Hyperconvergence (HCI) is an IT framework and data center set up that helps IT operators and administrators prioritize software workloads over hardware systems. It does this by combining storage, computing, and networking into one system with the purpose of reducing complexity and increasing scalability.
The central theme of hyperconvergence is that the value of keeping software accessible and functional to customers is higher than that of keeping servers in tip-top condition. More people are actively seeking software services and workloads rather than storage, and hyperconvergence exists to make it easier to deliver just that.
“The goal is to converge all the resources necessary to run applications,” argued Nutanix vice president for product marketing Greg Smith, “to converge the skill sets. So I don’t need a storage specialist; I don’t need a networking specialist; I don’t need a virtualization specialist. What you end up with is just a full stack, equivalent to a cloud stack. Basically, I get one infrastructure — one full stack upon which I can quickly start provisioning my applications.”
So, What’s the Big Deal?
The influence of hyperconvergence, on both service providers and consumers, is the degree to which it either replaces or integrates with existing networks.
Some companies, like Dell EMC, need to keep their storage area networks and network-attached storage arrays, as they continue to be important to the company’s operations and its customers.
Cisco uses a similar approach. For them, HCI helps incorporate a variety of abstract storage and data constructs within Cisco’s preexisting UCS servers.
“There is a reason why we’ve stuck with UCS hardware only,” Cisco’s Manish Agarwal openly admitted. “What we are trying to do is really control the simplicity and the experience that the customer has, in two different dimensions: One is the level of automation that we can do, if we can assume that we are running on UCS hardware… The second is, we can control the performance of the infrastructure much better as well. Outside of the experience, there is a quality dimension.”
If more companies follow this trend, hyperconvergence will meet the customer in the form of a single, simple software experience on a hardware system that’s familiar and consistent with the company providing the server space.
It may look a little like this:
“What we want to do is preserve customer choice,” stated Nutanix’ Greg Smith, “while giving them a common, consistent operating experience. It is possible to do both; you can enable choice while providing predictability in your data center. What this points to is that HCI is a software market. What customers are asking for is to adopt a single software operating system, that they can deploy on the server, manufacturer, and model of their choice, where they’re not locked in. [They say,] ‘I would like to run my applications — virtual or container-based — on Nutanix. I like how Nutanix provides distributed storage, has a built-in hypervisor, and how it manages compute with application-layer orchestration. But I want to pick my hardware. And maybe I want to pick my hypervisor as well.'”