A New Form of IT
The face of IT is changing. Nowhere has this change been felt more than in the datacentre. What was once a movement of Web-scale companies like Google and Facebook, is now gaining much wider appeal among many different types of businesses.
Hyper-convergence is the driving force behind the changing shape of the datacentre to smaller, more efficient technology centres.
A hyper-converged server is a system that combines hardware, software, storage and networking in a single compact box.
Converged systems are pre-tuned, pre-integrated and pre-tested servers that are bespoke for a specific workload or usage model.
The hyper-converged systems movement came about from the emergence of Web-scale companies such as Google and Facebook. These organisations have very large scale-up and scale-down requirements based upon the need of each workload.
Web-scale organisations started requiring server, storage and input/output performance on a different level than traditional compute offered at the time. In late 2009 to 2010, these big companies began building their own stacks, and so, hyper-convergence was born.
Since that time, vendors have developed hardware and software that integrates and runs this hyper-converged unit together with the application software as one system.
This has evolved over the last 5 years around Web-scale and high density hyperconverged type of requirement. However, it is becoming more and more popular amongst other types of business that require fast deployment and improved agility.
These systems can be optimised for general workloads, but have become increasingly important for specific workloads such as Desktop virtualisation (VDI), remote site and discrete line of business deployments.
That’s where these boxes show their true potential. Hyper-converged infrastructure can be deployed and provisioned in a matter of minutes. It is an all-in-one box that doesn’t rely on an organisation to set up. It is already pre-configured, pre-tested and ready to go.
Performance is the other big benefit of these systems. As capacity is added, corresponding performance gains come at the same time with predictable scale. The system is flexible enough to optimise capacity within the CPU, memory and storage all at once.
A VM-centric approach to the solution stack allows the entire infrastructure to be managed without leaving the hypervisor environment. This brings the stack to a point where it can be relatively self-servicing, removing the need for IT professionals to manage the system.
Simply put, hyper-converged systems are faster, simpler, more efficient and have a level of agility that is unmatched by traditional servers.
The Market Today and Partner Opportunities
There are converged system models available for all levels of business. Solutions start at entry-level or foundation models, to high-end performance models with SSD capability for higher performance requirements and a need for access to constantly sought data. There are also Private Cloud models available. You don’t need to be a large organisation to set up a small discrete Cloud offering and then grow it to a large enterprise scale as needed. Implementation of converged infrastructure can solve some important requirements of business. Approximately 50 per cent of hyper-converged systems deployed today are in virtual desktop (VDI) environments. This may be the most prevalent usage of converged systems but it is certainly not the only application of the technology.
Usage of hyper-convergence started in VDI, streaming media and development testing. For VDI, the use of hypervisors enables a single converged server to run up to 100 virtual machines. This is just one example of the value proposition.
A recent Gartner report titled Market Trends: Hyperconverged Integrated Systems Meet Growing Acceptance from Midsize Enterprises, 2015 (22 April 2015) stated “We estimate that by 2018, 75 per cent of the total datacentre hardware market will be addressable by integrated systems.”
The analyst firm also noted that current market acceptance of the technology was low due to “provider’s lack of concrete value positioning of these systems.”
According to the report, some vendors tend to lack choice and IT leaders may be concerned about vendor lock-in or feel uncomfortable about dealing with relatively new or unknown providers.
“Because of the dynamic state of the products in this space, there is confusion about traditional integrated systems and hyper-converged systems. However, given budget constraints associated with facilities or infrastructure upgrade projects, as well as the scale of these environments, HCIS is an attractive option for many midsize enterprises.”
A 2014 IDC report titled Worldwide Integrated Systems Support and Deploy Services 2014-2017 Forecast (June 2014), IDC program director software and hardware support services, Rob Brothers, said the size of the integrated systems hardware, support and deploy services market will grow significantly over the next few years because of an increase in the quantity of these solutions being adopted.
"These solutions are an end goal for some organisations, which many see as an evolutionary step toward a private Cloud delivery model or a hybrid model including public Cloud services."
This presents a growing opportunity for partners in the converged systems space to add value around these sort of deployments. This new breed of web-scale companies at all points along the spectrum benefit from hyper-convergence due to its unrivalled agility.
The Lego block style expansion model allows the client to begin with a very small opex or capex investment and quickly scale out without having to halt the operation of existing infrastructure. This can be done without the need for SAN capabilities or very expensive storage-specific skills.
These systems can be deployed, then be up and running in a matter of minutes using store virtual capabilities, rather than a SAN skill requirement.
Converged systems are also incredibly space-efficient. A customer can bring one of these systems online and have 100 virtual machines running on one hyper-converged 2U unit.
For the same compute and storage using a traditional rack server, the customer would be using at least 10 Units of rack space. Using a hyper-converged system, you are using less than a quarter the real estate within the datacentre. For a provider paying for datacentre space, they would be paying less rental.
The savings for the customer come in the long run as well. Less datacentre rental and maintenance combined with increased efficiency and agility, works to greatly reduce the total cost of ownership of these systems.
Not all stacks are created equal
Certain vendors in the converged or integrated systems space have solutions that are proprietary or vendor specific. This can be limiting for many customers because it can cause integration issues throughout the solution stack.
If customers deploy this type of solution, they can find themselves in a situation where there is a production site and a DR site that talk to each other but will not be able to communicate with the rest of the datacentre. This makes this sort of system quite limiting as a usage model.
Writing in Technology Spectator, HP Servers & Converged Systems general manager for South Pacific, Raj Thakur, wrote:
With the introduction of hyper-converged systems, IT executives have more choice in the deployment of infrastructure. With a condensed footprint and enterprise-grade features, performance and resiliency built-in, hyper-converged systems are gaining lots of attention as a quick and affordable way to modernise IT infrastructure while letting you operate securely, efficiently and at scale.
They retain all the attributes of a larger system yet are simpler turnkey appliances made up of integrated server, storage and networking building blocks. Their versatility offers fast setup, easy administration and provides lower costs for faster responses to business demands. And they scale just as easily; each additional system seamlessly adds the power of four servers and associated storage. Hyper-converged systems seem a perfect fit for small to medium size businesses, remote or branch offices, and lines of business with limited IT support. Complemented by a larger converged system, you can now choose which system best matches the location needing resources.
Clearly, the speed, simplicity and efficiency of converged and hyper-converged systems are causing IT executives to rethink the way to improve business agility in their organisations, as these systems represent a very effective way to their IT infrastructure.
For the last several years, businesses have been utilising converged infrastructure to reduce complexity by consolidating the individual silos of compute, storage, and networking. These companies have increased time-to-value, simplified management, enjoyed single-point support, and launched applications into the Cloud.
Open, interoperable ecosystems reduce risk and accelerate the transition to on-demand IT infrastructure. Most IT environments are heterogeneous, so it is important to offer solutions that are designed on open architectures and interoperability to enable a wider variety of services to be delivered.
These converged systems can help minimise interoperability testing and technology integration, reduce complexity, and improve system performance and uptime as a result of hardware compatibility. They are also very flexible and scalable so IT organisations can deploy them in existing environments at their own pace.
Hyper-convergence takes converged infrastructure one-step further by integrating grid software that auto-discovers and adds new nodes to the cluster, delivering additional compute and storage resources with the addition of each new module.
For small to medium sized business (SMB), hyper-converged infrastructure represents an affordable and accessible way to modernise their datacentres in a short period of time.
The new breed of hyper-converged systems let organisations bring online a complete virtualised environment in next to no time. Imagine an infrastructure appliance that scales quickly and delivers services consistently, so business can create opportunity, not just react to it.
The concept has been proven. Hyper-convergence is the way of the future. Now business can quickly realise the simplicity of IT convergence. The easy-to-manage, rapidly deployed IT infrastructure that comes in at budget.
The only real choice for your Hyper-converged offerings
Avnet, a leading global technology distributor, has dedicated sales and technical resources focused on the Hewlett Packard Enterprise portfolio, covering all things hardware, software, services and cloud.
Dedicated account management provides partners access to Avnet professional business planning to align services with partner’s growth objectives. The Avnet team holds over 80 HP certifications in both sales and technical areas.
Avnet’s strength is partner engagement, instilling the skills in partners to understand technology pain points whilst solving real business pain points. As the leading and exclusive distributor for HP software products, Avnet is in a unique position to offer end-to-end solutions across HP’s Enterprise portfolio.
SolutionsPath™ is a methodology developed by Avnet to help business partners attain the relevant skills to sell high growth technologies into key market verticals. It is about providing partners with the business intelligence to identify which markets and technologies will deliver the fastest and greatest growth, providing them the tools and education they need to enter the market, and provide an array of proprietary services to help them successfully take technologies to market. The marketing experts at HP and Avnet can assist with professional strategic planning services, complete end-to-end demand generation and incentives.
“Avnet offers skilled technical resources, innovative marketing programs, tailored financial services, and customisable supply chain capabilities that help our partners’ accelerate their profitable growth” says Darren Adams, Vice President and General Manager, Avnet Technology Solutions, Australia and New Zealand. “With over 30 years’ experience as a HP partner, operating in multiple countries across the globe, we are uniquely positioned to offer professional advice and solutions guidance across the entire HP enterprise product portfolio. From HP Converged through to HP Software and on to HP Networking and Enterprise Servers and Storage, Avnet is your one stop shop to help design, configure, build, implement and manage the broad requirements of your customers.”