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Hyper-converged datacentres are taking virtualisation to the next level. They offer greater simplicity and scalability to meet business needs. Are you in?
Virtualisation is all about pretending. In a datacentre, a cluster of computers can pool their grunt and pretend to be a single “virtual” machine such as your file server.
Think of that virtual machine like a Boeing 747, with all four engines combining their thrust to keep the plane in the air. If one engine fails, then there’s a drop in overall thrust but thankfully your mission-critical plane doesn’t fall from the sky.
Datacentre virtualisation is also about flexibility. You can easily replace that troublesome engine mid-flight, or even spin up a new plane and transfer the passengers without skipping a beat. Your file server stays in the air, and the business isn’t grounded.
Here your virtual servers are managed by an underlying layer of virtualisation which pools all your hardware.
Our fleet of 747s now shares a pool of jet engines, with the pilots more interested in available thrust than the performance of individual engines. If an engine fails, or a plane demands extra grunt to handle a heavy load, you can easily redistribute your thrust across the fleet.
Of course, plenty of datacentres run multiple virtual servers on a single pool of hardware. Those that rely on pre-configured bundles of computing, storage and perhaps networking hardware from a single vendor are generally called “converged” datacentres.
In a “hyper-converged” datacentre you have a cluster of appliance-style nodes rather than bundles of hardware handling different roles. The nodes are modular appliances that combine x86 computing, storage and networking in a single box. The software combines the nodes to build the resources it needs, and you can manage every aspect of the datacentre from a single console.
Now our 747s don’t just pool jet engines. Instead entire planes are built from a pile of standard blocks rather than custom parts. The software builds each plane and reconfigures the fleet as required. Need more resources? Simply tip more blocks into the pile and the software builds what it needs.
Hyper-convergence lets you upgrade your datacentre hardware in bite-sized chunks. Making small hardware upgrades as required can help you break free from the big bang refresh cycle, where you spend up big on datacentre capacity every few years and hope it will tide you over until the next major upgrade.
That said, the all-in-one nature of hyper-convergence appliances can make upgrades expensive if you’re only chasing more storage and not computing power, or vice versa. Another downside is you lose the freedom to mix and match the hardware, as you’re locked into hyper-converged architecture from a single vendor. Some vendors only sell pre-configured hyper-converged boxes, while others work with hardware partners and can let you tweak box configurations to best suit your needs.