Why HCI is the Datacenter Architecture of the Future

April 9th, 2018
Why HCI is the Datacenter Architecture of the Future

So why talk about data center architecture? As part of the IT community, it can be fun to talk and geek out about the latest technologies or trends. We can appreciate how things used to be done and are excited about where things are headed. But, at some point it must become practical to the business side of the house. Most people in your company and your customers don’t care what you are doing in your datacenter. They could not care less if you are 100% virtualized or still bare metal. They don’t know if you are running public, private, or hybrid cloud.  They might even laugh at how seriously we can use the term cloud.

There is something to be gained by thinking of the business results of our datacenters and the IT infrastructure contained therein. We look at the result that Google, Facebook, and Amazon are getting, and we study why they made the choices they did. Each one uses an HCI approach in the datacenter.

If a company is virtualized it is not really a question we consider anymore, but rather what small percentage is not virtual yet. With very mature virtual operations, there is now a drive to containerize applications and services. We don’t debate if virtualization is better than bare metal since we see the flexibility, consolidation, and ease of management inherent in the ability to run multiple workloads on the same physical server. Treating a server as a file that can be manipulated independent of the underlying hardware is a key feature of virtualization.

Hyperconverged infrastructure picks up where virtualization left off. It takes the software approach to more of the IT stack. Software is consuming everything. What used to be separate products are just part of the stack or cloud. HCI treats storage as a service to be delivered to the VM or Application layer. Networking is delivered in a similar fashion. Just like the public cloud, everything is abstracted behind a management console and administered as one unit.

HCI delivers the best of the public cloud experience – initial right sizing, incremental growth, self-service, and programmability/automation. But with the benefits of on premises infrastructure – security, performance, and control. An extra bonus is when you look at the duration of years, it is less expensive to own commodity hardware resources in your datacenter than rent it in a public cloud for deterministic workloads.

Your IT operations is a major component of the engine that drives your business. The more these processes can be automated in software, the less friction with productivity and profits will increase. The large cloud organizations automate as much as possible, so they can iterate improvements faster. Some call this process DevOps. Tying IT processes directly to business outcomes which then feed back into the IT process. This creates a virtuous cycle that is a business enabler instead of a cost center. And the more your datacenter is software defined, the more flexibility you have in the DevOps process.

The best HCI vendors will allow you to meld architectures. Whether you call it hybrid cloud or cloud bursting, this approach helps balance cloud costs and avoids a whole new type of vendor lock-in. You should be able to mix mode 1 legacy apps with mode 2 cloud native apps, so you can migrate as the business is able. Sound like the data center of the future, except it is possible today.

In closing, I ask again, why talk about data center architecture? The simple answer is: if you are reading this, it is probably part of your job. Every major infrastructure vendor has some type of HCI offering. It could be software, hardware, or appliance based. With the industry rapidly evolving, it is important to have a trusted technology advisor like HA, Inc. who can help you look at all the options out there and assist in your due diligence. We can help you make an informed decision, so your data center and IT practices are evolving with the industry into a bright future.

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