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Evaluate hyper-converged technologies based on business needs

Knowing the evolution of hyper-converged technologies and different platforms is important, but you also need to understand your current environment and organization.

The evolution of hyper-converged technologies has captured the attention of admins and execs alike. More than just a passing trend, hyper-converged infrastructures offer streamlined deployment, management and support. That being said, making the business case for hyper-converged systems can be an uphill battle. Not only do you need to know the ins and outs of this data center setup and current vendor offerings, but you also need to know how the platform will be used and what effect it'll have on IT staffing. Put yourself in a position to succeed with these five quick tips.

The history of hyper-convergence

As hyper-converged technologies began to gain traction, vendors partnered with one another to maximize their offerings. Companies best known for networking would pursue a partnership with storage vendors, who would pursue a partnership with those best known for servers, and so on. Only large vendors would attempt the solo approach and try to fulfill data center needs themselves. The landscape is much different now. Many of these partnerships fizzled out as companies either bought each other out or developed their own products in areas they didn't previously occupy. Now, even small vendors offer hyper-converged technologies. While it may seem easier for customers to go with a one-stop-shop rather than a vendor combo deal, choosing between all of the different platforms can be a challenge.

Hyper-converged platforms must meet business needs

Before researching hyper-converged technologies, outline the needs and scope of your virtual environment, so you know how you will use the platform.

Before researching hyper-converged technologies, outline the needs and scope of your virtual environment, so you know how you will use the platform. Depending on the vendor, the preconfigured software stack could include a wide range of systems management software or even an elastic private cloud with intelligent workload management software. It's important to choose the right fit for your current environment, but also to choose a platform that offers flexibility to ensure that it will meet future business needs. Look into the components and internal connectivity of the vendors' hyper-converged technologies to see what's standard and what's proprietary. Although the potential for vendor lock-in is concerning, remember that specific features might be what make a platform the best fit for your environment.

Hyper-converged vendor platform comparison

That doesn't mean you should knock the ability to move applications from one hypervisor to another, though. It's simply another option to consider when you're looking at hyper-converged technologies. Nutanix, for example, has its own hypervisor called Acropolis, but also provides support for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. The more hypervisors a platform supports, the more likely that it'll be compatible with existing tools, which can be a lifesaver when it comes to licensing costs. With Cisco HyperFlex, you can achieve greater server density by adding on B-series blade servers instead of purchasing more rackmount servers, providing yet another cost-savings option. Thoroughly evaluating the features and doing the math is a key part of the process, and when you apply this level of scrutiny to all of the competing hyper-converged technologies, it becomes an extremely difficult decision to make.

Organizational roles and responsibilities

Also, think about how hyper-converged technologies will affect the structure of your organization. Storage and network teams will probably see the most change. With hyper-converged, shared storage can be achieved without a storage area network (SAN). Enterprise class storage will always have its uses, but zoning, logical unit number, fabric and SAN administration will ultimately dwindle. This shift in responsibilities is due to the fact that hyper-converged technologies incorporate more automation and integrate compute, storage and some networking into a single box that's purchased as a package that can be managed holistically. When presenting a platform to decision-makers, also outline what the adoption will mean in terms of storage and networking team duties.

The future of hyper-convergence

Hyper-converged technologies have come a long way in just a short time. Vendors and customers have collaborated to navigate the issues and shortcomings of combining storage, network and compute into one system. The key thing to remember, though, is that hyper-converged technologies are still evolving. If you already have an established data center, it may not make financial sense to switch to this type of infrastructure just yet, but as the competition continues to ramp up and improvements are made to the software stack, that could change. Benefits like scalability and unified support could outweigh the cost of implementation at some point, and you'll want to be fully aware of your business needs and the marketplace when that happens.

Next Steps

Learn about developments to hyper-converged hardware

Choose a converged or hyper-converged platform

Make the business case for hyper-converged

Dig Deeper on Server hardware and virtualization