Trench Tales: Moving toward a hyperconverged infrastructure solution

The world of IT is full of buzzwords. One that’s been making the rounds for the last few years is hyperconverged infrastructure. The best definition I’ve found for this is the one that VMware uses in its marketing literature:

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software-defined, unified system that combines all the elements of a traditional datacenter: storage, compute, networking, and management.

The idea behind this is that an HCI solution if implemented properly can reduce cost and complexity while increasing scalability compared to building out a traditional datacenter solution. If you’re still not familiar with the HCI approach, watch the short video from VMware below:

Martin Urwaleck, who manages IT for a public company in Vienna, Austria, mentioned to me in conversation that he was considering implementing an HCI solution to meet the company’s growing datacenter needs. Just before the holiday season began, I reached out to Martin and asked him how this was going and if he was still planning on doing this, and what the reasons were behind his decision. Like most things in our IT profession, work on infrastructure changes happen slowly and require much consideration. For our TechGenix readers who are considering a similar move toward HCI, the following conversation I had with Martin may be helpful and illuminating.

MITCH: Martin, you mentioned to me previously that you’re considering implementing a hyperconverged infrastructure solution at the company where you presently work. What sort of problems are you trying to solve for your workplace by introducing this kind of solution?

MARTIN: My current setup is a classic three-tier architecture — and it’s located on one of my two sites. Setting up a backup datacenter would mean replicating an expensive basic infrastructure I simply don’t need — I just need redundancy on specific machines and data, not on everything. So, I looked into alternatives and found out that a hyperconverged infrastructure might be a better solution.

MITCH: Can you elaborate on this a bit more? Why exactly do you feel that a hyperconverged infrastructure would be a better solution for your company than setting up a backup datacenter? Is it just about cost, or are there other factors involved in your thinking about this?

MARTIN: I definitely will have lower startup costs. With a three-tier architecture, I have to invest in switch fabric and storage controller from the beginning, even if I have next to no storage requirements. When comparing my full setup with hyperconverged, the latter might be more expensive — but my hardware requirements are also shrinking because of the cloud.

hyperconverged infrastructure

MITCH: You also told me that you’ve already begun looking at the offerings from VMware and Nutamix as possibilities. Why these two solutions in particular, and how do they differ?

MARTIN: Well, VMware is already in use at my site, so I checked out their products. And I also checked out Nutanix because this was one of the first companies I know of that used this concept of hyperconvergence.

MITCH: So which solution are you currently leaning toward and why?

MARTIN: I guess I’ll start with VMware because we have experience with the product and established external support available. I would rather go with Nutanix if I were already using cloud solutions because Nutanix offers seamless integration into cloud services and migration between different cloud suppliers and your on-premises infrastructure. You can easily move services into the cloud and back again if you want to with Nutanix.

MITCH: Doesn’t VMware also let you move your workloads into the cloud and back out again? Or is this hard to do with VMware compared to what you can do with Nutanix in this area?

MARTIN: Well, the difference between VMware and Nutanix is that more than one virtualization platform is supported. And this can be a real benefit in M&A situations.

MITCH: That’s smart to plan like that. Those of us who do IT for mid-to-large-sized companies need to think about the big picture of where the company might be heading, for example, toward a merger with or acquisition of another company since merging two IT infrastructure from two companies can be difficult!

MARTIN: Yes.

MITCH: So then, what sort of challenges are you expecting should you decide to implement a hyperconverged infrastructure for your employer?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, my techies must learn how to operate that stuff! Because we’ll be getting a new class of hardware we are not familiar with.

hyperconverged infrastructure
Nutanix

MITCH: Yes, we’re always learning in our profession.

MARTIN: Agreed.

MITCH: At what stage are you in this whole implementing process at the moment? Have you begun the planning process or are you still investigating things, or perhaps waiting for a funding decision?

MARTIN: I already have this in my budget for next year and expect implementation in Q2/21. I haven’t made a final decision regarding the platform to go with yet, but I tend to lean toward sticking with VMware.

MITCH: That makes a lot of sense. Go with what you know, right?

MARTIN: Yes, usually.

MITCH: OK. Can we come back and talk with you again about this subject once you’ve finalized your decision and started to implement it? For example, to find out what new challenges have arisen during the implementation stage?

MARTIN: Sure, I’ll get back to you when we have a decision.

MITCH: That’s great, and thanks, Martin, for sharing both your time and expertise and experiences with our readers here at TechGenix.

MARTIN: You’re welcome.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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