HCI: The right (and upcoming) workloads for your hyperconverged infrastructure

When customers ask about HCI for their business, my answer is always the same - it depends on the workloads.

Deepak Visweswaraiah Oct 16th 2018 A-A+
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The need to accommodate new workloads, integrate edge and public cloud infrastructure and reduce operational complexity is driving I&O leaders to look for more agile integrated systems, according to Gartner.

Recently I published an article in CIO.in discussing the four pillars of HCI and why it has become so popular.
 
I also cautioned that HCI is not a datacenter panacea, meaning it is not the answer for every workload. Accordingly, I wanted to dive deeper into where HCI belongs in your overall strategy, as well as explore the newer generation of HCIs that might serve your workloads better.

 
The right workloads for the last generation HCI
 
When customers ask about HCI for their business, my answer is always the same: it depends on the workloads. There are always a number of factors to consider when you think about the optimal environment for your application, including:
•    Latency
•    Storage replication
•    Virtual machines 
•    IOPS (input/output operations per second)
•    Availability
 
Let’s explore some of the most popular use cases for the next generation of HCI along with why they work so well:
 
Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI)
 

"The market has been reinvigorated. To stay relevant, seamless access to and interoperability with public cloud services is a requirement for the future of this space."

The original and intended use for HCI was for virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs), where a virtualization technology hosts a desktop operating system on a centralized server in a datacenter. The main reason why this is a good fit for HCI is its predictable scalability.
 
However, as hyperconverged systems have advanced and changed over the last years, vendors have added more types of workloads to the “HCI-friendly” list. Richard Fichera, former vice president and principal analyst for infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research and now an independent consultant, stated that as HCI has matured, other workloads have taken a prominent HCI position and VDI is no longer the only HCI sweet-spot.
Consolidation of tier 3 workloads
 
The right HCI will support a sophisticated data protection scheme, which can be deployed across an entire organization, at different locations and across dispersed infrastructure.
 
Other use cases that are ideal for an enterprise HCI:
 
•    A consolidation for aging IT infrastructure;
•    An isolated environment for dev/test;
•    A simpler infrastructure for introducing IoT and edge computing;
•    An enabler for Hybrid
 
SMB workloads
 
The first generation of HCI platforms have proved a great alternative for small/medium businesses (SMBs) and remote office/branch office (ROBO) applications for organizations for non-mission critical workloads.
 
However, within the core datacenter, HCI solutions have not yet proved a match for more mature CI and 3-tier solutions due to limitations around performance, automation, the ability to share workloads, lack of scale, and limited configuration flexibility.
 
The next gen architecture of HCI workloads

HCI is evolving. The next gen architectures of HCI are able to provide convergence between traditional and new applications, between on premises and public cloud, gives us an edge that others don’t have.

The market has been reinvigorated. To stay relevant, seamless access to and interoperability with public cloud services is a requirement for the future of this space.
 
As customers select technologies, perhaps the most important factor is to choose to partner with a vendor that will help guide them toward the Next Generation Data Center (NGDC), whatever the service and deployment model requirements may be.

Enabling tier 1 applications
 
With ease of use and reduction in datacenter costs driving the desire for HCI, users have been eager to introduce new workloads – especially mission-critical workloads. As datacenter architectures age and are ready for a refresh, organizations have been migrating more general-purpose workloads onto hyperconverged systems. This includes mission-critical enterprise and database applications as well as some very specialized applications, like video surveillance systems or big data archives. This is a domain of the newer generation of HCIs like ours.
 
IOT and Edge computing are shifting the capabilities of the next gen HCI to focus on:
•    High transactional OLTP databases;
•    Systems responsible for capturing large objects or amounts of data in real time;
•    Storage-centric applications or settings where regulatory compliance is paramount.
 
Organizations that run hypervisors from multiple vendors may also not be a great fit for HCI, as HCI includes automated provisioning, monitoring, diagnosis, and file management managed through a single portal, from one vendor. 
 
Those organizations might consider using a more traditional architecture or running parallel hyper-converged platforms: one for each hypervisor.
 
Mixed workloads on the rise
 

"The right HCI will support a sophisticated data protection scheme, which can be deployed across an entire organization, at different locations and across dispersed infrastructure."

A look into the future reveals an increase in complexity of mixed workloads.

As more mission-critical apps are added, it will become crucial for infrastructure solutions to adapt to workload needs and ensure that the environments are “self-healing”.
 
Gartner research reveals that More I&O (Infrastructure and Operations) leaders will evaluate HCI as an on-premises and multi-cloud architecture, opening up a wide variety of choices for the placement of applications where artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) will help optimize the resources holistically. 
 
With rich abilities in supplying real-time data, running algorithms, detecting anomalies, and fixing incidents, AI-enabled analysis is able to provide proactive recommendations for HCI administrators. 
 
HCI is continuing to evolve. We at NetApp are excited to participate in HCI as an intelligent, self-organized system that can successfully handle challenges in the datacenter of tomorrow, including multi-cloud and edge computing. 
 

Deepak Visweswaraiah is senior vice president & managing director, NetApp India.

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).