Data Center, Opinion

New eBook! The Gorilla Guide to Hyperconvergence for the SMB

scale-gg-cover-angle_720-2@2xIT is changing for businesses of all shapes and sizes. IT professionals are being asked to do more with less, and to do it faster. Especially with a small staff, this can be a serious challenge. In the new Gorilla Guide to Hyperconvergence for the SMB, you’ll learn about technological advantages that can help you and your organization meet the demands of a modern business. You’ll learn about data center techniques like virtualization and hyperconvergence, and how implementing strategies like these can accelerate and upgrade the delivery of IT services in your organization.

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Virtualization – What’s That?

Virtualization has changed the world of technology for large enterprises, SMBs, IT pros, and even many consumers. Using software, virtualization abstracts away something that was traditionally physical and runs it as virtual.

But what does that mean, virtual? With virtualization, this abstraction is done using a special piece of software called a hypervisor. The hypervisor either runs on top of, or inside of, an operating system (such as Windows Server or a Linux variant) and allows you to run virtualized

servers on top of that hypervisor. Those virtualized servers are typically called virtual machines, or VMs. It is inside the VMs that you are able to install just about any guest operating system, applications, and data that you choose.

What companies, large and small, are able to do with virtualization is to take their existing physical servers, virtualize them, and run them inside VMs that run on top of a single host server, for example. The end result of this type of virtualization is that companies are able to consolidate many physical servers onto far fewer physical servers. In fact, many SMBs are typically able to consolidate all their VMs onto a single host. Better yet, as best practices would dictate, they can run all their virtual machines across two hosts in a small cluster, storing virtual machine images on shared storage (SAN or NAS), so that one host could take over for the other host in the event of failure.

Virtualization – But Why?

To understand the advantage that virtualization brings to an organization, let’s consider the differences between a traditional data center and a virtualized one.

SMB with A Traditional Data Center

At a traditional SMB, they might utilize three physical servers in a small computer room. In this computer room, one server runs Windows Server (perhaps Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, remote access, file sharing, and print sharing), another server runs their company applications, and the final server is used just to do backups of the other servers in case there is a failure. Rarely are there redundant servers or redundant storage systems at the SMB. If a server fails, then all the applications on that server will be unavailable until that server is brought back up (and hopefully it isn’t the server that provides the necessary services to keep the other servers functioning). When an SMB needs to add a new application, they add new physical servers. As the company grows, if they were to maintain that 1:1 server-to-application ratio, it would require dozens, or maybe even a few hundred servers. In time, they might buy a small shared storage array and try to consolidate their company files and application data in a single place.

SMB with Virtualization

On the other hand, at an SMB that is using server virtualization they could run all of these applications on a single server, using virtualization. Each of the different applications would be run in their own VM, all running on top of the same physical server. With most physical servers running with their CPU 95% or more idle, there are always available CPU cycles. In most cases, the RAM on the physical virtualization host would be increased as you add more VMs. It’s typical that companies run between 10 to 50 VMs on a single physical server, depending on the resources that server has available to it.

Think about it for a moment — what it would be like to have exponentially fewer physical servers in the data center? Fewer physical servers means you would have:

  • Fewer physical servers to manage and purchase (or lease).
  • Fewer racks and KVM ports required, with fewer network switch ports to provide or purchase.
  • Fewer cooling demands in the data center (which means you would use less energy, too).
  • Fewer electricity demands to power the servers, fewer uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) needed, and less backup power required in the event of a power failure.

Overall, server virtualization has been so popular because it has been a win-win situation where, the company saves money by having fewer servers and the administrative staff can finally do more with less, making their life easier and helping them to find a way to make a difference at their company instead of just maintain servers.

On top of virtualization, the data center management experience can be upgraded further by leveraging hyperconvergence!

What is Hyperconvergence?

Hyperconvergence is a data center architecture that is enabled by the concept of virtualization that you just learned about. At the highest, most abstract level, hyperconvergence can be understood to be the combination (or convergence) of many potentially disparate platforms into a single platform. In relation to the physical hardware, this means placing compute (CPU and memory) and storage (spinning disk and solid state drives [SSDs]) into a single server. From a software perspective, this means that at the very least, all components of the system are managed from a common interface. Depending on the offering, this may be a custom user interface built by the manufacturer, or it could be an add-on or extension to the existing hypervisor management software.

A commonly understood definition of hyperconvergence states that it is “a platform that pools direct attached storage and eliminates the need for a storage array.” While this is true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Physical hardware is an important piece of the puzzle, but the grander picture of hyperconvergence is really focused on the simplified management of the data center infrastructure. Hyperconvergence aims to eliminate siloes of management. A characteristic feature of hyperconvergence is that it scales out in predictable, finite portions. These portions are often represented as building blocks. As an admin adds building blocks (also called nodes, bricks, or various other terms that mean “a single unit”) to the cluster, all the relevant infrastructure components scale together.

The hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is in contrast to an older data center model where storage capacity might be added one time, then a few months down the road additional RAM, CPU nodes, and so on would be added. With hyperconvergence, all resources can scale at once. However, it is still possible to scale resources independently, if needed.

Why Leverage Hyperconvergence?

Some of the higher level benefits of hyperconvergence are obvious. For example, since everything is virtual (servers and storage) and managed from a single point of control, your management burden is eased. However, there is more to hyperconvergence than simplified management. Hyperconvergence takes the benefits gained with virtualization and expands them to an exponentially higher degree. Listed below are some of the main benefits of deploying a hyperconverged infrastructure solution:

  • Management Efficiency
  • Data Efficiency
  • High Availability
  • Scalability
  • Data Protection
  • Single Platform for entire infrastructure

As you can see, there’s substantially more capability and availability delivered with hyperconvergence than a traditional infrastructure, and with many less headaches.

Learn More!

This article is only scratching the surface of what you can learn about virtualization and hyperconvergence, particularly for the SMB, in the new Gorilla Guide “Hyperconvergence for the SMB.” Be sure to download a free copy today!