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Although hyper-converged infrastructure has gained traction as an on-ramp for software-defined data centers and cloud deployments, there is still a list of tangible hyper-converged infrastructure features and capabilities you should look for and consider before making the choice to onboard such technology.
Consider the impact of any specific workload or environment goals. For example, some HCI products are intended to optimize compute performance, while other HCI products might be intended to better support VDI, storage and edge/remote data center environments.
Dell's VxRail family is a prime example of such diversity, with the VxRail E Series for small, entry-level deployments; the VxRail P Series for high performance; the VxRail V Series with GPUs for VDI use; and the VxRail S Series with emphasis on storage capacity.
Think about the importance of each workload and the corresponding data, and evaluate the storage hyper-converged infrastructure features that would best accommodate your needs. For example, features such as high availability, disaster recovery and backup would often be table stakes for any "data center in a box" technologies, such as HCI.
Storage-centric features, such as always-on data deduplication and data compression, help to extend/maximize the available storage capacity in the HCI deployment.
Consider different software components involved in the HCI deployment, and evaluate the compatibility of those components with the software and hardware already present in the environment. For example, an HCI platform might support virtualization, such as VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V.
It might be best to select an HCI platform that is compatible with the hypervisor already running in the environment.
Similarly, consider how you'll manage the HCI platform. As examples, HPE SimpliVity can use VMware vCenter with the HPE SimpliVity management plugin for VMware vCenter or Microsoft System Center with HPE SimpliVity management plugin for Microsoft System Center.
Selecting an HCI platform that's compatible with existing management tools can make deployment and operations easier and reduce the number of management tools you must master.
Understand the scope and limitations of the HCI deployment. HCI gained notice as a convenient, highly integrated platform for edge and remote data center environments where resource requirements were generally lighter than those found in full data centers.
As HCI appears in more data centers, it's important to evaluate the maximum capacities available and how those limits might impact operations. For example, HPE SimpliVity can scale up to 16 nodes in a cluster and federate -- combine clusters -- up to 96 nodes.
Finally, consider how the HCI deployment supports other gear. For example, an HCI software-only platform that supports x86 white box servers and a broad array of storage and network gear might be able to implement HCI across a broad portion of the data center right out of the box.
By comparison, appliances and preintegrated systems might pose more limitations on the scope of an HCI deployment. In addition, consider the variety of equipment that might be supported in the future.
As an example, offerings such as HPE SimpliVity enable you to mix HCI node clusters in the same federation, so HPE SimpliVity 380 clusters can run in the data center, and HPE SimpliVity 2600 clusters can run at edge locations, all federated together in the same HCI scope.
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