The two newest paradigms for facilitating in-house data center infrastructure, converged systems and hyperconverged systems, are distinct albeit related ways of doing things.
In a converged infrastructure, a vendor supplies a customer with a suite of hardware and software components, integrated with one another and proven to function well with one another to perform all of the necessary data center tasks. Think of it as hiring one company in order to redecorate your entire house to keep it consistent, from the paint on the walls to the furniture, instead of hiring out different contractors for different tasks as you need them done over the years.
A hyperconverged infrastructure is more geared toward data center tasks being distinguished by the software, rather than the hardware. A hyperconverged dashboard splits out all of the data center tasks—storage, backup, and so on—with the infrastructure defined by the software.
So while they sound alike, and you can see where—conceptually—one evolved from the other, they are two different ways of approaching data center operations. Asking the following questions will help you and your client determine which of these types of infrastructure best meets their data center needs.
How Big Do You Need Your IT Department to Be?
One of the main advantages of a hyperconverged system is that it is less cumbersome and less labor-intensive to manage tasks through a single software front end. That means that the IT staffing requirements for a hyperconverged system can be smaller than what a converged system would need. There is a tradeoff, however, involved in having less skilled IT staff and less technical know-how on hand in the data center. Using a management model with less in-house IT makes a customer more dependent on a vendor.
Do You Need to Use Components on Their Own?
Because converged infrastructure is more flexible on the component level, it’s a better bet if your client is interested in managing, for instance, a backup as its own stand-alone piece of hardware with its own patches and upgrades. If an IT department wants to “go rogue” with a piece of converged hardware and has the technological chops to manage it, it can do so. Because with a hyperconverged infrastructure the infrastructure is defined at the software level, this sort of flexibility and potential for customization outside of what the vendor provides is not available.
What Security Concerns Are at Play?
Data center security is a top priority for any enterprise. In a converged system, managing security may fall more into the hands of an internal IT staff managing and configuring individual components as in a traditional data center. In a hyperconverged system, there may be more dependence on the vendor for rolling out security patches and upgrades.
Both the converged and the hyperconverged data center are evolving technological paradigms that are growing, changing, and feeding off of one another as vendors determine how best to meet new in-house infrastructure needs. Having an informed conversation with your client about what they need and where they see their data needs evolving in the future, and amassing a detailed understanding of the solutions on the market and what they do, is the best starting point to determine which type of infrastructure will work best.
How have you seen converged and hyperconverged infrastructures implemented in the field?