Business cycles in the last decade have had lingering impact on the IT industry. IT budgets have been more or less flat, while business leaders continue to demand more from their IT peers. Continued pressure on increasing efficiency, while retaining the agility to support new business services has led to several new trends. Compute Virtualization led by vSphere is now mainstream, with over 83% workload running on virtualized servers. Software-defined data center is breaking new grounds to extend the server virtualization benefits to storage and networks, while simplifying the management. Converged platforms have seen steady growth that bring together pre-certified, pre-validated elements to reduce the time to VM and eliminate management complexity.
Challenges with Legacy IT model
Traditional three-tier infrastructure model was a transition from mainframe to delink compute refresh cycles from storage, allowing compute and storage to scale, independent of each other. However, it also brought along the complexity of managing compute, network and storage that required specialized skills. Passing the buck among different resource management teams is not uncommon. Customers had to commit their capex upfront only to procure elements that ended up not being optimally utilized, therefore resulting into a lower ROI. Along the way, virtualization has solved the resource utilization issues for servers, however, customers still have to invest in expensive storage and networking resources.
Dealing with multiple vendor-specific management interfaces is no fun either –typically there is one for virtualization, one for storage, other for backup and recovery, etc. It gets worse, when you run into issues in a production environment, and vendors end up finger-pointing and blaming one another, when all you are looking for is a unified solution.
Emergence of Hyper-converged
Hyper-converged paradigm addresses these issues by tightly integrating compute, storage and virtualization resources that can be consumed out of the box. Another benefit of HCI is that it has brought application closer to its data to minimize the latency impact, as now, VMs consume IOPS inside the HCI appliance. Hyperconverged infrastructure has taken this transformation several notches higher by combining SDDC agility with robust economics.
Tech industry has been abuzz with Hyperconverged for some time.
Gartner predicts HCI market to be at $5.6 B by 2019, growing at the average pace of 79% per year. It expected 30% of storage capacity inside data center will be in hyper-converged or some form of software-defined storage. Organizations are lapping up HCI appliance with both hands for some key business benefits –
- HCI helps dramatically cuts down the time to value. With Hitachi’s Hyperconverged Unified Compute Platform HC, you have the ability to spin up a VM within 15 minutes of powering on the appliance.
- You need not commit massive capital in monolithic boxes, as HCI converts capex into opex, providing you the flexibility to pay-as-you-grow. With UCP HC, you begin with under $30K(USD) for two nodes appliance.
- The Manpower/People with specialized skills in storage administration can now be redeployed in other productive projects, as the VM admin will have ability to manage the entire stack.
- You have a single pane of glass for provisioning, managing and monitoring the appliance, eliminating need to invest in diverse tools.
5. Reduced power, cooling requirements and all make-up a reduced/smaller carbon footprint in the data center.
Since the general availability of Hitachi’s hyperconverged platform, we have seen deployments for a range of use cases across the verticals. In my engagements with with customers, I’ve heard some compelling reasons why enterprises relied on UCP HC and I want to share with you what I’ve heard below:
Industry leading platform vSAN
Hitachi Unified Compute Platform HC (UCP HC) leverages VMware vSAN software-defined storage to create flexible logical storage pool from multiple nodes, which may span across multiple racks or physical sites. vSAN is industry leading HCI platform with over 8,000 customers for a multitude of use cases. One important reason for the rising market share of vSAN is that it is baked in the vSphere kernel, minimizing the performance impact, typically seen with first generation HCI platforms (, which introduce an external object virtual storage array to manage data placement and data services in the HCI cluster). Another factor driving adoption of UCP HC is since over 83% workloads today run on ESXi hypervisor, customers already have developed skills around VMware management and monitoring tools. vSphere web client is the go-to screen for managing virtualization infrastructure, big and small; so as mentioned earlier the need to have only one interface to manage your environment.
Policy-based Automation - IT Automation has been a big push in customer data centers in the last decade or so. This isprimarily to due to the need to reduce the complexity and eliminate manual errors in IT operations. Let’s not underestimate the amount it takes to run IT operations, enterprises need to better the skills optimize the time of their IT workers. In my opinion, policy-based control, with vSAN for server-attached storage and Virtual Volumes (VVol) for external storage, are the biggest advancements in IT automation. It brings significant transformation in data center from IT-centric management to application-oriented SLAs. You get the consistent experience of storage policy based management regardless of your choice of software-defined storage vSAN or VVol. Your IT team now have the ability to manage vSAN and VVol data stores from a single vCenter instance, reducing if not eliminating the chance for manual errors while freeing up time for other productive projects.
One throat to choke (Single Vendor Support)
Imagine, you got a call from a business user that their customer transactions are timing out, and you are busy figuring out what is wrong with your systems. Is your compute over-committed, or some issue with HBA, or port bandwidth is not enough for your data. Or worse, some interoperability issue among VMware stack. Would you fancy being in the situation with multiple vendors passing the buck in a classic “C-Y-A” scenario, while the clock is ticking as you have to find the resolution for your 'boss' and the business teams alike?. Hitachi provides a one-stop service and support for the entire appliance, including hardware, software and hypervisor. For IT operations team, it is a key requirement. Hitachi customer support team brings a vast pool of technical expertise around compute, storage and VMware technologies, bolstered by a repertoire of VMware certified professionals VCPs, VCAPs and VCDX.
Since UCP HC is an integrated appliance, it’s a ZERO WORRY concept about the future issues. Deep partnership with VMware ensures engineering teams are aligned at the design-level to develop solutions that address real world technology concerns.
Tool-set not a hammer
I regularly see many HCI vendors make a pitch for their product, even before taking the time to understand the pains asking customer’s what their business challenges are, or, why customers decided to engage in the first place?! IT is a means to an end, not an end itself. Especially, with one-trick-pony HCI vendors. Disregarding specific customer requirements for scale, workforce optimization, availability needs, cost pressures etc is like taking a hammer and pounding a square peg in a round hole. HCI approach should be treated as a tool-set that enables the enterprise with the right type of tools to get the job done. So essentially taking advantage of what tools you have in your tool “box” and hammering / drilling / screwing in the right size and right type of nail into your board or foundation.
I believe there are still a few use cases, where customers will still like to consider traditional the DIY or converged IT. It could be due to varying refresh cycles for compute and storage or because of existing agreements with hardware vendors, which doesn’t really allow them the opportunity to explore other HCI solutions.
Either way, Hitachi offers a broad portfolio of IT infrastructure offerings and services to meet your technology needs.
Read TBR Group’s report for more insight on how to embrace Hyper-converged IT to modernize your data center.
Watch out this space for exciting developments on Hitachi’s Hyper-converged portfolio.