What is hyperconvergence?

Hyperconvergence combines compute, storage and networking in a software-driven appliance.

Hyperconvergence is an IT framework that combines storage, computing and networking into a single system in an effort to reduce data center complexity and increase scalability.

Hyperconverged platforms include a hypervisor for virtualized computing, software-defined storage, and virtualized networking, and they typically run on standard, off-the-shelf servers. Multiple nodes can be clustered together to create pools of shared compute and storage resources, designed for convenient consumption.

The use of commodity hardware, supported by a single vendor, yields an infrastructure that's designed to be more flexible and simpler to manage than traditional enterprise storage infrastructure. For IT leaders who are embarking on data center modernization projects, hyperconvergence can provide the agility of public cloud infrastructure without relinquishing control of hardware on their own premises.

How does hyperconvergence differ from converged infrastructure?

Hyperconvergence adds deeper levels of abstraction and greater levels of automation.

Converged infrastructure involves a preconfigured package of software and hardware in a single system for simplified management. But with a converged infrastructure, the compute, storage, and networking components are discrete and can be separated. In a hyperconverged environment, the components can’t be separated; the software-defined elements are implemented virtually, with seamless integration into the hypervisor environment. This allows organizations to easily expand capacity by deploying additional modules.

What are the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure solutions?

Hyperconverged infrastructure promises to deliver simplicity and flexibility when compared with legacy solutions. The integrated storage systems, servers and networking switches are designed to be managed as a single system, across all instances of a hyperconverged infrastructure. The inherent management capabilities enable ease of use, and software-defined storage is expected to yield greater scalability and resource efficiency. Companies can start small and grow resources as needed. HCI vendors also tout potential cost savings in areas including data center power and space; IT labor; and avoidance of licensed software such as backup or disaster recovery tools.

Which workloads are strong candidates for hyperconvergence?

HCI systems were initially targeted at virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and other general-purpose workloads with fairly predictable resource requirements. Over time they’ve grown from being specialty solutions for VDI into generally scalable platforms for enterprise applications, database, and private cloud, according to research firm Forrester.

In a survey of infrastructure pros whose firms are planning, implementing or expanding their use of hyperconverged systems, Forrester found the most common workloads being run on hyperconverged systems are: database, such as Oracle or SQL server (cited by 50%); file and print services (40%); collaboration, such as Exchange or SharePoint (38%); virtual desktop (34%); commercial packaged software such as SAP, Oracle (33%); analytics (25%); and Web-facing workloads such as LAMP stack or web servers (17%).

How is it sold?

Hyperconverged infrastructure is available as an appliance, a reference architecture, or as a software-only model. Bundled capabilities such as data deduplication, compression, data protection, snapshots, WAN optimization, and backup/disaster recovery differentiate vendors’ offerings.

Specialist vendors in the HCI space include Nutanix, SimpliVity and Pivot3. Big systems vendors that have entered the market include Cisco, Dell-EMC and HPE. Gartner predicts the market for hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS) will reach nearly US$5 billion – or 24% of the overall market for integrated systems – by 2019, as the technology moves toward more mainstream use.