The two major forces affecting enterprise data infrastructure at the moment are the cloud and hyperconvergence. Both are intended to streamline and simplify the physical data footprint and reduce the cost of operations even as those operations scale to astronomical levels compared to even a few years ago.
But while on the surface it may seem like these are mutually exclusive options – why bother with the cloud if you can reduce internal infrastructure to near zero, and why bother converge if you can just port everything to the cloud? – the fact is that these developments are actually happening in tandem and will likely form the twin pillars around which future data environments are built.
The key to integrating hyperconverged infrastructure with the cloud is virtualization, says Datacenter Knowledge’s Bill Kleyman. Using an abstracted, virtual layer, key applications will be able to span the differences in hardware configurations between disparate resource sets, plus it lessens the cost of traditional hardware and software licensing to the point where consumption becomes a scalable commodity like water and electricity. This will be particularly helpful for applications like virtual desktops and service-oriented application delivery.
This, in fact, is the very heart of a new platform unveiled by HPE, Atlantis Computing and Citrix last month that mixes the cloud, hyperconvergence and automation to produce a cost-effective means to deploy and support virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The package consists of the Citrix Ready HCI Workspace Appliance Program and HPE’s Edgeline EL4000 intelligence edge unit to enable a XenApp and XenDesktop environment on the Citrix cloud. In this way, the companies say they can deploy virtual workspaces in the enterprise that are faster than standard PCs and require minimal data center footprint.
Dell EMC recently launched a hyperconverged cloud solution as well, one of the first major product launches since the companies merged late last year. The Dell EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud (EHC) is built on the company’s VxRail appliance, which provides a turnkey foundation for thousands of virtual machines that can traverse local and third-party cloud infrastructure. As with the HPE-Atlantis-Citrix solution, the key value propositions are massive scale and flexibility using local infrastructure that is both confined and easy to manage.
NetApp will soon be joining the hyperconverged cloud game as well. According to CRN, CEO George Kurian told analysts recently that it will unveil a new version of the SolidFire storage system that will link local resources to the cloud. Rather than simply focusing on individual, low-end applications, Kurian says the new system will target simplified integration of enterprise data across distributed cloud infrastructure, which will allow organizations to leverage high-speed solutions like Flash across their entire data footprint. The company largely sat out the initial phase of hyperconvergence, but now hopes to push the envelope going forward as the enterprise gains a clearer understanding of how local converged infrastructure and broader cloud deployments should work together.
The development of data infrastructure along cloudy, hyperconverged lines undoubtedly has its share of twists and turns in store. But the fact that it produces a data environment that is highly scalable with vastly reduced operational responsibilities for the enterprise all but ensures that it will become the predominate form of data and application support going forward.
In effect, this is how the Digital Age is mirroring the patterns of the Communications Age, the Industrial Age and the Mechanical Age before it: Once the basic concept is proven to be worthwhile, the focus shifts toward making the ecosystems themselves less costly and more efficient.
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.