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Optimize data center processes without hyper-converged

IT can simplify tasks, including storage provisioning, VM lifecycle, data protection and others, with automation to create better data center efficiency.

Hyper-converged infrastructure reduces the operational tasks associated with a virtualization platform. However, the purchase of a hyper-converged system isn't the only way to simplify data center processes.

Simplify storage provisioning

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) eliminates two major storage provisioning tasks: logical unit number (LUN) provisioning and storage multipathing management. Nutanix and SimpliVity use Network File System (NFS) access to its Virtual Storage Appliance to remove the need for LUNs or multipathing. VMware's vSAN provides storage directly to its hypervisor. Storage array vendors can't eliminate all of these management functions, but they can simplify and integrate the configuration into the hypervisor management platform to optimize data center processes.

VMware's vCenter is compatible with third-party plug-ins that allow storage vendors to integrate their storage configuration into the vSphere client. These plug-ins can automatically set up optimal ESXi advanced settings and required multipathing and can often automate new LUN and data store deployments across entire clusters with a few clicks. Modern storage systems allow you to automate a lot of their configuration, and most arrays eliminate the need to configure RAID groups.

Although these tools require more effort than an HCI product, the simplification still reduces the load on the operations team.

For example, the Pure Storage integration with vSphere has a plug-in that can handle a lot of the ESXi host configuration when it first connects to vCenter Server. To create a data store for the plug-in, you only need to know the name and size of the data store. The plug-in presents and formats the LUN. It's easy to provision a LUN when it takes a single input screen and a few seconds. VMware's Storage DRS can handle capacity and performance distribution across a group of data stores with minimal human interaction. Although these tools require more effort than an HCI product, the simplification still reduces the load on the operations team.

Simplify VM provisioning

HCI products don't change the data center processes to deploy VMs, but orchestration tools do. An orchestration tool, such as vRealize Automation, or a cloud management platform, such as Embotics, can allow users to deploy VMs from a self-service portal. The operations team sets rules to allow business units to deploy their own VMs, which eliminates the need for help desk tickets.

Even some modern HCI products don't simplify VM lifecycle management. Production VMs may live forever, but their nonproduction counterparts have a finite lifespan. The same tools that allow VM self-service also allow VM lifecycle management, which can automatically track and delete unneeded VMs.

Simplify data protection

Most HCI products allow you to set policies that protect your VMs and provide VM-centered data protection. However, you don't need an HCI product to integrate data protection policies into VM management. Most backup products have data protection policies that you can manage through VM management consoles. Some storage products are already VM-centered, such as Tintri storage, which provides NFS-based VM storage. Tintri's management software assigns data protection and performance policies to VMs, either individually or in groups. Modern VM backup products take the same approach and assign a protection policy to VMs rather than specify backup times for each VM. Zerto backup software allows the policy to specify both local backups and replication to other locations, such as a public cloud. Policy-based backups remove many daily operational tasks and improve the overall protection of valuable business data.

Simplify other operational tasks

Ongoing operational tasks, such as capacity management and resource optimization, ensure that the right resources are in place just before you need them. Although an HCI platform makes it easy to add resources to a cluster, it won't tell you when you need to add the resources. Workload management tools, such as vRealize Operations and Turbonomic, automatically identify performance and capacity issues before they affect operations. Turbonomic will even move or reconfigure VMs to achieve optimal performance from your data center processes.

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