How to choose between Hyper-Convergence Infrastructure and Cloud Computing: Asking the right questions

The rapid digitalisation of business processes has given rise to numerous IT frameworks, software, and tools. However, there are countless service providers and cloud organizations competing for businesses that are retiring legacy systems. This makes the process of choosing the most-suitable tools a tad bit overwhelming for those not well-acquainted with digital technology.

When migrating to digital systems, most businesses are faced with the dilemma of choosing between hyper-converged Infrastructure and cloud computing, both integral parts of the digital industry. Let’s scrutinize both these infrastructures, their benefits, drawbacks, and examine how to make the right choice.

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What is Hyper-Convergence Infrastructure?

Hyper-Convergence Infrastructure (or HCI) is a software-driven IT framework that aims at simplifying data management. It combines the three vital functions of networking, computing, and storage. Thus, HCI does away with the need to install expensive hardware and can be managed without deep expertise or knowledge.

Multiple nodes in HCI operate as a single unit, which allow various functions and processes to work simultaneously. This naturally improves the system’s efficiency. Since HCI is mostly automated, it also reduces human errors and simplifies the operations significantly. 

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is simply a platform where all computing-related services are provided over the internet, including storage, networking, analytics, databases, etc. It is available as public, private and hybrid cloud to its users.

The public cloud computing model allows all users to access data, applications, and information over the internet and usually works on the ‘pay-as-you-go’ model. Most organizations deploy it to facilitate remote operations of their business processes.

Private cloud, on the other hand, is accessible to limited users only. This allows a greater degree of control and autonomy over cloud assets like servers, storage, and applications.

Cloud computing can further be differentiated in three types:

  • Infrastructure as a Service – Offers the storage and compute services based on ‘pay-as-you-go’ model
  • Platform as a Service – Provides services like shared tools, APIs to develop and test before deployment
  • Software as a Service – Allows applications to be readily accessed on a local browser through an internet connection

HCI and Cloud: How Are They Different?

If decision-makers are not well-versed with cloud and HCI, they might seem similar and even interchangeable technologies. However, both these approaches to digitization are considerably different on many fronts:

The End-User

Cloud technology aims at enhancing the experience for the ultimate user by providing ease of operation. For instance, Google Photos provides cloud storage and management of images to millions of people across different devices in a smooth and seamless manner.

On the other hand, HCI simplifies the technology by bundling the three major infrastructure components for the organizations. Thus, the focus is simplifying the management of the system by managers and operators, not the end-user.

Ease of Management

HCI provides efficiency and ease in deployment, streamlines processes, and simplifies maintenance without any niche skill set. Furthermore, by eliminating the need to procure hardware and equipment, the deployment of HCI is easier than that of cloud. This is particularly applicable when establishing private cloud infrastructure.

Organisations that choose cloud must invariably employ or consult cloud experts that are adept at acquiring, installing, configuring, and maintaining the cloud infrastructure.

Flexibility

Cloud is able to modify and configure quickly as per user requirements and is, therefore, far more flexible than HCI. HCI’s exclusive software and minimal self-service features are simply unable to provide the same flexibility as cloud.

Scalability

Scaling cloud-based operations is far simpler than upgrading HCI infrastructure. This is because cloud assets can be scaled up individually and configured to add more nodes by changing the API. Thus, adding or reducing storage, server, or network capacity isn’t difficult in cloud.

HCI, on the other hand, works as a cohesive unit and scaling any one aspect of the infrastructure must include expanding the entire system.

How to Choose Between HCI and Cloud?

Managers, leaders, and business owners retiring legacy systems must choose between HCI and cloud. It would be beneficial to answer the following questions in order to make an informed choice:

Q. What are the Foreseeable Usage Patterns for Business Operations?

While choosing between HCI and cloud, consider the pace with which existing business operations are growing. Businesses with a largely-consistent pattern usage and periodic upward trends would be better off with HCI. Whereas, those with low usage requirements and sporadic growth might be more suited for cloud infrastructure.

Q. What is the Nature of Data Being Stored?

Protecting sensitive business and customer data is of foremost importance and data security must be factored in this decision. The HCI framework gives a more secure in-house platform to maintain data secrecy and retrieve it easily as per requirement.

Naturally, storing business data on third-party cloud servers, particularly in public cloud, offers lower security. However, within cloud, businesses can opt for hybrid cloud to customise their cloud infrastructure for maximum cost, efficiency, and security.

Q. Is There an In-House IT Team Available?

Choosing HCI can be a viable option for businesses with a small and generalist IT team. This is because managing the infrastructure doesn’t require specialised skills.

Organizations opting for cloud must have in place (or build) cloud expertise to ensure maximum utility of the cloud infrastructure. This will enable smooth migration, deployment, and frictionless operation of critical businesses processes.

Q. How Would the Business Be Impacted Due to Technical Glitches?

A cloud server’s technical fault could bring business operations to a standstill, impacting revenues and productivity. HCI, however, with its in-house storage and nodes, is less prone to such disruptions.

However, there are other security risks associated with HCI as well. Hence, all concerns must be adequately discussed with the vendor before finalising the decision.

The Bottom Line

Both HCI and cloud aim to provide digital business solutions that can help businesses operate and scale sustainably. While their basic purpose is the same, both the frameworks come with their own sets of unique pros and cons.

The choice between the two depends on the organization type, size, industry, requirement, future plans, and resource allocation.