Hyperconverged Infrastructure Part 1 - A Modern Infrastructure for Modern Manufacturing
October 28, 2019

Alan Conboy
Scale Computing

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Hyperconvergence is a term that is gaining rapid interest across the manufacturing industry due to the undeniable benefits it has delivered to IT professionals seeking to modernize their data center, or as is a popular buzzword today ― "transform." Today, in particular, the manufacturing industry is looking to hyperconvergence for the potential benefits it can provide to its emerging and growing use of IoT and its growing need for edge computing systems.

In manufacturing today, IoT (Internet of Things) or commonly referred to as IIoT (industrial IoT) presents the opportunity to enjoy huge gains across industrial processes, supply chain optimization, and so much more ― providing the ability to create an "intelligent" factory, and a much smarter business. Edge computing and IoT enables manufacturing organizations to decentralize the workload, and to collect and process data at the edge or nearest to where the work is actually happening, which can overcome the "last mile" latency issues. In addition to reducing complexity and enabling easier collection and initial analyzing of data in real time.

Edge data centers can also be leveraged to offload processing work near end users, acting as an intermediary between the IoT edge devices and larger enterprises hosting the high-end compute resources, for more in-depth processing and analytics. However, many manufacturing organizations have faced a number of hurdles as they have endeavored to deploy, manage and enjoy the benefits of IoT and edge computing. And, that's where hyperconvergence can make all of the difference.

Unfortunately, the common misuse and misunderstanding of the term hyperconvergence has led to confusion and continues to act as a barrier for those that could otherwise benefit tremendously from an IT, business agility and profitability standpoint. Let's try to clear up that confusion here.

The Inverted Pyramid of Doom

Prior to hyperconverged infrastructure (and converged infrastructure), there was and still is the inverted pyramid of doom, which refers to a 3-2-1 model of system architecture. While it commonly got the job done in a few key areas, it is the polar opposite of what a business wants or needs today.

The 3-2-1 model consists of virtualization servers or virtual machines (VMs) running three or more clustered host servers, connected by two network switches, backed by a single storage device ― most commonly, a storage area network (SAN). The problem here is that the virtualization host depends completely on the network, which in turn depends completely on the single SAN. In other words, everything rests upon a single point of failure ― the SAN. (Of course, the false yet popular argument that the SAN can't fail because of dual controllers is a story for another time.)

Introducing Hyperconverged

When hyperconvergence was first introduced, it meant a converged infrastructure solution that natively included the hypervisor for virtualization. The "hyper" wasn't just hype as it is today. This is a critical distinction as it has specific implications for how architecture can be designed for greater storage simplicity and efficiency.

Who can provide a native hypervisor? Anyone can, really. Hypervisors have become a market commodity with very little feature difference between them. With free, open source hypervisors like KVM, anyone can build on KVM to create a hypervisor unique and specialized to the hardware they provide in their hyperconverged appliances. Many vendors still choose to stay with converged infrastructure models, perhaps banking on the market dominance of Vmware ― even with many consumers fleeing the high prices of VMware licensing.

Saving money is only one of the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure. By utilizing a native hypervisor, the storage can be architected and embedded directly with the hypervisor, eliminating inefficient storage protocols, files systems, and VSAs. The most efficient data paths allow direct access between the VM and the storage; this has only been achieved when the hypervisor vendor is the same as the storage vendor. When the vendor owns the components, it can design the hypervisor and storage to directly interact, resulting in a huge increase in efficiency and performance.

In addition to storage efficiency, having the hypervisor included natively in the solution eliminates another vendor which increases management efficiency. A single vendor that provides the servers, storage, and hypervisor makes the overall solution much easier to support, update, patch, and manage without the traditional compatibility issues and vendor finger-pointing. Ease of management represents a significant savings in both time and training from the IT budget.

Our Old Friend, the Cloud

The cloud has been around for some time now, and most manufacturing organizations have leveraged it already, whether from an on-premises, remote or public cloud platform, or more commonly a combination of each (i.e. hybrid-cloud).

As a fully functional virtualization platform, hyperconverged infrastructure can nearly always be implemented alongside other infrastructure solutions as well as integrated with cloud computing. For example, with nested virtualization in cloud platforms, a hyperconverged infrastructure solution can be extended into the cloud for a unified management experience.

Not only does a hyperconverged infrastructure work alongside and integrated with cloud computing but it offers many of the benefits of cloud computing in terms of simplicity and ease-of-management on premises. In fact, for most organizations, a hyperconverged infrastructure may be the private cloud solution that is best suited to their environment.

Like cloud computing, a hyperconverged infrastructure is so simple to manage that it lets IT administrators focus on apps and workloads rather than managing infrastructure all day as is common in 3-2-1. A hyperconverged infrastructure is not only fast and easy to implement, but it can be scaled out quickly when needed. A hyperconverged infrastructure should definitely be considered along with cloud computing for data center modernization.

Read Hyperconverged Infrastructure Part 2 - What's Included, What's in It for Me and How to Get Started

Alan Conboy is the Office of the CTO at Scale Computing
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