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Hyperconverged infrastructure may be reaching critical mass

Hyperconverged infrastructure is proving its worth among IT shops that need the agility of on-demand infrastructure without going to public clouds.

LAS VEGAS – As companies exploit cloud architecture, they often face a glaring reality: Their existing IT infrastructure isn’t up to the task: it’s sluggish and complex, unable to keep pace with the quick-turn demands of the cloud.

For enterprises that are running private clouds, upgrading servers, storage and networking individually may solve some problems but not others: Companies still have to manage single infrastructure components and get them to work together. Management is cumbersome and time-consuming for IT shops trying to become more responsive to the business.

Enter hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which brings servers, storage, networking and virtualization into one box and under a single provider. Centralizing resources enables centralized management dictated by software, which can be more flexible for management tasks than hardware. It also enables companies to gain the benefits of on-demand infrastructure for data-centric workloads without placing resources in public clouds.

Companies are turning to hyperconverged infrastructure when they need to upgrade legacy servers and storage.

For companies trying to achieve cost savings and agility, HCI may help get them there.

“As business continues to transform, there is an even greater need for cost savings, business agility and responsiveness, so this is where we see hyperconverged [adoption],” said Krista Macomber, director of market intelligence at TechTarget, a consortium of websites that  cover technology, during a session at the Interop 2017 conference on HCI adoption.

Macomber said that according to research she conducted in a previous role at Technology Business Research, or TBR, an analyst firm, more than 30% of respondents to a survey were using HCI to displace legacy infrastructure. Similarly, survey research from TechTarget indicated that 41% of respondents were turning to HCI for a server refresh, and 32% for storage upgrades.

“It works for workloads that can’t be migrated to public cloud for security reasons, latency reasons,” she said. “It offers customers a path to a cloudlike delivery model [in a private cloud setting]: more OPEX-focused purchasing,  more agile adaptation of resources, and simplified management.”

Those findings also resonate with data from the “2016 State of Hyperconverged Infrastructure.” Nearly 40% of respondents that use hyperconverged infrastructure have reduced infrastructure cost, and nearly 30% have reduced deployment times and improved operational efficiency in managing infrastructure.

HCI isn’t turnkey, but it brings ROI

At the same time, industry observers acknowledge that HCI systems can bring new kinds of challenges, from staffing to training. For enterprises accustomed to organizing staff to maintain storage, servers and networks separately, HCI can present a learning curve.

“Hyperconvergence can be a big change for IT managers and directors versed in more traditional infrastructure deployments,” wrote Josh Cronin on the WEI Tech Exchange website. “With specific IT resources focused on tasks like storage, networks or server administration, the idea of marrying these disciplines can make some IT professionals’ heads spin.”

Macomber agreed that cultivating IT specialization may not work in an HCI environment.

“There is a shift that needs to occur,” Macomber said. “The shift is toward more IT generalists, as opposed to IT specialists. “But at the same time, IT needs to be freed up to work more collaboratively with the business and become a bit more strategic.”

Ultimately, Macomber said that customers have come to expect business agility and cost reduction from HCI, but they’re also finding unanticipated benefits.

”They are finding a whole other set of additional benefits they didn’t expect up-front,” she said. Macomber recounted a conversation with one HCI customer who remarked that as result of migrating to hyperconverged and the new data features, he could now implement disaster recovery plans, which he couldn’t previously.

“It’s almost like [customers] have seen the light.”

For more on this topic, check out our hybrid cloud strategy guide.

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Lauren Horwitz

Lauren Horwitz is the managing editor of Cisco.com, where she covers the IT infrastructure market and develops content strategy. Previously, Horwitz was a senior executive editor in the Business Applications and Architecture group at TechTarget;, a senior editor at Cutter Consortium, an IT research firm; and an editor at the American Prospect, a political journal. She has received awards from American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), a min Best of the Web award and the Kimmerling Prize for best graduate paper for her editing work on the journal article "The Fluid Jurisprudence of Israel's Emergency Powers.”