It’s been over a decade since hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) was formally introduced in the tech industry. In the initial years of its existence, HCI had limited use cases. This has since changed. Today, the HCI’s agility, cost-effectiveness and dynamism has expanded its use cases as organizations seek to modernize their IT infrastructure and applications. This article defines hyperconverged infrastructure and discusses its use cases.
What is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure?
Hyper-converged infrastructure is a software-driven IT architecture that uses virtualization to network, store, and compute IT resources over separate high performing servers. Modern companies depend on data centers for computing, networking, storage, and management of the resources they need to host critical enterprise data and workloads. But conventional data centers are highly complex environments where numerous users compete to run different systems, devices, and software. This heterogeneous environment results in interoperability challenges that result in low performance and slow optimizations.
Hyperconverged infrastructures address these challenges through virtualization and unified management of IT resources. Virtualization facilitates pooling of storage, compute, and networking resources. Unified management allows these resources to be pooled in an organized manner, divided to create performance tiers, discovered, and provisioned seamlessly to workloads, irrespective of their physical location.
Main Use Cases of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure
HCIs have various use cases. Here are major ones:
- Supporting Edge Deployments
Edge computing refers to external computing activities that companies undertake outside their cloud or data center environments. If your company has plans to deploy storage and server infrastructure to support branch office or remote operations, HCI can help you do this successfully. Its scalable nature makes it ideal for edge deployments that companies need to support important functions such as virtual desktops, video surveillance, and remote or branch office operations.
Edge computing locations may also include self-driving vehicles that require high computing power. Most edge environments lack dedicated IT staff. For this reason, companies must check the hyperconverged appliance they deploy to such locations to ensure they’re solid and easy to administer. The HCI platform they use should also be scalable and allow for expansion as workload increases. With HCI, organizations can develop a standard edge architecture that they deploy as many times as they wish to support business needs.
- Databases and Server Support
HCIs are commonly used to support databases and server infrastructures within organizations. These include infrastructure servers, application servers, file servers, database servers, and any other IT infrastructure that a company operates. Databases serve as workhorses for many companies. They power everything in the business from point-of-sale systems and ecommerce websites to the tools for customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning.
Irrespective of their actual application, databases work well due to their direct linkage to the bottom line. Poor performance can affect revenues by hiking expenses as slow applications reduce employee productivity. It can also frustrate customers and cause them to abandon purchases due to prolonged processes. HCI platforms support all kinds of database applications, even the most intense ones. Their integrated flash storage stack on cluster nodes enhances their ability to support databases. HCI’s scalability also allows businesses to expand storage space with ease by adding nodes.
- Deployment of Critical Applications
Businesses or companies that need to deploy mission-critical applications such as Oracle databases or SQL servers can use HCIs to do so. HCI is mostly used to support data warehouses, databases, security, analytics, customer relationship management systems and backups for continuity.
- Hosting Cloud Applications
The other important use case for hyper-converged infrastructure is hosting cloud-like applications. The infrastructure easily supports cloud applications that run on private, public, and hybrid clouds. The flexibility that this IT infrastructure offers makes it easy to manage, provision, and monitor shared resources across public, private and hybrid environments, particularly for container-centric applications.
HCI is also a logical choice for organizations that want to support their hybrid cloud needs. Its virtualization aspect makes it easy to deploy applications and scale them in any location, both in private data centers and public cloud platforms. Businesses can manage varying IT environments consistently and migrate workloads between private and public environments.
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is one of the methods that companies use to create order. It’s a technology that operates a data center-managed operating system. Prior to HCI, desktop architects struggled with VDI deployments due to architectural complexities and underperforming storage.
HCI addresses these challenges by providing an ideal infrastructure for deploying virtual desktop infrastructure. It also addresses the storage challenge by collapsing the hard components of virtual desktop infrastructure into one appliance. Its flash storage helps businesses overcome login and boot storms that may have plagued past efforts.
- Data Protection and Recovery
Conventional data protection isn’t designed to support cloud-native applications and hybrid cloud environments. Data storage and protection are key problems for businesses, particularly when they use disaster recovery sites with varying capacities. HCI is often used to fix these problems as it scales performance and storage. These capabilities provide companies with sufficient capacity to facilitate data protection services. This allows them to run critical applications on disaster recovery sites without incurring high costs. HCI solutions also offer a high level of data availability by default.
- Hosting Test/Development Environments
HCI platforms are the most ideal for hosting test/development environments. They provide companies that have no test/development capabilities a place to begin. It also helps them to keep up with the modern highly dynamic and ever-evolving landscape by providing them with a production-like space that offers fast turnaround for incremental tasks.
Hyperconvergence represents the next evolution in IT architecture. HCI platforms adopt a software-centric approach that brings networking, storage, and computing resources together on a single building platform. This improves the efficiency of IT infrastructure by automating provisions and configuring the entire network. This level of integration creates a scalable, agile, resilient, versatile, and secure environment for companies to store data, run applications, and manage operations and workloads. These unique features and benefits continue to expand HCI’s use cases in today’s business world.
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