Friday, February 27, 2015

Understanding Hyperconverged Infrastructure

Computer technology undergoes a massive shift every so often as new models emerge to meet changing business needs. Explosive growth of Mobile apps  & Big Data has spurred uncontrolled demand on IT & has put more strain on existing resources. The existing data centers were built around setting up purpose built  infrastructure - that just cannot scaleup to the new needs.

Discreet Servers, Network Switches/Routers, Storage array (SAN, NAS) which dominated the datacetner is getting replaced by converged infrastructure such as VBLOCK or Flexpod.

At the basic level, converged infrastructure simply brings together existing individual storage, compute, and network switching products into pre-tested, prevalidated solutions sold as a single solution.

These converged infrastructure was still built out of discreet servers (Cisco UCS), discreet switches (Cisco Nexus) & discreet Storage array (EMC VMAX/VNX).  VCE, the vendor of converged infrastructure would integrate all the discreet components together, and have the setup pre-configured in factory before shipping it off the customers. It simplified the purchase and upgrade cycle.

Converged Infrastructure systems did offer a few benefits:

  1. Single point of contact for their infrastructure, from purchase to end of life.
  2. These systems are always tested and almost always arrive at the customer site fully racked & cabled, so they're ready to go.

While converged infrastructure saved time/money to customers in terms of standardizing IT infrastructure and having faster time to deployment, it still did not solve some of the niggling issues with their IT infrastructure.

Virtualization of compute - with VMWare ESX solved server utilization problem. But for network & storage, Utilization, planning, configuration, & change management was still be big headache.  Different tools were needed to manage underlying components: Servers to be managed with UCS manager, Network with Nexus Manager, Storage with Unisphere, and vCenter for VM management. A common single unified tools were sorely missing.

Converged Infrastructure fails to address ongoing operational challenges that have been introduced with the advent of virtualization. Network LAN, Storage LUNs were still created in the old way, WAN optimizers to acquire and configure, and third party backup and replication products had to be purchased separately and maintained.

There was another big disadvantage. Once the existing converged infrastructure was fully utilized - either on compute, network or storage, Customers will have to buy another BIG chunk of infrastructure. For example, if customer wanted ten additional servers, he would get storage and network bundled with it - which led to poor utilization of other resources.

As a result, there were islands of storage & Network with poor utilization. Customers could not use existing legacy storage with converged infrastructure. Converged infrastructure also did not address the performance issues with legacy application. And system management was not really unified and customers still needed to run individual element managers underneath a unified global management tool.

As time went by, IT vendors learnt from the limitation of converged infrastructure and developed a solution. It is Hyperconverged infrastructure

Hyperconverged infrastructure is the culmination and conglomeration of a number of innovations, all of which provide value to IT infrastructure.

What is hyperconvergence? 

Hyperconverged Infrastructure is a server with large amounts of data storage capacity and also has IP networking - mainly Ethernet switch with Layer-2/3 overlay SDN to connect to other hyperconverged boxes.

These boxes are preconfigured and can be stacked up to create bigger capacities, so that compute and storage can be pooled & shared across multiple boxes. Hyperconvergence is a scalable building-block approach that allows IT to expand by adding units, just like in a LEGO set.

Hyperconvergence is a way to enable cloud like functionality & scale without compromising the availability, performance, & reliability. This is achieved by total virtulization. Compute, Storage (SDS), and Network(SDN). This allows the entire Hyperconverged infrastructure to be treated as one big pool of virtual resources that can be managed completely by software: All provisioning, configuration, performance, security etc., is all done through a common software.

Virtualization of the entire datacenter will fundamentally and permanently change how IT services are delivered from the data center. This enables IT to take a "virtualized first" approach to new application and service deployment - i.e., completely virtual environment is used for running all new applications.

Using the entire infrastructure as a resource pool, organizations can gain efficiency, flexibility and scalability. Hyperconverged infrastructure provides significant benefits:

  • Data efficiency: Hyperconverged infrastructure reduces storage, bandwidth, and IOPS requirements - by one time data de-duplication, compression & optimization.

  • Elasticity: Hyperconvergence makes it easy to scale out/in resources as required by business demands. Hyperconvergence is a scalable building-block approach that allows IT to expand by adding units, just like in a LEGO set. This allows to scale the data center environment easily and linearly.
  • VM-centricity: A focus on the virtual machine (VM) or workload as the cornerstone of enterprise IT, with all supporting constructs revolving around individual VMs. Virtualization fundamentally and permanently changed IT and the data center. Today, most services are running inside virtual environments, and IT often takes a "virtualized first" approach to new application and service deployment. That is, administrators consider the virtual environment for running new applications rather than just building a new physical environment.

  • Data protection: Software Ensuring that data can be restored in the event of loss or corruption is a key IT requirement, made far easier by hyperconverged infrastructure.

  • VM mobility: Hyperconvergence enables greater application/workload mobility. Homogenous resource pools also make it is easier to move applications from one virtual resource to another, 

  • High availability: Hyperconvergence enables higher levels of availability than possible in legacy systems. Homogenous resource pools also make it is easier to afford spare components that serve for increased redundancy. At the same time, a simplified administration leaves less room for human error and thereby increases overall uptime.

  • Cost efficiency: By avoiding overprovisioning of resources. Virtulized resources can now be dynamically provisioned to match the workloads and thus avoid overprovisioning Hyperconverged infrastructure brings to IT a sustainable step-based economic model that eliminates waste. lower CAPEX as a result of lower upfront prices for infrastructure, lower OPEX through reductions in operational expenses and personnel, and faster time-to-value for new business needs.

A side benefit: The hyperconverged infrastructure provides a single vendor approach to procurement, implementation, and operation. There's no more vendor blame game, and there's just one number to call when a data center problem arises.

Closing Thoughts

Hyperconverged infrastructure (also known as hyperconvergence) is a data center architecture that embraces cloud principles and economics. Based on software, hyperconverged infrastructure consolidates server compute, storage, network switch, hypervisor, data protection, data efficiency, global management, and other enterprise functionality on commodity x86 building blocks to simplify IT, increase efficiency, enable seamless scalability, improve agility, and reduce costs

1 comment:

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