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Factors to Consider When Moving to a Hyperconverged Infrastructure

The transition to a hyperconverged infrastructure can help to move quickly to a new level of organization of the IT infrastructure of a corporate data center. But this process has its pitfalls, which will be discussed.

At first glance, the transition to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) does not promise serious problems, and the process seems quite smooth. It is enough to gather the available resources — computing power, network binding, and storage, then build a single virtualized “complex” from them, and as a result, the basis of the future HCI infrastructure will appear, which can be improved and scaled. The built-in software add-in will allow you to easily perform any operations in the future: deploy new nodes and manage them, scale existing resources, and monitor their performance.

However, reality presents its unexpected twists. Here we will look at some of the pitfalls that a company may face when building an HCI.

According to research and statistics, the main reasons for switching to HCI are the desire to improve the efficiency of the IT service, reduce current costs, modernize equipment and consolidate the data center resources used.

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Employees decide everything

The effectiveness of HCI implementation, despite the flexibility of the architecture and extensive automation capabilities, depends on the level of training of personnel engaged in data center maintenance.

With hyperconverged infrastructure, there is a need for specialists of a wide profile instead of a profile specialization. They must be well qualified in the operation of all elements of the HCI infrastructure, and must competently solve tasks related to load balancing, control of the communication system, troubleshooting network infrastructure, storage systems, etc. Finding such specialists with a wide range of competencies is much more difficult.

Do not forget about the CPU load

In the HCI architecture, all infrastructure elements are combined under single management. It seems obvious, but sometimes it may be forgotten to take into account that each element of the infrastructure now “lives” not by itself, but requires a certain share of computing power for itself.

This is most evident in the operation of the storage system. With a traditional architecture, storage systems are deployed as independent blocks separately from servers, so there is no question of allocating computing power quotas to them. With HCI, it is necessary to take into account the need for quotas. If the calculation was incorrect, then an unplanned connection of computing nodes will be required, which will increase the cost of operation.

Take into account the internal network traffic

Support for network communications and intensive intra-network data exchange also require their share of computing power. Its shortage leads to an increase in delays.

This effect can be most clearly observed, for example, when deploying HCI infrastructure in several high-performance clusters. Another example is the support of applications where it is necessary to ensure high performance of the data input/output subsystem with intensive network exchange with the storage system.

Plan in advance

Careful planning of the transition to the HCI architecture allows you to estimate in advance the scale of future growth in infrastructure utilization and apply predicted estimates when calculating the future system even before its deployment. The main thing that you should pay attention to is that you cannot blindly transfer data about the current level of processor load to a future system.

The complexity of the forecast lies in the fact that, according to experts, it is important to assess not only the current needs but also to take into account the growth of the computing load for the next few years (usually three to four years). A reliable forecast will help to properly plan the resources of the HCI infrastructure being built and avoid unforeseen problems during its operation.

Which HCI solution is better: hardware and software?

Many consider the transition to the HCI architecture primarily as the acquisition of new equipment. Choosing a hardware HCI solution greatly simplifies the task of deploying new infrastructure. This choice will be optimal if you need to quickly implement a new technological solution.

However, the choice of HCI in the form of a software solution gives the customer an additional bonus — high flexibility. It does not connect the customer with the choice of a specific vendor, it makes it easy to switch to products from other suppliers without thinking about the risks of loss of manageability. However, self-deployment of a software HCI infrastructure, of course, will be more time-consuming than a hardware solution.

New vendor — new problems

By implementing the HCI architecture, the customer strives to consolidate its corporate resources. But the transition to HCI may also be associated with the emergence of a new supplier.

It is known that the main difficulties in servicing any data center are that you have to deal with a large number of vendors. Each OEM manufacturer has its understanding of the product support procedure, warranty coverage, and its own set of additional conditions, which it is important to keep in mind constantly. It’s not easy.

Therefore, the transition to HCI should also be evaluated from the point of view of the emergence of new suppliers, with whom you will have to actively work during further maintenance of the new infrastructure.

Software management is everywhere

The entry into the market of new HCI solutions coincided with the process of optimizing the operation of networks and their management, primarily related to the construction of software-defined networks (SDN).

Thanks to the introduction of simple management methods at the level of templates, and automation of networks, it is possible to significantly reduce the cost of their maintenance. The use of open APIs and templates for infrastructure management allows flexible management of network configuration.

The combination of SDN and HCI allows you to take a fresh look at the future development of the IT infrastructure as a whole.

What is there besides HCI?

It should be remembered that the choice of switching to HCI is far from the only way to modernize the IT infrastructure. There are other solutions on the market.

You can consider, for example, converged infrastructure — the predecessor of HCI. Its main focus is on the use of hardware. The data center is built according to a software-defined type, which allows you to flexibly adapt the available resources to the existing equipment.

Another option is to switch to a component-based infrastructure. The peculiarity of this architecture is that it abstracts the computing and network resources used, and the storage system from their physical implementation. The component infrastructure makes data center resources available in the form of cloud services, becoming the basis for building private and hybrid cloud solutions.

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