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Hyperconverged Infrastructure Meets the Storage Monolith

Questions, considerations, and a way forward

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is emerging as a way to improve the delivery speed and efficiency for IT services by overcoming bottlenecks in how IT resources are deployed. 

Hyperconverged infrastructure accomplishes this by aggregating servers, storage, and networking into homogeneous resource pools to enable dynamic scaling, ease of management, and improvements in agility, utilization, and cost reduction.

Adopting a hyperconvergence strategy inevitably brings up a crucial set of questions: What about my legacy infrastructure? Can I still use it? How complicated will that be? And it seems nowhere is this question more stubborn than with storage, where monolithic storage arrays hold a special place in the hearts of storage admins.

Typical data center infrastructure consists of standalone servers running virtualization and scale-up storage arrays connected over a network, usually Fiber Channel or iSCSI. Storage today in general comes in three flavors: direct attached; network attached storage (NAS) or storage area networks (SAN) and local/aggregated—or hyperconverged.

As Alex Barrett writes that “A new generation of hyperconverged infrastructure is challenging that (NAS/SAN) model, creating virtual storage area networks (SANs) out of locally attached flash and hard disk drive storage.”

But as blogger Scott D. Lowe points out, “Most companies are not simply going to throw away their data center investments just to buy a bunch of hyperconverged appliances.”

That means “there will be a period of coexistence.” In fact, Lowe writes, “Coexistence may even be a permanent state for those that choose to use hyperconverged tools for just part of their overall environment or that choose (or need) to maintain physical servers for certain applications.”

Heading down the hyperconverged path with storage is not a simple decision. Among the top considerations:

• Depending on your level of virtualization, you’ll need to provide data storage for both virtualized and non-virtualized workloads for the foreseeable future.

• Which hypervisor you’re using is also important. Surveys have shown most folks are using at least two hypervisors, meaning you will likely need to support data from workloads from at least two hypervisors.

• Can you use the storage from the hyperconverged infrastructure in other parts of the environment? 

• And conversely, can the hyperconverged infrastructure environment use traditional storage?

A national solutions provider can help with these and other questions.

Questions aside, hyperconverged storage has some distinct advantages, including more efficient inline de-duplication, inherent WAN optimization, and better data integrity.

Writes James Green notes, “It may be a challenging paradigm shift in a storage world that can be so focused on hardware, but SDS (software-defined storage) provides leverage to accomplish more than ever before, and oftentimes do it with less effort and cost.”

To figure out where software-defined storage fits in your converged infrastructure plans, contact a third party expert like PC Connection’s Converged Data Center Practice team.

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