Over the past few years, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliances have done more than create a buzz — they have become a standard infrastructure choice for running specific applications and for standing up complete data centres.
Their engineered mission to support highly flexible software-defined data centre (SDDC) architecture has further loosened the grip hardware has long maintained on the enterprise data centre. And because HCI appliances can be stacked like building blocks, HCI’s simple and predictable scalability can augment SDDC agility to keep pace with rapid-fire changes in the needs of the business.
Yet there are still mainframes lurking in the background of some modern enterprises, taking in and cranking out data the way they've done for 40 years. IT has moved on in that time, but the companies that still let hardware call the shots in their data centres haven't.
This is, to a degree, understandable. Legacy systems represent significant investments from both IT and budgetary points of view, and that can make the process of converting to SDDC architecture seem daunting. However, once those organisations understand they can adopt incrementally rather than unilaterally, as well as realise savings in both capital expenses (CapEx) and operating expenses (OpEx) along the way, the advantages of transitioning to SDDCs become clear.
The top five benefits of SDDC delivered on HCI
1. Consolidation and modernisation of data centre technology
SDDCs running on HCI enable IT departments to move stepwise from old hardware-based systems to private or hybrid cloud environments, in which all or some applications are available to users as a service hosted in the data centre. There is no need to make a wholesale swap of legacy IT all at once. As hardware ages out, it is replaced with HCI appliances, and the enterprise transitions over time to a cloud-based model.
Small racks of HCI appliances replace rooms full of mainframes or traditional server farms. Fewer machines mean less CapEx and a smaller IT department; fewer racks mean renting less space; less space means reduced power consumption; and all of that means lower OpEx.
2. Creation of a multi-tenant platform
The Catch-22 of data is that everyone needs access to some of it, but almost no one needs access to all of it. Traditionally, this meant duplication and segregation of data across silos so that each entity within the enterprise had access to the files it needed without exposing sensitive data to which many should not have access.
This digital sprawl is inefficient in legacy systems, requiring additional storage and compute capacity that, if pooled, could be put to good use elsewhere in the enterprise. The SDDC answers this with multi-tenancy: One pool of capacity that is shared by everyone, but with security protocols that restrict each user only to the data and applications they are authorised to access.
Wasted storage and compute capacity is eliminated, optimising IT operations along with it. The multi-tenant platform can also eliminate the need for complex integration scenarios since all applications can run in the same environment.
3. Pay-as-you-grow scalability
To build scalability into a hardware-based data centre invariably means over provisioning, which creates idle capacity and wasted resources in case of greater need tomorrow. Conversely, by deploying SDDC on HCI appliances, companies gain the ability to buy storage, network and compute resources based solely on current need. The extra capacity they don't quite require today can be added quickly and easily if and when they actually have need in the future, allowing for pay-as-you-grow spending.
HCI appliances also bring advantages of scale with every upgrade. Incremental investment reduces CapEx pressures and allows for predictable and easier budgeting.
4. Centralised management of distributed data centres
Geographically dispersed data centres used to require either dedicated staffing or IT administrators with robust frequent flyer accounts. With SDDCs powered by HCI appliances, IT departments can view all operations through a single pane of glass from a central location.
Powerful management and orchestration software automates many common admin tasks, freeing up IT professionals for more important work. Automation combined with end-to-end visibility allow enterprises to maintain optimal data centre operations, keeping systems running smoothly while responding rapidly to changing IT needs.
5. Deployment of a cloud in a box
The HCI appliance provides companies with the most efficient path to data centre deployment. There is no longer a need for the IT department to compile physical components — possibly from multiple manufacturers — and ensure their compatibility; because HCIs are factory-engineered, -assembled and -tested, that work has already been done for the customer.
There is no question of whether it will be cloud-ready straight out of the box. This maximises time to value, and it makes implementation and lifecycle management easier and more efficient, as well. And in the event there is a problem, the fact HCI appliances have a single source of support means there is just one number to call.
A Software-Defined World
Software-defined everything is rapidly becoming the new normal, and companies with hardware still holding the intelligence in their data centres are falling behind. However, HCI facilitates moving to SDDC architecture as gradually or as quickly as a company is willing to pursue the transition.
And a SDDC running on HCI appliances delivers cost-reduction and efficiency benefits that immediately justify investment in the model no matter how big or small the initial outlay is.
Megan McMichael, Principal VxRail Product Marketing Manager, Dell EMC and Wayne Pauley, Ph.D, Senior Director for Global Alliances, VMware
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