By: Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing
HCI – What’s the deal?
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is referred to as the “data centre in a box”. This is because of the preliminary cabling and minimal networking configuration, and the fact that it has all of the features and functionality of the traditional 3-2-1 virtualisation architecture (except that single point of failure).
No fuss deployment
Thanks to its appliance-based architecture, HCI systems can be deployed faster than other virtualisation solutions, with racking and networking usually the only slightly time-consuming elements of the implementation. Deployment times differ by vendor, especially if there is a third party hypervisor to install and VSAs to configure. But, with a native hypervisor pre-loaded, an entire cluster of appliances can be up and running in under an hour in your financial services environment.
HCI offers users a single pane of glass management, which stands in stark contrast to the multiple management consoles and interfaces necessary in 3-2-1 architectures. Of course, this is not automatically the case for HCI solutions using third-party hypervisors which typically end up using two interfaces. For HCI with a native hypervisor included, this single interface tactic dramatically decreases management time and effort and streamlines management tasks for the administrator.
To eliminate yet another unnecessary vendor from your IT environment, backup and disaster recovery (DR) can be included at no extra cost in your HCI solution. This is critical, as backup, failover, failback, and DR should always be a part of every IT environment. Unlike third-party solutions, native solutions are typically embedded in the storage layer and allow innate awareness of block changes for cleaner backup, replication, and recovery options.
HCI can be deployed as a single appliance for selected use cases, however, it is commonly architected as a cluster of appliances for high availability. As such, not only can an appliance absorb the loss of a disk drive, but the cluster can absorb the loss of an entire appliance. Clustering also enables the HCI system to scale seamlessly by adding additional appliances to the cluster. Some HCI solutions require clustering appliances of the same model and configuration, while others allow clustering of heterogeneous appliances.
HCI can make conducting regular system software and firmware updates less of a dreaded task for financial organisations. By owning the entire virtualisation, server, and storage stack, and operating in a highly available cluster, updates can be performed automatically across the entire cluster. All software layers (hardware, firmware, hypervisor, storage, and management) can be upgraded simultaneously as a single, fully-tested system to eradicate component compatibility concerns. VMs can be automatically moved from appliance to appliance in the cluster as updates are made to keep all systems operational. HCI can eliminate downtime and headaches when performing updates.
Reduction in cost
HCIwon’t always be the lowest cost solution in terms of the initial capital investment―although it often actually is, due to the ease of scalability enabling organisations to purchase only the needed appliances, rather than excessive over-provisioning in the initial investment. Buying only what you need and when you need it can lead to dramatic savings. In addition to capital savings, HCI provides considerable operational savings over time as well, by greatly reducing the costs of management and maintenance. Simplifying an IT environment with HCI can save over 50 percent in the total cost of ownership over 3-2-1 solutions.
What does it all mean for you?
HCI eliminates excess cost and complexity found in the traditional 3-2-1 architecture. Because of this, it will benefit any size financial services organisation that requires a robust virtualisation environment. The extreme simplicity of HCI makes it highly beneficial, especially in use cases where IT staff is limited, for instance smaller branch offices and building societies. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) and distributed enterprises with many remote offices or branch offices (ROBO) typically have staffing issues that make HCI an ideal choice.
For a distributed financial services organisation, remote offices and branch locations rarely have dedicated IT staff. These remote locations often require frequent visits from IT staff which can result in high travel costs and lower productivity. The simplicity of HCI includes multiple redundancies for HA, failure handling, and self-healing. A failed drive at a remote site does not lead to an outage and does not require immediate replacement (nor the risk of business, legal and/or regulations non-compliance consequences). Greater uptime and accessible remote monitoring and management lead to lower travel costs of IT staff to these locations and significantly lower operating costs (OpEx)―not to mention the increase in productivity.
Stepping up the the challenge
Financial institutions are constantly challenged with ensuring remote branch locations deliver top quality services to their clients. Today’s customers expect instant access to data and on-demand IT services at every location. Infrastructure, including servers, storage, virtualisation, and disaster recovery (DR), can be both costly and complex using traditional methods.
As the financial services industry and its compute requirements continue to evolve, HCI is the next logical step in on-premises and cloud-integrated virtualisation infrastructure. Standing still with more traditional virtualisation solutions like the 3-2-1 architecture may end up costing organisations far more in capital, manpower, and training, than moving on to the dramatically increased capabilities, simplicity and cost savings of aHCI solution.
To learn more about hyperconverged infrastructure, please visit: https://www.scalecomputing.com/.
Alan Conboy is the Office of the CTO atScale Computing (https://www.scalecomputing.com/) since 2009. With more than 20 years of experience, Conboy is an industry veteran and technology evangelist specializing in designing, prototyping, selling and implementing disruptive storage and virtualization technologies. Prior to Scale Computing, Conboy held positions at Lefthand Networks, ADIC, CreekPathSystems, Sun Microsystems and Spectra Logic. Conboy is notably one of the first movers in the X86/X64 hyperconvergence space, and one of the first 30 people ever certified by SNIA.