Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is the new standardI’ve been immersed in public cloud and infrastructure automation for the last five years, moving away from a focus on traditional three-tier data center infrastructure and focusing on another major shift in IT. However, I knew that I would eventually revisit my roots in the data center the more and more I led large AWS and Azure projects. In these projects I gained a true understanding and respect for the infrastructure providing these services and just how far advanced it was from the traditional three-tier architecture. It was obvious that the same infrastructure technologies that enabled AWS, Azure, Google, and Facebook to operate at a global scale, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with general commodity hardware run by advanced software would eventually make its way to enterprise IT.

With BreakFree I’m revisiting my roots and I along with the rest of BreakFree are sure of one thing: It’s clear that Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is the new standard. It is going to revolutionize how enterprise IT builds and operates private infrastructure.

As the role of IT in business evolves, IT departments need to adapt to avoid being unable to deliver new state-of-the-art services and applications. HCI works to make IT’s job easier, by allowing deployment of resources that are flexible and scalable without compromising on performance.

To fully understand Hyper-Converged Infrastructure, it’s important to understand the old standard for data centers. Hardware used to be a huge differentiator as traditional data centers were built by stacking individualized storage, computing, and networking devices on top of each other. Problems arose when IT groups needed flexibility and scalability. However, today’s big HCI issue lies in commoditization. HCI patterns have been standardized and few “unique” features are available from traditional vendors. Manufacturers still want to drive big margins out of commodity partners, leading to failures in innovation and new technology offerings to their customers, because it would force them to cannibalize their existing product lines. So, traditional vendors continued to tell IT that three-tier infrastructure was the only way to go. Meanwhile, technology leaders such as Facebook, Google, and AWS chose the path of innovation leading to some of the most advanced computer infrastructure in the world. This leaves the rest of us in the shadow of these technology leaders using HCI, because they refused to accept three-tier as the standard.

As I mentioned before Facebook, Google and AWS saw that the old standard wouldn’t work for the web-scale or public cloud model, and instead of retro-fitting, they built infrastructure software that utilized commodity hardware. This removed the need for middlemen as they were able to go right to hardware manufacturer and put their software on-top. These software patterns and the technical leaders who built and implemented them have now taken their expertise, building marketable solutions for the enterprise. One vendor in particular, Nutanix is starting to establish itself as the major player in HCI and is innovating a pace that the traditional vendors like Cisco, EMC, or HP are unlikely to match while they have existing customers still buying traditional three-tier architectures. This is an innovation dilemma we’ve seen play out in IT many times.

What HCI does is allow for an IT infrastructure to improve its ability to rapidly adjust to development and deployment cycles, scale on demand, and still contain cost. It natively integrates compute and storage into a single server deployed in a scale-out fashion. This helps IT by greatly reducing power and space requirements, simplifying data centers by eliminating the need for storage area networks.

The numbers don’t lie. According to Datacenterknowledge.com, the world’s leading technology research company, Gartner, Inc., expects Hyper-Converged Infrastructure technology to go from $0 in 2012 to a $5 billion market by 2019, and with good reason. The benefits of hybrid cloud, another new standard in modern IT, can be dramatic if built on HCI.

There is another major point that goes beyond the immediate measurable benefits of HCI. Without HCI, your hybrid private cloud simply won’t work, because everything is built into the individual appliances, including centralized management, data efficiency, replication, and the ability to scale in incremental units. Any private cloud not built on HCI will be extremely complex, increasing the cost of operations, making private cloud’s scalability and elasticity non-existent. The majority of benefits associated with the cloud will not be realized with private cloud deployments that lack HCI. Simply put, private cloud technology was never designed to work on a three-tier infrastructure. HCI solutions enable significant consolidation of the data center footprint, simplify recoverability, and dramatically reduce time to provision and manage services.

Don’t allow your IT department to go the way of the dinosaur. If you want your company to keep up with the latest technologies and applications, it’s imperative that you stop scaling traditional data center server, storage, and network silos. Start focusing on the next wave of technology disruption and HCI is at the foundation of that.


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