Cloud is central to digital transformation. There are still CIOs, however, who are reluctant to put business critical applications and data in the public cloud, due to security, performance and availability concerns. Until now, building a private cloud and moving data to it from a public cloud has been a challenge. However, now that hyper-converged infrastructure has matured, enterprises can benefit from pre-integrated resources to accelerate private cloud deployments.
Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is a no-brainer for large organizations looking for a fast, scalable and economical way to leave legacy management systems behind, rein in IT complexity and introduce new private cloud infrastructure.
Why is HCI gaining so much traction? Simple: it has the scope to build a bridge between public and private cloud, enabling them to work together to create an integrated enterprise cloud environment that is easy to manage with sufficient levels of data protection. In addition, any business that necessitates rapid resource allocation will see the benefit of HCI.
A HCI, also called a hyper-converged integrated system (HCIS), installs a software-defined layer to manage a tightly-integrated compute, storage and networking stack. It treats the entire pool of physical units as a unified virtual entity, providing management flexibility and simplicity through a single console, enhanced with APIs into other automation and cloud management suites.
The co-provisioning of compute and storage in pre-integrated modules and ability to discover and add a new resource quickly allows for easy scalability. This is a boon for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). It allows users to cost-effectively scale up without having to predict actual network usage levels or err on the side of caution and buy in bulk, which is the case with the Converged Infrastructures (CIs) of yesteryear.
Pre-integration reduces costs
This reduces IT refresh and new infrastructure costs, decreases administrative overheads, improves operational efficiency and speeds up deployments to support business diversification and growth. Out-of-the-box automation, such as auto-provisioning of desktop virtual machines (VM), frees up IT for other tasks.
In some enterprises, the long-term savings, scale and breadth of virtualization have justified investments in private cloud. Others see the lack of in-house skills and the initial expense as hurdles, even though the latter can balance out against public cloud in the long run when you layer on the additional security and application performance solutions that are often required.
The bespoke make-up of home grown private cloud previously constrained their scalability. Private cloud providers have got over this with ‘cloud bursting’ – switching non-sensitive data to the public cloud during spikes in demand. HCIs complement cloud bursting, supporting multiple private and public clouds to eliminate vendor lock-in so an enterprises’ choices made today don’t limit their future.
According to IDC, 90 percent of enterprises plan to use of multiple clouds in the next few years. This includes multiple private clouds and multiple public clouds - although hybrid private-public cloud models are more commonplace. A multi-cloud strategy today is much less about ensuring resilience with multi-region availability zones and more about matching application and data workloads to the right cloud service with the required performance and security, as well as accommodating line-of-business procurement and mergers and acquisition needs.
Enterprises looking to toe-dip in the HCI world are attracted by pre-integrated solutions, built on modular infrastructure, to support their cloud applications. This ‘lego-style’ building block approach to adding nodes provides a low cost of entry and easy automation. It is here, in these HCI environments, that IT departments are starting to place mission-critical and customer-facing applications, underscoring the confidence they have in the promises of hyper-convergence and its ability to automate resource management and improve performance.
According to a survey by 451 Research, HCIs are currently in use in 40 percent of organizations, primarily in mission critical environments. Analysts expect that number to rise substantially over the next two years as the market matures and expands. "Today's businesses expect the same flexibility from their internal IT that a public cloud service can provide," explains Christian Perry, Research Manager at 451 Research. “Innovation inherent in converged systems, and in hyper-converged infrastructure in particular, is driving process efficiencies and agility that are increasingly tangible.”
Gartner is also predicting substantial growth for HCIs, which it says “deliver their main value through software tools, commoditizing the underlying hardware”. The analyst firm believes the market will be worth almost $5 billion by 2019, making up 24 percent of the entire cloud systems market. It predicts that its use will be mainstream in data centers by 2020.
Hyper-convergence: a launch pad for private cloud
IDC is advising organizations with “time-to-market, cost reduction and IT efficiency imperatives” to look towards integrated infrastructure systems to build private clouds. Hyper-convergence provides IT teams with the technology required for quick response, elasticity and flexibility through private cloud computing.
A HCI is also ideal for instigating a phased approach to migrating to a private cloud, thanks again to its modular framework with easier management controls. Legacy hypervisor-based infrastructure can expose many underlying private cloud system details. The routine task of adding storage and compute capacity is onerous, distracting infrastructure and operations teams from tasks that deliver more value to their companies’ digital transformation agendas. As well as providing rapid installation, HCIs have the advantage of a reduced learning curve, lessening the skills sets required and the time burden on IT departments.
HCI: opening up private cloud
HCIs address many of the issues involved in deploying private cloud. With the right automated tools and provisioning in place, it can provide the extensibility and agility of public cloud, with the security and compliance of on-premises IT associated with private cloud.
A HCI can be seen as a private cloud in a box for organizations who don’t want to commit to large upfront purchases and gaze in a crystal ball to guess the likely size of their infrastructure needs further down the line. It also delivers on pre-integrated simplicity, scalability and centralized management. HCIs lets organizations start small and secure, and build fast. That has to be the big take away for business.
Find out more about how the power of cloud computing can revolutionize your business here
Jan has been writing about technology for over 22 years for magazines and web sites, including ComputerActive, IQ magazine and Signum. She has been a business correspondent on ComputerWorld in Sydney and covered the channel for Ziff-Davis in New York.