What Is a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure? | Parallels Explains

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) combines computing, storage, and networking into a single system, reducing datacenter complexity while increasing scalability. HCI platforms include a hypervisor for virtualized computing, software-defined storage, and virtualized networking. They usually run on standard, off-the-shelf servers, which could be standalone or a node in a network. Multiple nodes can be grouped (clustered) together to create shared pools of computing and storage resources, designed for comfortable resource consumption. 

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Functions

HCI is a software-centric, unified architecture that delivers all the critical functions of a typical data center, including compute, storage, network. HCI leverages the industry-standard x86 servers coupled with virtualization technologies to replace legacy IT infrastructures that are often siloed.

x86 servers run hypervisors that pool direct-attached storage (DAS) devices such as hard disk drivers or flash devices from multiple servers within the same cluster. This helps create shared storage, operating as a traditional storage area network (SAN) or network-attached-storage (NAS) devices.

By consolidating these layers, HCI can help organizations minimize costs and the complexities of setting up their IT infrastructure. The fundamental building blocks of HCI include:

Benefits of a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure 

There are many benefits when it comes to HCI. The use of stock hardware (supported by a single vendor) creates an infrastructure that’s designed to be more flexible and straightforward to manage than traditional enterprise storage infrastructure. For IT managers who are migrating to data center modernization projects, a hyper-converged infrastructure can provide the agility of public cloud infrastructure without abandoning control of hardware on their premises.

HCI guarantees simplicity compared to traditional/legacy solutions. The integrated servers, storage systems, and networking capabilities are designed to be managed as a single system across all cases of a hyper-converged infrastructure. The integrated management simplifies usage, while the software-defined storage provides greater scalability and efficient resource consumption.

Companies can start small and expand or reduce their resources as needed to allow for a flexible infrastructure—without expensive maintenance and upgrading costs. HCI vendors promote potential cost savings in areas like power-saving and space, IT labor, and avoidance of licensed software, such as backup or disaster recovery tools.

Hyper-Converged Vs. Converged 

Both Hyper-converged and Converged Infrastructure (CI) share the same goals—overcoming the limitations and inefficiencies of siloed structures of traditional IT compute and storage. However, both HCI and CI achieve their results differently.

CI is hardware-based and creates a preconfigured package involving hardware and software from a single vendor. As such, compute, storage, and network functionalities remain independent of each other. When deployed this way, you can leverage individual components to achieve specific and separate purposes. You can also scale servers and storage independently.

On the other hand, HCI is software-defined, and collapses compute, storage, and networking into a highly virtualized environment, using the industry-standard x86 servers. This way, HCI adds more abstraction and flexibility since all its components are software-defined. In this regard, HCI is more agile and maneuverable than CI.

Most importantly, Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is more scalable than Converged Infrastructure. You can easily replace or add drives in existing servers or scale out by adding new nodes to a cluster. This way, new nodes always come with computing functionalities, even if you only needed additional storage. As such, you’ll find it easier and faster when deploying HCI than CI.

6 Use Cases of Hyper-converged Infrastructure

Use cases of Hyper-converged Infrastructure include:

1. General-Purpose Workloads

HCI has become a staple for general-purpose workloads which includes application servers, DNS, DHCP, database servers, Active Directory, or print servers that every organization needs in order to operate.

2. Databases

Since HCI solutions include flash storage, offer flexibility and easy scalability and improve the efficiency of the storage stack on each cluster node, they are used extensively for databases.

Databases are the powerhouse of most businesses and must have impeccable performance. HCI provides superior performance and is thus the best solution for intense database applications.

3. Analytics and Logging

Data logging and its analytics require significant data velocity, quick and easy storage expansion, swathes of storage capacity and fast reading capacity. No matter what the goal of your data logging (analysis, mining, or insights), HCIs can offer support for write and read-intensive applications with ease, after just a little bit of architecture of the environment.

4. Data Protection

Data protection is also one of the major use cases of HCI environments. HCI solutions offer a high level of data availability by default and also allow organizations to provide comprehensive disaster recovery services. Since storage is easily scalable, so is the capacity to enabled data protection services, making HCI a key enabler of secondary storage offerings.

5. File Storage

File servers do not require high levels of performance but they do require a lot of storage capacity. The scalability of HCI makes it perfect for use in file servers. HCIs also allow integration with Active Directory, thus enabling secure authentication to sensitive company resources.

6. Edge Computing

Edge computing refers to the computing activities that take place outside an organization’s data centers. IT can include remote office locations, branch office locations, or self-driving vehicles which can require tremendous computing power. HCI is perfect for use for remote branch offices since it offers ease of use, simple scalability and cost-effectiveness.

Scale Computing HC3 Support

Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS) supports Scale Computing’s HC3, a solution that combines compute, storage, virtualization, backup, and disaster recovery in a single appliance. Scale Computing HC3 uses a KVM-based hypervisor, positioning itself as a cost-effective, easy-to-use hyper-converged solution—qualities that perfectly match those of Parallels RAS. This capability essentially allows Parallels RAS to spin up and manage VMs through Scale Computing HC3 API. 

Parallels RAS Leverages Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Parallels RAS is partners with Nutanix supporting AHV, HPE hyperconverged solutions and Scale computing on HC3—simplifying deployments, improving flexibility and lowering costs. While hyperconverged solutions integrate datacenter resources, Parallels RAS monitors all applications and desktops from a centralized console. Parallels RAS is designed with hyper-converged technology in mind as it automatically generates and deploys VDI desktops on-demand, allowing administrators to create and deploy guest VMs as and when necessary. It’s possible to create a master virtual desktop as a template and rapidly clone hundreds of virtual desktops.

Download your 30-day evaluation period of Parallels RAS today and get your hyper-converged infrastructure going!