready resources are ideal for remote and branch office environments, geographically dispersed data centers, and edge computing scenarios — from supporting applications in vertical markets and smart cities to improving healthcare management.

As multi-cloud and hybrid cloud approaches become well established, vendors are introducing dHCI to take advantage of standardized software-defined and automated infrastructures. This approach offers a foundation for hybrid cloud, whether supporting enterprise applications in a public cloud or cloud-native applications running on premises with common management, security and portability.

DHCP also dovetails with the capabilities of composable infrastructure, which provisions hardware and software instantly and dynamically via fluid resource pools, intelligent software and a unified API. This bridges the gap between traditional data center approaches and flexible cloud-based operations in a single infrastructure. Composability can extend the benefits of HCI as more data centers come to rely on intelligent, AI-fueled operations and elastic cloud resources.

Effective container support is essential as containerized application deployments increase across every sector. Container support is a natural extension of HCI’s ability to virtualize and provide resources on an as-needed basis. With current versions of HCI, IT teams can support container platforms efficiently on premises and migrate containers to the public cloud.

Business demands are constantly changing, and IT teams must pivot quickly and respond with the right resource support while coping with staff shortages and budgetary constraints. Emerging HCI capabilities offer simple resource management and provisioning that takes advantage of intelligent data center trends, the modularity of distributed services and an increased focus on the edge.