For companies interested in getting the most from their IT spend, the ability to make hardware pay its way using smart software is crucial, and that’s where hyper converged infrastructure comes in.
“Essentially, hyper converged infrastructure is the convergence of storage, compute, network and software, all coming together. In our case, it’s truly integrated – it’s co-engineered with VMware and we own the intellectual property,” said Ronan Carey, regional sales director with Dell Technologies Ireland.
“So rather than a customer having to build a stack out of bits and pieces of hardware and software from different vendors, we offer an infrastructure stack that is almost an appliance and you can install it in one go.”
The point of doing this, of putting in place one hyper converged stack of infrastructure, is that it simplifies the life of everyone who comes into contact with it. It simplifies management, makes the company more flexible and delivers an experience that is ‘cloud-like’ in terms of the flexibility it offers.
“It allows the IT department to react to the business needs of the company faster. IT budgets are constrained, so effectively what this does is bring together everything that used to be siloed off, breaks down the barriers, reduces costs and reduces the time it takes to provision, manage and patch your IT infrastructure,” said Carey.
“Why would a company want to have it? With the correct hyper converged infrastructure, you’re going to save money and save resources. That allows the user to bring applications to market faster and be a lot more agile. You can provision in minutes rather than months.”
From Dell Technology’s perspective, the goal of its hyper converged offerings is to give customers a ‘cloud-like experience’ in terms of using their infrastructure. But just what is that?
“The next evolution of this is to give customers cloud mobility. Not only can you reduce that stack down using hyper converged infrastructure, but also create a cloud experience that allows you to move workloads from on-premise to the cloud and back again, or even to different clouds,” said Carey.
“True mobility comes from that, and that’s the really interesting thing.”
In an ideal world, companies would only own hardware and software from one vendor, and it would all work seamlessly together, but the reality is that many companies have a mixed bag of infrastructure – a reflection of the way their IT needs have grown organically and evolved over time. Very few have the means or the wherewithal to go out and buy equipment all from one vendor in advance.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with mixing and matching from different vendors. In fact, for some workloads that’s exactly what you should do. But every organisation I speak to is challenged with IT budgets that are shrinking and the need to do more with less people,” said Carey.
“Upgrading and patching servers for all your component parts is a lot of heavy lifting for IT professionals that could be much better used doing other things that will add value to your company. That’s also what they want to do – they don’t want to be stuck doing boring plumbing work.”
The message from Dell Technologies is that putting in hyper converged infrastructure frees up staff to do clever things for your organisation and deliver value back to the business.
“The skillsets we’re talking about are expensive to hire and frequently hard to find. You have to ask yourself if having them do this work is the best use of their time and your resources,” said Carey.
“This can be a paradigm shift in thinking for a lot of organisations when they’re considering building out HCI – they’re used to thinking about IT in one particular way. But I take a really simple view on this: an organisation like Dell Technologies has thousands of people who have developed this technology. We bring all of that wealth of knowledge to building out that stack, so it can be wrapped around one support organisation that can go and deliver that.”
The question Carey poses is: why not harness that ability and spend the time saved developing applications and having the IT function deliver a better service back to the organisation?
“Sure, it takes over some of the role of IT staff, but in our experience skilled professionals don’t want to be worrying about patching and looking after the basic plumbing of a network when they could be doing much more interesting work,” he said.
According to Sandra Dunne, sales manager at Logicalis Ireland, while making use of hyper converged infrastructure isn’t a particularly new idea, what is new is being able to make use of edge point devices, enterprise devices and cloud capability in a small reduced footprint.
“Virtualisation was about taking one piece of physical hardware and using it to host multiple virtual machines so that they could be accessed across the network and would function as if they were normal machines. The end user wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, they’d just be sitting at a PC and it would act as if it was hosted locally, when in fact it was hosted remotely,” she said.
“But to do that you had to think about what your networking and storage requirements were, and you probably had to integrate different parts of your infrastructure to be able to offer that virtual machine. With hyper converged infrastructure you can put all of those needed resources into one footprint, so when you deploy, you’re doing it from start to finish.”
Doing this saves time, money, energy and, according to Dunne, users get a lot of the benefits that are typically associated with moving to the cloud.
“You want to be able to deploy assets as you need them, spinning them up and spinning them down as demand fluctuates. You don’t want to have to move things back to the cloud to do this,” she said.
“These kinds of devices and these kinds of capabilities were once reserved for the data centre, but they’re not just of value there anymore. They’re also valuable in terms of edge point resourcing, so if you want to be able to take lots of data from internet of things applications, for example, use machine learning on it and make that data available as usable information while also protecting it, you can.”
Meanwhile, according to Declan Hogan, head of industry segment sales with Hewlett Packard Enterprise Ireland, there are a number of reasons why companies are keen to deploy hyper converged technology in their data centres.
“Firstly it reduces the footprint required relative to the capability, makes the environment easier to manage via ‘a single pane of glass’ – or in other words, through one control panel – and this delivers a reduced overall total cost of ownership,” he said.
“In addition, solutions like our SimpliVity hyper converged infrastructure solution increase the resilience of the environment when deployed as a multi-node solution and reduce the requirement for a dedicated backup environment due to the integrated backup capability.”
According to Hogan, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s hardware acceleration card designed specifically to work with hyper converged infrastructure, the HPE SimpliVity HCI solution, is able to back up a 1 terabyte virtual machine in under 60 seconds.
“Integration with industry standard management tools like VMware vCenter is also a key benefit, delivering ease of management. So overall the benefits to the business are a lower total cost of ownership, greater resilience, greater flexibility and excellent performance along with ease of management,” he said.
While hyper converged infrastructure has seen widespread adoption across Irish companies, primarily due to the benefits outlined here, not every company has installed it and there is room for growth in the market, according to Hogan.
“Hyper converged infrastructure is ideal for customers who have virtualised fully and are keen to consolidate their environment. In some cases, we’ve even seen customers who have re-architected their IT environments to an exclusively HCI-based structure,” he said.
Reports on the adoption of hyper converged infrastructure signal that there is significant growth potential in the technology in the next few years. A report published in February by Global Industry Analysts said that this market would grow to be worth US$23.6 billion by 2025, with hardware in particular set to grow by 30.8 per cent.
“Customers are looking at their IT infrastructures with a view to consolidation and delivering better performance and resilience at a lower cost. In many cases, a non-HCI solution will not fit those requirements,” said Hogan.
“As a result, many customers are moving to HCI for the benefits outlined here. At Hewlett Packard Enterprise we try to work with our customers to select the right fit of traditional, converged, hyper converged or composable infrastructure. But there’s no doubt that the growth expected in the market is being fuelled by many such customers choosing HCI as the right solution for them.”