Hyper-converged holds immense potential to reduce costs, increase security, enhance data recovery, and offer flexibility to enterprises migrating from legacy systems. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes even more critical to understand what HCI entails and how businesses can benefit from it. 

Back in 2015, Gartner predicted that the world must start preparing for a future that contains converged infrastructure.Within five short years, Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) has grown into a USD 7.8 billion industry and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.1% until 2025.

HCI has become extremely popular with organizations of all sizes, owing to its reduced cost offering and higher data recovery capacity. The new-age framework is being deployed in mission-critical business use-cases in various industries as well. What has led to its success, and what are its drawbacks? Let’s find out.

What is Hyper-Converged Infrastructure?

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is a framework that essentially simplifies the IT infrastructure by combining networking, storage, and computing in a single system. It has a hypervisor and runs on off-the-shelf-servers.

HCI combined multiple nodes to create the platform for shared storage, network system and shared computing. It is mostly used as a single UI and is relatively easy to set up as well.

Like the cloud infrastructure, HCI enables virtual environments, but the virtual infrastructure’s basic components (compute, network, and storage) are configured differently. By combining all of them into a single system, HCI does away with the need to have different physical parts of the architecture.

As opposed to general cloud configurations, where the network and storage can be manually configured, HCI has all three components in the same place that are configured through software only.

HCI vendors usually offer a pay-as-you-go model, which means an organization would pay for the services as and when consumed. In the short term, it could also lower the Total Cost of Operations (TCO) and give an excellent performance.

It should come as no surprise that organizations are turning to HCI, and its adoption is increasing each year significantly. Let’s take a closer look at HCI, its advantages, and challenges

Benefits of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Enhanced Data Protection: Ensuring data security and protecting cloud assets against disasters or cyber hacking and data theft is the top concern for every organization. Since most HCI vendors provide in-built features to retrieve data or prevent data loss even when the software malfunctions, it provides enhanced data protection features.

Easy Deployment and Scalability: HCI primarily uses software to run and does not require the use of multiple hardware items (as is the case with traditional data centers). The elimination of elaborate hardware installation saves not only cost but also precious time and man-hours. HCI is easy-to-operate as well and doesn’t require a niche skill set or expertise.

It can be managed by a comparatively small team of IT generalists, and since it is mostly automated, HCI also significantly reduces the chances of human error.

Flexibility: HCI is a single unit operating with multiple nodes that has a varied amount of storage and memory resources. It allows several functions to operate simultaneously and deliver optimal results, thus providing the much-needed flexibility that experts felt was missing in traditional cloud environments.

The compact storage also reduces the involvement of different vendors and suppliers as most HCI vendors cater to all the necessary infrastructure-related requirements.

Increased Efficiency and Innovation: Since HCI is automated, it streamlines processes that can be managed without much upkeep, intervention, and supervision. This efficiency means that IT talent can focus on improving other digital aspects of the business and bolster innovation.

Challenges of Hyper-Converged infrastructure

Vendor Lock-In: Buying HCI hardware and software can lead to vendor lock-in and act as a roadblock for innovation as the operations can only be done in a pre-defined framework. Naturally, this will result in a greater reliance and dependability on the HCI vendor.

On the other hand, using software and hardware from different vendors reduces the ease and flexibility of HCI. Organizations must check the ease of transferring to various cloud environments before selecting their vendors or maintain a secondary backup of all their data locally in case it needs to be transferred in the future.

Granular Scalability: One of the most significant drawbacks is that HCI has limitations regarding granular scalability. Due to its innate nature, building on one aspect of the cloud infrastructure is complex, and any scaling up requires additional resources. For instance, even if you only need enhanced storage capabilities in the future, you will have to expand the compute nodes as well. This is because the compute-to-storage ratio and the scaling requirements are unbalanced in HCI.

While many vendors now offer the ability to scale HCI environments independently, organizations must take into consideration the future cloud rise storage and data requirements before going for HCI.

Network Misalignment: If HCI is run on networks with subpar performance, it could lead to high latency issues. Some applications that require higher local disk input/output or network throughput might not even be able to function with HCI infrastructures at all.

Thus, organizations need to have the right networking capacity, even cluster data placement, and the proper distribution across nodes in order to make the most of their HCI environments and prevent network-related conflicts.

Conclusion

With the HCI market expected to grow to USD 27.1 billion by 2025, HCI is being touted as the next frontier in revolutionizing business operations and processes. However, it comes with myriad benefits and limitations that must be considered as well. Interestingly, the very features that make it beneficial can lead to execution and scalability complexities as well.

Thus, it is vital to conduct thorough research, consider future requirements, and evaluate the vendors available for HCI before choosing the one that best suits business needs.

Short-description: Hyper-converged infrastructure is expected to usher in the next wave of innovation in how businesses manage and secure their data processes. The new-age software-based IT infrastructure holds immense potential to reduce costs, increase security, enhance data recovery, and offer flexibility to enterprises migrating from legacy systems. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes even more critical to understand what HCI entails and how businesses can benefit from it.