HCI stands for Hyperconverged Infrastructure but what does this really mean? To answer this question, we have to go back in time just a few years ago and understand the evolution of the traditional datacenter. In the past IT organizations utilized physical servers and dedicated these servers for specific functions. An example of this was having a server dedicated as a domain controller, or as an exchange server.
This approach meant that server racks will get filled up pretty quick with single purposed servers, or that one physical server had multiple purposes, reducing the performance and opening up security holes. Also, you can imagine the power consumption, heat produced, network cables and ports needed to support this configuration, overall a very big footprint.
Besides servers there were also other components needed to provide the necessary storage for the applications. Storage units such us SAN, NAS, etc. were a necessity in the traditional datacenter. These storage units were also big, and since it needed to provide enough space for the current environment but also anticipate for future growth, the rack space being utilized was much bigger. One of the issues with this was, that organizations were spending a lot of money on storage space they did not currently need, and in many cases by the time they needed it, the hardware was out of support or about to get to that point.
Datacenters became really big, real fast, and the costs also increased as the need for more rack space continued to increment. Another cost added was the need for very specialized IT personnel, which focused on very specific areas of IT. Projects and innovation were also affected, as IT became reactive rather than proactive.
A new simplified way to do IT was needed and this need brought virtualization. After the invention of virtualization, organizations started to adopt a more effective approach, having physical servers host many virtual servers within. This of course reduced the physical footprint, it made it easier for administrators to manage big environments, and it created a new era in server management. For more on virtualization read the what is virtualization blog.
This architecture continued to call for external storage so the same issues we discussed previously were still there. Big bulky storage units with many unused terabytes were still present in the datacenters. This architecture is what we call the 3-tier infrastructure, having the network or SAN connectivity plus, storage plus, compute or servers. Naturally as anything in technology, things had to evolve, and this evolution created an even better approach and, Hyperconverge Infrastructure was born.
Hyperconverged infrastructure is the combination of the 3-tier infrastructure. Meaning that the storage, the compute, and the network or SAN connectivity were all in one box. HCI allows you to have all these 3 components together, reducing your datacenter’s footprint, and easing the management of your infrastructure. Managing your environment went from having to configure separate pieces of hardware from multiple user interfaces to, configuring the same environment from a single pane of glass. Also, this allows you to have the storage you need right now and very predictively grow it as you need it. Overall hyperconverged transformed the way datacenters are architected and manage, allowing IT organization to focus on what really matters to them. Thanks to HCI IT infrastructure is now becoming proactive rather than reactive and innovation is growing.