Hyper-Converged Infrastructure 101:

If you’re in the market to refresh your storage or servers you might have run across the term hyper-converged systems. Your first questions might be “What are hyper-converged systems, and how are they different from converged systems?” In this introduction to hyper-convergence, I will answer this question as well as touch on some of the benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure (and being realistic) some of the pitfalls of hyper-converged infrastructure.

But first, before we can jump into hyper-convergence let's review the traditional IT infrastructure paradigm that we have been utilizing since the early 90's…

Traditional Systems:
Traditional systems are composed of proverbial technology silos that include networking, storage, server and software (virtualization platform, BDR…etc). In these legacy silos; administration, configuration, and provisioning of resources is manually done in each silo. In most instances this provisioning process involves multiple IT administrator's from each silo corroborating to provision one virtual machine or application 

Typical redundant hardware design… Look familiar?

Hyper-Converged Systems:
Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions are a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies (BDR, Automation…etc) into a single chassis as a building block and expanded by just adding additional blocks. All network, storage, compute and virtualization resources are then managed through a unified toolset and interface that orchestrates resource configurations.

Seem too good to be true? It's not using software defined technologies…

Hyper-Converged systems leverage the same virtualization technologies that we have been utilizing for 15+ years in servers; the paradigm of virtualization has just more recently been applied to networking and storage; commonly referred to Software Define Networking (SDN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Storage (SDS). Essentially network, storage and server roles are defined by a unified virtualization platform (such as VMware's EVO Rail) that use automation and orchestration software to provide a unified configuration. In a hyper-converged system, a single user interface allows an administrator to quickly provision, configure, report on and decommission applications and services; while the entire time the back-end software performs the unified configuration work.

From a hardware perspective, hyper-converged systems are essentially a single chassis filled with 4 or more servers, each containing a set of disks, SSD cache and a set of network interfaces; complete hardware redundancy built right in. Honestly, the hardware is not too unlike many dense compute platforms that exist today, really its the software that is breaking down the silos and aggregating resources and configurations for reliability and simplicity.

What are the benefits of Hyper-Converged systems?
Some Potential Benefits to Capitalize on with Hyper-Converged Systems:

  • Reduced expenses for expensive networking and storage hardware
  • Lower maintenance costs and more predictable maintenance costs
  • Significantly reduced provisioning times, reduced human error
  • Greater agility so that applications and services can easily be replaced, migrated or transferred
  • Hardware resources are easily and quickly expandable via adding another “block” that integrates seamlessly with previous infrastructure

Any Potential Drawbacks?
Like all technology solutions that exist, there are important considerations that need to be understood before implementation. In regards to hyper-converged infrastructure, it is important to understand that the server/network/storage elements cannot be split or unbound from one another at the hardware level.

Stay Tuned, More to Come
Like just about anything with technology, hyper-convergence is a complex topic with a substantial breadth of details. So over the coming time we will be covering more areas on hyper-convergence that will dive deeper into the technology elements as well as provide some case studies that leverage the benefits of hyper-convergence.

Looking for More Information on Hyper-Convergence?

GoVanguard is a certified VMWare Partner and certified Cisco Partner providing the best in class hyper-converged solutions along with professional services installation and configuration. We are also the leading managed services provider for free and open-source software (FOSS) hyper-converged solutions, recognized by CIO Review as one of 2015's Most Promising DevOp's Solutions Providers.