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Part 1: Data Center Evolution is Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI)



I’ve been working with technology in data centers for both enterprise and small businesses for over 20 years. I’ve had many roles including Systems Administrator, Engineer, and Solution Architect. The constant challenge of changing computer system designs, storage designs and network designs, is always present. In the past few years major advances in networking and storage have changed how companies consume compute, storage and networking.


Information technology is about more processing power: faster and bigger. The speed race went from a gigahertz race to a core count race. The storage IOPS went from faster spinning drives to 1000x speed increase with solid state flash drives. More importantly the data center of 10 years ago is no longer the same. It has expanded to a massive global scale with more complex designs.


The physical topology of your data center is now much more complex and much more integrated into the success of your business organization mission, and the real challenge has been magnified as the management of these technologies. Staffing is no longer measured as a simple ratio of 1 SysAdmin to 100 servers. The advent of virtualization changed that ratio long ago. The performance and speed can be 100 times faster than it was. The demand on IT staffing is much greater. But the question remains: does the converged infrastructure design keep up?


Virtualization solved the problem of physical server deployments and moreover solved the old 1 server to 1 application paradigm. There is increased utilization of compute resources. Now the question remains: how does the accepted Converged Infrastructure design meet today’s business needs? How will it maximize current and future technologies? Will it enable or slow down progress? What problems does it solve? Converged Infrastructure (CI) solution solves some problems, but there are still inherent problems that are not addressed. The CI solution isn’t a simple solution. It is complex and often manual. That is the status quo.


A few years ago, the convergence of networking speed and storage gave rise to the adoption of IP network based storage. The historically slow NAS file services can compete and often beat discrete fiber channel Storage Area Networks (SAN). Fiber Channel speed arguable now slower than ethernet based storage. This development changed the architecture of compute and storage. Storage adoption now was more agile and potentially faster. But convergence was only the precursor to what is now called Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).


HCI, is a “big deal” because it solves the complexity of traditional converged architecture. It has gone from $0 market share to $3.82 billion, an increase of 23.7% year-over-year growth. (https://blocksandfiles.com/2019/09/25/idci-hci-market-leaders-q2-2019/ – the stat of 23.7% growth citation)


Last quarter IDC numbers demonstrated the growth of HCI overall. It has overtaken Converged infrastructure in in 2Q18.




Image Source: https://blocksandfiles.com/2020/03/20/idc-hci-storage-tracker-q4-2019/

HCI infrastructure is the building block for the modern Software Defined Data Center. Look out for my next article that will focus on “Part 2: What HCI solutions are available and how the HCI solution can help your business overcome the technology challenge.”


Vuong Pham Senior Solution Architect and Virtualization Specialist

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