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What you need to know about Converged infrastructure

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Hyper-converged infrastructure grows as new systems emerge

Hyper-converged infrastructure growth will continue as IT pros increase their understanding of these systems and vendors add important features.

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While IT pros aren't clamoring for hyper-converged infrastructure just yet, the market is beginning to take shape...

as more complete packages.

EMC's VCE recently introduced VxRack, a broad converged infrastructure offering designed to simplify the deployment of mobile, cloud, and distributed Tier 2 applications.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) puts server, network and storage hardware in a single chassis along with pre-installed virtualization and management software. A typical converged infrastructure has 10-20 nodes while VxRack can have as many as 100, according to VCE.

VxRack uses a VM to sit on top of the hardware and is targeted for Webscale environments, said Camberley Bates of Evaluator Group in Boulder, Colo., an analyst who recently published a hyper-converged evaluation guide.

VxRack might appeal to users because it uses off-the-shelf components with software to configure, and it targets Tier 2 applications and not core data center apps. 

Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) also expanded its UCP line beyond its UCP 4000 and 4000E to include hyper-converged systems, including the UCP 1000 and UCP 2000, which use rack servers. HDS says it has a lower price to attract buyers from small and medium-size businesses. The UCP line combines servers, networking and storage with VMware vSphere virtualization.

Neither EMC nor HDS disclosed pricing info.

This week, IBM unveiled its PurePower System, a converged infrastructure that can be configured in a single rack or expanded for scalable clouds.

To date, HCI has been mostly for specific workloads, including virtual desktop infrastructures, Oracle databases and Microsoft Exchange. It will likely expand to cloud, ERP analytics and traditional workloads, said Stephen Belanger, analyst with Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H. 

IT shops have begun to use hyper-converged infrastructure for applications such as CRM, and they are supporting remote offices.

"You want something to stick in there and forget about it," Bates said.

It also works well for Webscale and private clouds, she said.

The hyper-converged players

Early adopters began purchasing hyper-converged products in 2014 and mainstream adopters will make purchases through 2020, Belanger said. The global hyper-converged market will grow at 71.6% from 2013 to 2018. Hyper-converged products will go from being 3.5% of the overall converged infrastructure market last year to 11.5% in 2018, according to TBR's report, "Hyperconverged Platforms Market Landscape."

Some of the most popular hyper-converged offerings are from niche vendors, such as Nutanix, Pivot3, SimpliVity, Nimboxx, Maxta, Gridstore, and Atlantis Computing.

IT pros may consider the latest offerings from big-name vendors rather than something from niche players because of better functionality, ease of use, support and pricing, Bates said, adding that she has not seen specific pricing comparisons yet.

As original equipment manufacturers increasingly enter the market, understanding of hyper-converged products will grow, Belanger said.

"All of them have jumped in," said Evaluator Group's Bates. "The market has heated up a whole lot faster than anyone thought it would."

IT pros may be hearing more about hyper-converged because salespeople have a better understanding of hyper- converged offerings and it may often lead to an "easier, less-fractious sale," she said.

Buyers may focus on the differences between storage alone versus hyper-converged, and that often makes it easier to sell hyper-converged systems, Bates added.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him @RBGatesTT.  

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