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Why and how to hyper-converge your data centre

Sachin Bhatia
Sachin BhatiaAP Data Center Group Marketing Director
I love the landscape of customer advocacy. I am passionate to understand how & why customer segments behave differently, what motivates them and how brand should talk to them as a problem solver rather than a solution seller. Hi, I am Sachin Bhatia and I am Head Marketing for Lenovo’s Data Center Group in AP region. I truly believe technology can unleash customer’s business potential which enables creativity, open new door of opportunity and above all, solve the problem seamlessly.

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Data centres, as they are conventionally understood, started out as a hodgepodge of parts and pieces. Much of the hardware and software came from different vendors and could be put together like Legos. Unfortunately, this didn’t necessarily mean that there was more freedom when it came to deciding what components to include. It also meant less integration and less virtualised solutions.

But then converged data centres began to pop up. Virtualisation and integration ran seamlessly through these centres. However, because they incorporated fixed vendors’ hardware components, they were only optimised for particular workloads and applications. Hyper-convergence ended this problem. This new solution can support related functions and software-defined environments because of how it is clustered to leverage commodity components. In other words, the whole IT infrastructure is simplified and consolidated. And it is this real simplification that many countries across Asia are beginning to look for.

It is because of these benefits, along with many others, that hyper-converged data centres are growing in popularity at such a rapid pace. In 2015, these totally converged infrastructures only made up less than 10 percent of shipments. By 2019, it’s estimated that this number will be up as high as 35 percent. But a hyper-converged data centre is not for every enterprise—although, eventually it likely will be the standard. For now, however, this type of data centre should only be invested in for the following reasons:

1. Cloud Restrictions

The cloud is great. It simplifies IT in a very attractive way. Unfortunately, this option is not one that is on offer for a few businesses out there. Maybe their business rules have measures that prevent such services or maybe there are legal or compliance requirements of their industry that disallow it. For example, in Indonesia, stricter financial industry restrictions have made it nearly impossible to store data outside of the country. But in general, these limitations are in regards to using a public cloud. Private or hybrid clouds, then, can and should be employed. And hyper-converged data centre platforms are programmable enough to make possible to build such a cloud, on top of the on-premises IT infrastructure. So not only do enterprises get the simplicity and reduced infrastructure management of a cloud, but they also get to fulfil their on-premises requirements.

2. Limited IT Talent

IT professionals are in high-demand, which also makes them an expensive hire. And the real problem for most enterprises is that an IT department can no longer be just a handful of individuals who all have general IT knowledge. The field is getting incredibly specialised, and a broad range of skill sets is necessary to help any large business run properly. The beauty of hyper-converged data centres is that they enable enterprises to reduce the range of IT skill sets necessary.

If traditional processes and conventional, or even converged data centres, are replaced with a combination of quality policy-centred management and a hyper-converged data centre, an IT staff can stay the same size, manage more VMs, and do a better job of it. The reason this is the case is that VMs should be simple to manage. Unfortunately, individually controlling each VM takes up time, even if the VM is compliant. By introducing a hyper-converged data centre, policies, rather than IT professionals, can manage groups of VMs, reducing the workload for the IT team to only the non-compliant VMs and other value-giving applications.

3. Easier Future Changes

As previously mentioned, data centre infrastructure of the past was tightly tied together, making it impossible to change, replace or upgrade small parts or aspects of it. If an upgrade of a converged data centre is desired, it is often necessary for the organisation to purchase an entirely new virtualisation platform. With hyper-converged data centres, this is not the case.

These newer data centre platforms are more simple to upgrade. Instead of throwing out the entire system every time something new is needed, most hyper-converged centres can have a cluster updated with an essential node-by-node replacement. This gives enterprises an escape from the nightmare of the long VM migrations or significant outages that take place when a new infrastructure is installed. For companies who are being forced with the choice of throwing out their old platform, now might be the time to make a move to a hyper-converged product.

Such a migration might also be a good idea for companies that regularly have small projects under development. With a hyper-converged platform, the IT staff can quickly deploy small infrastructure units that serve these projects’ smaller requirements, allowing the company to avoid the expense of making a large infrastructure purchase—all that is needed is a few added nodes. And as more projects come into existence or grow, additional nodes can be added, or the nodes can be combined into a larger, single cluster in the hyper-converged system.

4. ROBO

ROBO, also known as remote offices or branch offices, creates a unique challenge for businesses. Not only is it complex for operating servers and SAN when multiple offices come into play, but the simple act of deploying the infrastructure to each site can come at a hefty cost. And then comes the problem of space. Branch offices are typically valued for the fact that they offer a region a brick and mortar location, while also not becoming a liability to the company regarding cost. When a larger space is needed simply for compute and storage requirements, this benefit is diminished. And this is an especially high concern for remote offices that are vehicular in nature (i.e. ships, submarines, aircraft, and trucks). Space and power are limited in these situations.

A solution to all of these issues is hyper-convergence. This type of operation keeps costs in check, and it simplifies the management of the infrastructure. When storage and computer can be all wrapped up into one, manageably-sized box, businesses are able to affordably provide quality IT services to all of their remote offices and branch offices, giving them the robust virtualisation platform that they need to prosper in whatever location they are in.

5. Un-Siloing IT

A hyper-converged data centre lends itself to removing silos from any business—more specifically the storage and its network. It takes away any need to manage the storage paths, presentation, and unit numbers that every storage area network comes with. It also removes the need of sending IT professionals for training or hiring additional expertise in network and storage array. The IT team no longer has to have niche expertise, allowing them to concentrate on application stacks and alternate parts of the data centre that need attention.

How To Get Started

If you do decide that moving to a hyper-converged data centre system is the right move for your organisation, you need to know how to get started with the change. Here are the first few steps towards the change you desire:

1. Responsibilities:

A hyper-converged system does away with the IT silos of the past. This means that before the new system is installed, clear boundaries and responsibilities need to be drawn out. Which IT group will be responsible for what? How will the new IT hierarchy look?

2. Network Interface Changes:

Network configuration needs to be planned out before deployment. What should IP address vCenter use? How should the management virtual LAN be configured? Should one or two switches be used?

3. Deployment Checklist:

A deployment checklist will prevent you from missing steps, and it will assist you in documenting all of your decisions about configuration.

4. Test:

You need to make sure that everything is properly configured. This means checking the domain name system, dynamic host configuration protocol, connectivity, and more.

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