We meet with customers faced with server refresh projects or the need to add storage on a daily basis. Few customers have missed the increasing prevalence of hyperconvergence (HC) in the marketplace. Major players in the HC infrastructure market include HPE SimpliVity, Dell/EMC XC Series and VxRail, Cisco HyperFlex, and Nutanix, among others. The idea behind HC is that today’s servers can be equipped to function not just as “computers,” but also as other traditional datacenter components, such as the enterprise storage and datacenter networking subsystems sold separately in traditional systems. There are huge potential benefits to be had for many customers.
- All the components of a HC system are designed, tested and supported together. Most are packaged with software that dramatically simplifies the management and monitoring of servers and storage. As a result of this integration and simplification, HC systems may not require a storage administrator or network specialist to perform day-to-day activities and maintenance. The increased simplicity and manageability can result in a tremendous reduction in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
- As the datacenter begins to scale, HC systems easily grow by adding additional units almost like “building blocks.” Each node contains all the processing power, memory, storage, and network capacity that is required to expand the overall system by a specified amount. Not only are these building blocks quick and relatively simple to install and integrate, but they offer business a great deal of agility in budgeting for and executing upgrades and expansion.
Are there disadvantages? There may be.
- Hyperconverged systems emphasize stability, which is a very good thing for business. But the need to test, integrate, and develop management tools for all components at once means that sometimes systems may not be based on the fastest components or the absolute latest hypervisor versions currently available.
- The major performance challenge is I/O throughput. Because of the high level of integration, internal bandwidth that once was dedicated strictly to virtual machine workloads is shared with storage and networking tasks. Server and storage workloads, in particular, must be planned and carefully balanced.
- Vendor lock-in is inevitable for the life of a hyperconverged system. Growing businesses who want to leverage their investment will want to continue adding nodes, and that can mean long-lasting ties to one particular manufacturer for expansion and technical support.
- HC systems don’t allow the granularity of hardware upgrades found in traditional systems. For instance, expanding storage (or any component) in a HC system can require the installation of an entire computing building block, with processors, memory, networking and disk. This can be costly in situations with very particular needs (for instance, a business that needs a high level of compute and memory, but very little storage). HC is often best utilized for applications where the demand growth is more or less linear across all datacenter components.
The majority of potential disadvantages to hyperconvergence are easily addressed during the planning and design stages of a datacenter refresh. Fowler Technology Services takes a business-first, customer-focused approach to datacenter engineering. We work with clients to understand their business, their existing workloads, their IT competencies, and plans for future growth. We then engineer a bespoke vendor-agnostic solution for the customer, whether it be an HC solution from one of our hyperconverged partners, or a traditional datacenter design with discrete servers, storage, and other components. Both HC and traditional solutions can be turnkey, paired with our best-of-breed managed services for customers who value the ultimate in support and security; we are also glad to work on a project basis with customers for assessments, engineering, procurement and/or deployment services. Nothing gives Fowler Technology Services more satisfaction than delivering solutions that not just meet, but greatly exceed, customers’ expected return on investment.
—Jared A. Faulkner, Director of Information Technology
Fowler Technology Services, a Donco company