What does Hyper-Converged mean to me?


Here is the definition as posted by Google pulled from TechTarget:

Hyperconvergence (hyperconvergence) is a type of infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor.

As a storage engineer my entire adult professional life I have a love for storage and not just because I enjoy understanding things like the distance a head travels above a disk platter (3 nanometers or 40 atoms) but the love of technology and how just about every piece of technology touches storage. This meant I would get to learn every piece of a solution for the most part as a storage engineer and how that software or hardware would access the storage I was designing and managing. Now we are coming into an era where hardware is becoming more commoditized and software is becoming the focus point. So what does this mean for the career storage engineer? Well I’ll tell you what it means to me and you can come to your own conclusion.

Data storage is the basis for how we store and manage data access. From unstructured data (as we are seeing more about Big Data Analytics), structured data (with growth of applications leveraging a database), to semi-structured data, it all needs a place to live. Hyper-converged systems still have in it storage to store the data it’s just no longer attached to a proprietary disk storage system.

Now I am seeing the storage, applications, operating systems, hardware (such as physical servers and network equipment), and workflows coming together with intelligence to know what and where while managing the how. Well that sounds very much like convergence? Since working in a world of convergence for well the past two decades (at-least for me) it is hard for some of the hardware junkies (like myself) to move into the software/virtualization (okay maybe not virtualization) arena where all of this becomes hyper-converged into a single system. The most important difference for me in the two (hyper-converged and converged) is the decoupling of the hardware from the software. It is my opinion that this was coming but it is not the end of the storage engineer. We must now take what we know about how applications and systems access our storage environments and look at how we decouple from zones and FC switches into a world of software defined storage and how these hyper-converged systems leverage this new technology.

Hyper-converged is a step in a new direction of the centralization of technology. First it was mainframes yes folk’s mainframe then we entered into the era of the personal computer where the decoupling of large centralized systems like mainframe started. For decades we had terminal emulation from PCs to access mainframes but more and more we found applications being developed on these new platforms. So we have gone for more than a few decades with the latest advancements in software defined X. Where is X = Virtualization, Software defined storage, software defined networks, or just software in general. This decouples the hardware making it truly a commodity and the underlying software is now the dynamic architecture that can leverage the hardware as it is presented.

There is several ways that one can leverage a hyper-converged system. Most IT shops will be looking at hyper-converged as their older storage and blade systems become outdated and out of support. Some of the smaller groups will look at the roll your own model where you take virtualization for the application and OS, software defined storage for the storage to access local disk inside of the system, and software defined networks to provide access to the system. Then you have the companies who give you all of this in one package like Spring Path while others provide appliance based solutions like Nutanix.

There are many new things to learn about this technology and I am starting this week to build my own free hyper-converged system from scratch on a white label server with the hopes to learn more about how these systems can help in today’s IT environments.

My conclusion, hyper-converged is a new technology and like virtualization it will change the way we manage and view our infrastructures. Your love and passion for technology will be your strength to push forward into this new emerging technology that will truly change the way you buy, manage, and deploy solutions in the future.

More to come… Stay tuned.