HCI: Shaping the future of data storage
Mon 2 Dec 2019 | Qais Noori
HCI is now part and parcel of the data storage conversation – and for good reason – writes Qais Noori
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is no longer a buzzword.
As noted by Justin Warren in his article on Forbes, most HCI vendors now offer HCI as an overall offering and that’s how it should be. The technology is not dead; it has become a natural part of the data storage world.
Now that it has been transformed into an essential cog in the engine that drives enterprise data storage forward, it’s important to recap the true promise of HCI and why it’s now taken so seriously.
Why HCI remains relevant
The data storage universe has already begun looking for alternatives to hard disk drives but we’re still a long way from helium drives, DNA storage, and holographic storage. According to the CFO of Seagate, hard drives are still some 15-20 years from being displaced.
During the time in which the data storage industry has questioned the lifespan of different storage drives and disks, HCI appliances have established a future-proof position in the market, mainly because of the flexibility they afford.
Compared to purpose-built storage solutions in the market, such as NAS, SAN and unified NAS + SAN appliances, HCI appliances enable users to store, process and control different types of data using virtually provisioned storage repositories; thereby reducing data centre footprint and, in turn, reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and boosting Return on Investment (ROI).
In addition, the virtual resources deployed on HCI appliances, such as virtual NAS & virtual SAN, are easier to scale and provision. Virtualized resources are the solution to the legacy “fixed hardware model” that usually requires forklift upgrades. It’s comparatively quicker and easier to add more storage and increase the performance of virtual resources than with purpose-built storage resources.
As noted by a storage technology expert, “the ability of the infrastructure to adapt to workload needs and self-healing infrastructure will become critical.” In other words, HCI appliances facilitate faster provisioning and are easier to scale.
All of these features have made HCI an important part of the future of enterprise data storage; but that’s not the end of it. HCI technology is also one of the best platforms to power the IT of tomorrow, namely, distributed IT or edge computing.
The clear choice for edge computing workloads
HCI’s ability to quickly configure and provision for the data intensive workloads of edge make it the most logical choice for data storage infrastructure.
For instance, if you’re looking to configure 200 edge devices all over the country, with different types of networks, interfaces and local systems, instead of locally provisioning them on each site; HCI’s plug and play experience makes the process simpler and quick.
The capabilities of an HCI appliance is limited only by the virtualization layer deployed on it, in other words the hypervisor. With industry giants such as VMware and Microsoft (Hyper-V) leading the market with innovative solutions and investing millions of dollars into the technology, the capabilities of virtualization engines are growing by the day.
With market leaders such as Dell, Nutanix, StoneFly and HPE, constantly focusing on hybrid cloud deployments, HCI technology’s capabilities have been extended to the cloud; so much so that cloud integration isn’t viewed as an additional feature anymore.
The powerful combination of HCI’s flexibility and cloud’s serverless and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings pave the way to a connected, smart and centralized enterprise storage ecosystem.
Several vendors, including the ones mentioned above, offer users the ability to spin up Virtual Machines (VMs) directly in the cloud of their choice. Similarly, there are third party service providers who offer VM migrations and even live migrations for mission-critical VMs. These capabilities open the door way to several applications such as Disaster Recovery (DR) and instant recovery, data redundancy, serverless dev and test environments, and more.
The buzz around HCI technology is dead, but the technology has a bright and secure place in the enterprise data storage industry, thanks to its flexibility, scalability, ease of provisioning and simplified cloud integration.