The hype around hyper-converged storage

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Hyper-converged storage has become a big talking point in IT and some businesses may be wondering what all the buzz is about. Hyper-converged infrastructures combine all the core elements of a modern IT system into one ‘box’ – but what does this mean exactly, and how could this system benefit you? Experts at Syntax IT Support London explain what the terminology means and why you may want to make the switch from shared storage.

What is hyper-converged storage?

A hyper-converged infrastructure combines storage, networking, computing and virtualisation within one unit. The traditional system hosts the server, networking and storage resources separately, but hyper-converged appliances create a unified hardware platform that incorporates all the above traditional disciplines. This approach to storage is software-defined and is managed as a single system. 

Is there a difference between converged and hyper-converged storage? 

Hyper-converged storage was born from the convergence trend that first saw converged infrastructure emerge, but the two systems are different from one another. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) adds tighter integration between each core aspect of the data centre, and also adds more components through software. It includes the same four key aspects that come with converged infrastructure (compute, storage, networking and server virtualisation), but sometimes adds more components such as backup software, data deduplication and WAN optimisation.

HCI is supported by one vendor, which means you can manage everything through a common toolset. The infrastructure can be expanded by adding boxes onto the base unit which contain the required resource. The components that make up HCI must stay together to function properly, whereas with converged storage these components can be separated to work alone. HCI is suitable for greater workloads than CI because it can be manipulated to work for specialised applications through configuration at the software level. Converged storage is preconfigured, so these bundles cannot be altered to meet new requirements in the same way. 

What are the benefits?

Hyper-converged storage has several key benefits for IT related businesses.

Ease of use: Once you have invested in a HCI system, there is very little to be done when it comes to storage. A single unified layer of capacity within a single data store makes up the system’s storage capabilities and administrators do not require expert knowledge of specialist storage protocols in order to use it.

Reduced capital cost: Hyper-convergence eliminates the need for a dedicated storage network. Clustered nodes communicate over Ethernet, which means existing networks can be reused.

Service-based delivery: Hyper-converged hardware gives small businesses the opportunity to start moving towards an IT model that is more service-based, providing them with the tools needed for a move to public cloud.

Additional features: Many HCI systems incorporate a range of other features on top of the key components, such as WAN acceleration and integrated backup.

Easy set up: HCI systems are pre-tested and validated, so businesses don’t have to worry about further certifications or testing. They only have to consider which supplier to choose.

What are the drawbacks?

Hyper-converged storage can be a great solution for many businesses, but as it is relatively new it does have its flaws. IT staff may resist its implementation as they are used to a traditional system, but if an organisation can overcome this it could prove beneficial. HCI’s other main drawback is that it makes the customer dependent on a vendor for services, as they are unable to use another vendor without substantial switching costs.

If a small business is going through a period of substantial growth and must replace its IT infrastructure, hyper-convergence could be the move for them. HCI is growing in popularity and will become more mainstream as businesses realise the significant operational and simplification benefits. Seek guidance from a professional IT supplier before making any big changes to the IT infrastructure of your business, but keep hyper-converged storage in mind for the future.