Trench Tales: Going all-in on hyperconverged infrastructure

At the start of this year, I shared how Martin Urwaleck, the IT manager at a public company in Vienna, Austria, was bandying about hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) as a possible solution to the growing and evolving IT needs of his environment. Martin has been working in IT for more than two decades, so he’s not taken in easily by the latest buzzwords and marketing jargon that so widely infects the tech industry. In that earlier article, I interviewed Martin briefly concerning the reasons he was considering migrating his existing three-tier infrastructure to HCI and which solutions he was considering implementing. Then towards the end of my interview, I asked him if we could come back and talk with him again about this subject once he had finalized his decision on which solution to use was ready to start implementing it for his company. Always ready to share his expertise and experience with other IT professionals, Martin graciously replied, “Sure,” so I reached out to him again to find out where he’s at on his HCI journey. It turns out that he’s made progress along his journey, but he’s still not quite there yet. The following is an excerpt of some key points from our recent conversation.


MITCH: When I talked with you at the end of last year, you shared how you were hoping to migrate your company’s existing classic three-tier IT infrastructure to a modern hyperconverged infrastructure solution by the end of the first half of 2021. But I understand now that this hasn’t happened yet — what’s holding things back?

MARTIN: Well, we actually had three major issues. First, the migration of our core application to Microsoft BC needed more IT resources than anticipated. Second, I didn’t get the necessary funding to remodel our second datacenter. And third, it turned out that I needed more funding than expected because of licensing issues with the existing system.

MITCH: You also mentioned last time we talked that you were leaning toward using VMware as an HCI solution mainly because of your familiarity with the VMware platform. You also said you would actually prefer using Nutanix as it offers seamless integration into cloud services and migration between different cloud suppliers and your on-premises infrastructure. Has your thinking remained the same in this area, or has it evolved somewhat as the hyperconverged infrastructure market continues to evolve?

The best part of HCI is that management gets much simpler — I can have one pane of glass for my HCI administration. Previously, I had hypervisor management, storage management, SAN management, hardware management — and it takes more than one of my staff to make changes or additions.

MARTIN: I’m now more attracted than ever by the Nutanix solution as it fits better into my roadmap for developing my IT services in the future. I also see my second datacenter as an interim solution on my way to a hybrid cloud infrastructure – in other words, the future will definitely be in the cloud.

MITCH: So what are your current plans now for implementing HCI at your company? Give us a bit of a deep dive into your thinking about HCI, its potential value for your company, how you plan to implement and make use of it — and hopefully how it can make your life as an IT manager easier.

MARTIN: Initially, I was a little reluctant with HCI because of the minimum requirements in the datacenter – for example, you need at least three nodes for the Virtual SAN regardless of the software used. On the other side, it looked to me that my storage needs would require a lot of nodes with computing power I really don’t need.

But after a detailed analysis by one of my IT partners, I found out that I needed only a minor upgrade to move from one to two datacenters (six instead of five nodes) and that a lot of storage features currently used could be provided by HCI as well, for example by syncing the VSAN in both datacenters.

hyperconverged infrastructure

The best part of HCI is that management gets much simpler — I can have one pane of glass for my HCI administration. Previously, I had hypervisor management, storage management, SAN management, hardware management — and it takes more than one of my staff to make changes or additions.

My plan is to set up the second datacenter with the new HCI infrastructure and migrate everything from the existing infrastructure to the new one. When finished, we’ll replace the hardware in the first datacenter and simply start mirroring the VSAN. When that is done, I will have a much simpler infrastructure, use less energy both for power and cooling, and have a fallback datacenter in case the main one has a total failure. And I will have an easy way to move resources between multiple cloud offerings – and my local datacenters, of course.

MITCH: Any other final thoughts about hyperconverged infrastructure? Is it something we should all jump into, or does going all-in on HCI hold some risks/dangers to be considered?

MARTIN: HCI is great if your requirements are above a certain limit — or you are running a hybrid environment both locally and in the cloud. But it’s not necessarily a solution for small IT shops. In other words, three-tier is still here to stay, but it’s not the only solution anymore!

We’ll come back to Martin again sometime in the future to find out what progress he’s making implementing HCI in his environment and to find out what kinds of challenges he had to face so our TechGenix readers can learn about the hazards before they make the leap onto the HCI bandwagon.

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