Hyperconvergence has made its mark in the data center much faster than all but its most ardent backers had anticipated, leading to the very real possibility that the expansive, silo-laden enterprise infrastructure of today will fade into obsolescence before too long.
But as with any new technology, changes in one area beget changes in another, and in HCI’s case those changes will likely involve not just the deployment and management of infrastructure but in the applications and services it supports as well.
According to a new report from 451 Research, 40 percent of enterprises have deployed HCI as part of their core data infrastructure. This comes as a surprise because it was long believed that the technology would gain a foothold on the edge first, where space is at a premium and the ability to push processing and storage closer to end users is highly valued. But with all major server and storage vendors now targeting HCI solutions at the data center, deployment is expected to accelerate in the coming years, and this will eventually impact IT staffing configurations and the skillsets required to oversee a more virtualized, software-driven data environment.
But the rise of HCI is not just an opportunity for established vendors like HPE and Cisco. Newcomers like Nutanix are making themselves heard as well, in both the enterprise and on Wall Street. The company’s recent IPO closed 130 percent above its issue price on the first day of trading last week, making it the strongest rollout for any technology company in two years. And this was after the company adjusted its target range upward, twice – first from $11-to-$13, then $13-to-$15 to finally settle at $16. That puts its current market valuable at more than $2 billion and sends a strong signal that both Nutanix and HCI technology in general are serious contenders for IT budget dollars.
At the same time, new platforms are emerging to provide tighter integration between hyperconverged infrastructure and the virtual layers they support. A company called Kaleao recently unveiled its KMAX platform that it bills as a “true converged” solution for seamless resource provisioning for VMs and their supported applications. The system uses a lightweight “microvisor” that orchestrates global pools of software-defined and hardware-accelerated resources, eliminating much of the software overhead that usually accompanies distributed virtual architectures. Currently, the system incorporates up to 1,536 CPU cores and 370 TB of Flash storage in a 3U form factor, consuming less than 15 watts of power per 8-core server.
But with both convergence and hyperconvergence vying for data center infrastructure, how is the enterprise supposed to know how and where to deploy either of these technologies? The difference between the two, says Datalink Chief Architect Jason Anderson, lies in how tightly you want to integrate storage and processing. HCI bundles them into tight, modular form factors while standard convergence utilizes dedicated external arrays. As with most hardware configurations, the optimal solution will vary by the workload. High-speed, high-IOPS functions like transaction processing and analytics will probably do better on converged platforms, which can be more finely tuned according to specific processing and storage needs. HCI, meanwhile, is more suited to standard, more predictable workloads like test/dev and virtual desktops that require more modest hardware support.
Both convergence and hyperconvergence offer an intriguing value proposition to the enterprise: hardware infrastructure that is both smaller in size and easier to manage than traditional data infrastructure. This allows organizations to scale up performance and capacity while shrinking the data center footprint: a classic “do more with less” scenario.
If anything has a chance of remaking the data center in the near term, this is it.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.