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Gyrocom Blog

Steve McGarry

Why there’s never been a better time to adopt Hyper-converged Infrastructure

by Steve McGarry

on Oct 13, 2017 1:47:13 PM

We’re in an age where new competing technologies and architectures are constantly challenging the way we have delivered IT for years. We’ve all been exposed in some manner to “SDx” - Software Defined everything!

At Gyrocom we embrace the SDE (Software Defined Enterprise) and the associated benefits: vendor agnostic hardware and software driven intelligence. From the five key components that form the SDE (Compute, Networking, Storage, Automation & Management), my primary focus is on HCI (Hyper-converged Infrastructure) which is the consolidation of Compute and Storage into a single chassis.

There have been a few developments over the last few months that make this an exciting time for HCI, and ‘fuel’ what is already a compelling business case. For the purpose of this blog I’m going to focus on VMware's implementation of HCI - vSANvSAN, for those not already familiar with the solution, is an embedded feature of the ESXi hypervisor kernel, simply requiring a license key to be activated. Unlike it's competitors, it does not require any additional “Controller VMs” which offers several performance and resource advantages. vSAN aggregates the local storage from each cluster node to provide a single shared datastore, with the enterprise storage features we expect these days such as Deduplication, Compression, Auto-tiering etc.

Intel reaches for the Sky...lake:


In July this year, Intel announced their new range of Xeon CPUs - “The Xeon Scaleable Platform” codenamed ‘Skylake’. This is being marketed as “The industry's biggest platform advancement in a decade”. As you can imagine, there is a plethora of performance, security and agility enhancements included in this release (far too many to cover here**). In addition to the new CPU family, Intel also released their “Optane DC SSD P4800X Series”. The Optane SSD add-on card utilises NVMe technology, providing several advantages over traditional SSDs. Conventional SSD performance is capped by restrictions in the SATA protocol for throughput and latency. NVMe migrates storage devices to a PCIe interface, moving the storage closer to the CPU and removing the protocol restrictions. What this means to you is data sat even closer to the I/O path, blistering performance and IOPs to brag about at the pub.

What this means for an “Infrastructure Technology Refresh”

Many vendors tie their product release cycles in line with Intel chip updates to enable access to the improvements over the previous generation/s. This in turn has a correlation to end users performing hardware refresh on a 3-5 year cycle, additionally aligned to internal finance cycles. 

Certainly, when we talk to customers with an interest in HCI, they tend to fall into one of the following categories:

Dev/Test - Interested in “trying out” a new approach in a small isolated deployment with minimal risk before considering HCI as part of their larger estate. In our experience, there is a high adoption rate and repeat business once customers get hands on and appreciate the value of HCI.

Green Field Installation - No constraints around existing infrastructure and interoperability, therefore looking for a cost effective solution that fits their business needs and budget.

Infrastructure Refresh - The last and most common, is customers know that their existing estate is approaching (or passed!) end of life/support and an alternative is required. They start doing their homework on what’s available, which essentially whittles down to more of the same, using the traditional Legacy 3 Tier stack or something new…

Regardless of your favoured source of information for market trends and intelligence - be it Gartner, IDC or Forrester - facts are facts and market analysts across the board are reporting the same: Hyper-converged Infrastructure is increasing, year on year, in market share and revenue, whilst traditional SAN/NAS deployments are declining. At VMworld this year, VMware stated that vSAN has now passed 10,000 customers. The most common adoption of vSAN comes from existing vSphere users due to seamless integration into their vCentre server management platform, in addition to the rest of VMware’s product portfolio. VMware forecast that at least 60% of their existing 350,000 vSphere customers will be performing an infrastructure refresh by 2019. That is a large number of new vSAN customers coming onboard from an existing install base alone! This will only serve to help strengthen the vSAN offering further in terms of support, features and ecosystem.

What this means for “Adoption of new technologies”

Once a technology/device is on the vSphere HCL (hardware compatibility list) it is validated for use with vSAN. Instead of having to wait until your ‘next SAN refresh’ or model uplift, to utilise new technologies, the "scale up and scale out" web scale architecture enables an easy upgrade path using a “pay as you grow” approach. What’s not to like?

We are all asking our infrastructure to support a rapidly growing number of workloads, and despite our best laid plans, the cloud is not always a viable option. There will always be a requirement to stand up our own infrastructure under our own roof. Thankfully, the guys at Intel have our back with the release of some great new workhorses, all of which are already available in over 300+ “vSAN ready” nodes from major and whitebox vendors, including Intel themselves. With the adoption of vSAN growing so quickly and new hardware advancements providing even better cost vs performance, there really has never been a better time to consider HCI for your infrastructure refresh.

Why not speak to Gyrocom about how we can help you with your next refresh? If you require any more information or advice please do get in touch info@gyrocom.co.uk.

Click here for more info on HCI

**Click here for more info on the Intel Xeon Scalable Platform


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Topics: SDS, Software defined storage, SDDC, software defined data centre, VMWare, Hyper-converged infrastructure, HCI, intel, vSAN