I&O leaders must act now to extend and protect HCI assets.
Since their introduction around five years ago, the core capabilities of hyperconverged products have changed so dramatically that, today, they’re beginning to become more standardised. To combat this, vendors have started throwing new functionalities, like network automation and AI, into the mix, as well as targeting new use cases such as the on-trend hybrid cloud model.
Arun Chandrasekaran, Research Vice President at Gartner, believes there are four key factors which will shape the future of hyperconvergence. He said that ‘Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) leaders should embed these factors in their vendor selection processes to extend the potential use cases of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and protect their investments in the future.’ At Q Associates, we have summarised the 4 factors he talks about below.
1: Prioritise HCI vendors with strong hybrid cloud capabilities
As workloads become increasingly hybrid, organisations are beginning to explore the benefits of both cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), with most of them open to evolving their virtualised infrastructures into functional hybrid clouds, easily integrable with public cloud IaaS.
While some of the cloud management capabilities HCI vendors have added pale in comparison to cloud management platforms at first glance, vendors have been rubbing shoulders with public cloud providers in an effort to deliver better, more integrated services in the cloud. “This could potentially ease customer challenges around deploying legacy and cloud-native applications in a hybrid environment,” says Chandrasekaran. “I&O leaders should prioritise HCI vendors with strong hybrid cloud capabilities across a broad set of parameters, including a wide choice of cloud provider support, on-demand consumption-based pricing and depth of application programming interface (API) support.”
2: Opt for lean and rugged platforms for edge use cases
HCI’s operational simplicity and form factor means it has the potential to address both traditional and emerging needs of edge computing and Gartner expects that, in the next two years, hardware vendors will support HCI on ruggedised server platforms to address edge use cases, particularly in retail, mining and manufacturing. I&O leaders should favour the HCI vendors that can deliver lower TCO through a mixture of scalable lean hardware and the ability to support newer computing abstractions. They should also utilise the advanced analytics applications that can be deployed using HCI fully virtualised with a level of resiliency to address digital business needs.
Chandrasekaran says that ‘In comparison to a traditional three-tier architecture, HCI has a smaller form factor and occupies less ‘rack space,’ consumes less power and has lower cooling requirements — all critical design decisions when architecting an edge computing infrastructure.” Then going on to say that “The ability of the infrastructure to adapt to workload needs and self-healing infrastructure will become critical”.
3: Insist that network automation is a priority
As HCIs are put under more pressure to support applications that demand more and better performance and availability, the need for networking as an integral part of the cluster design heightens. Without system-level integration, the delivery of service-level agreements (SLAs) is difficult to achieve, and troubleshooting and problem resolution become very complex.
“Until recently, HCI vendors have largely treated networking as a ‘dumb’ interconnect, an approach that has inhibited problem resolution and adherence to SLAs,” says Chandrasekaran. “However, they are increasingly realising that network integration can no longer be ignored and, if properly done, can even be a competitive asset.”
4: Ensure vendors apply AIOps to guarantee application SLAs
Optimal workload placements, self-healing infrastructure and the ability for that infrastructure to adapt to its workload needs will become ever more critical as the complexity of mixed workloads surges and new mission-critical applications are added.
While most I&O leaders will see HCI as mainly an on-prem and multicloud architecture solution from which they can successfully utilise artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) from, the sheer amounts of raw data, analysis, resolution and remediation is proving too much for most IT organisations’ capacity and intelligence to deal with.
“The solution lies in AI that can supply high-quality, real-time data; run algorithms and models on detecting anomalies; examine correlations of incidents that may have existed elsewhere; and handle root-cause analysis with recommendations for remediation,” explains Chandrasekaran. “The best cases will have HCI administrators working with AI-enabled analysis and recommendations as part of a proactive decision tree that protects SLAs.”