Server Storage I/O Converged Infrastructure CI Hyper-converged HCI overview

March 14, 2017 – 10:50 pm

Converged Infrastructure CI Hyper-converged HCI overview

converged infrastructure CI hyper-converged HCI
Updated 1/18/2018

This page provides insight in to Converged Infrastructure (CI), Cluster in box or Cloud in Box (CIB) along with Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) topics along with links to companion resources. Converged Infrastructure including CI, CIB and HCI can be complete data infrastructure for smaller environments, or component building blocks in larger organizations. Also note that Converged Infrastructures can include small CI or HCI as well as large scale-out, rack scale, pod, plex or stamp type deployments.

CI HCI CIB data infrastructure

As a refresher Data Infrastructures exists to support business cloud and information technology (IT) among other applications that transform data into information or services. Technologies that make up data infrastructures include hardware, software, cloud or managed services, servers,storage, I/O and networking along with people, processes, policies along with various tools spanning legacy, software-defined virtual, containers and cloud.

Whats The Best CI HCI or CIB?

A common question I get asked is what is the best CI, CIB or HCI solution, product or vendor to which if you know me, my answer is it depends on .

It depends on what you are trying, need or want to do, applications along with their current and future growth needs among other questions. I also turn the question around and ask people what are they looking for, or why do they want CI, CIB, HCI as well as what do they want or need as their point of convergence? For example are they looking to converge around hardware (e.g. servers, storage or networking), software (hypervisors, operating systems, data services), dashboards or other management tools, interfaces, data protection, some applications or perhaps a particular product or vendor?

What this all means, is that technology, product, protocol, file system, data services feature functions, aggregated, disaggregate, speeds feeds, slots and watts and software-defined aside, it comes down to what do you applications need, as well as the outcome or enablement benefit that a CI/HCI solution provides.

Different solutions for Various Environments

Just as everything is not the same across different environments ranging in size, scope, number as well a the type of applications or industry focus, there are many CI, CIB and HCI solutions along with packaging. Some of these solutions or products are targeted at smaller medium business (SMB), remote office branch office (ROBO), workgroup, departmental or specific workloads such as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and workspaces. Other solutions are more flexible supporting not only VDI but also more traditional general purpose as well as demanding database among others on a large or small-scale.

CI and HCI options

What About Aggregate and Disaggregate

The following looks at disaggregate (CI) along with aggregated (HCI).

CI and HCI aggregated disaggregated

HCI overview

CI overview

Learn more, Click here to view HCI/CI webinar (March 15, 2017) via SNIA ESF BrightTalk. Visit the SNIA ESF site here, download the PDF presentation here.

What Are Some Considerations

Considerations for CI, CIB and HCI include among others:

  • Where or what are vendor, technology or solution lock-ins?
  • Is lock in a concern or issue?
  • What interoperability exists with your existing environment?
  • Can you bring your own licenses, use your own equipment, reconfigure to meet your needs?
  • Fast applications and fast servers need fast server storage I/O resources.
  • Aggregations (consolidations) can cause aggravation (bottleneck headaches).
  • Does a particular solution fit smaller SMB, ROBO, workgroup or departmental needs?
  • Can a solution scale up and out with stability while not introducing complexity?
  • Is HCI just for small

    That depends on in part on particular product solutions, some are focused on smaller environments which have also led to the perception by some customers that HCI is only for the small. On the other hand, there are approaches, solutions, and packaging that addresses the needs of those who need to scale up and out.

    There are also solutions that focus on VDI and workspace, others on general purpose including mission critical with databases, while others on high performance compute (HPC), supercomputer (SC), big data analytics among others. In other words, look beyond products that try to define the market based on their abilities, as there are others that can meet added or broader market capabilities.

    Who Are Some CI/HCI Vendors

    Just as there are different aspects, variations, implementations as well as solutions for CI, HCI and CiB to meet different environment size, scope and type of applications, there are also various vendors or solution providers. Some of these are more focused on lower-end SOHO, others on Small Medium Business (SMB) mid-market, workgroup, departmental, Remote Office Branch Office (ROBO), while others on larger small medium enterprise (SME), commercial, larger enterprise, cloud and managed service providers.

    Some vendors, solutions, services or products are focused on particular applications or verticals such VDI/workspace while others on more general purpose and primary business application workloads. A sampling of those who have solutions or enabling components across the different environments, as well as CI, HCI and CiB variations include Atlantis, Cisco, Citrix, Dell EMC, Fujitsu, HDS, Hedvig, HPE, Huawei, IBM (Versastack with Cisco), Lenovo, Maxta, Microsoft (Windows Server 2016 and S2D), NetApp (FlexPod and Solidfire based HCI), Nimble, Nutanix, OpenStack, Oracle, Pivot3, Quanta, Scale, Simplivity (being acquired by HPE), Supermicro, Tintri and VMware among others. If your company, client, supplier or who you are a fan of is not mentioned, feel free to respond via comments or drop me a note to get in on the conversation, however, go easy on the sales pitch and FUD, just saying.

    Where To Learn More

    The following are links to various articles, webinars, tips and commentary on CI, HCI, CiB along with related cloud, software-defined, management as well as data protection topics.

    Via SNIA ESF Webinar (PDF): What Does Hyperconverged Mean To Storage
    Networkworld: Whats a Data Infrastructure?
    Networkworld: Ensure your data infrastructure remains available and resilient
    StorageIOblog: Data Infrastructure Primer and Overview (Its Whats Inside The Data Center)
    Webinar: Software-Defined Data Infrastructures Enabling Software-Defined Data Centers
    Webinar: Data Infrastructure and Data Center Infrastructure Management Convergence
    Webinar: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Decision Making
    EnterpriseStorageForum: Storage Hyperconvergence: When Does It Make Sense?
    EnterpriseStorageForum: Is Future Storage Converging Around Hyper-Converged?
    EnterpriseStorageForum: Looking Beyond the Hype at Hyperconvergence in Storage
    FutureReadyOEM: Q&A: StorageIO’s Greg Schulz on when to implement ultra-dense storage
    SearchDataCenter: Life beyond Vblock: VCE repositions as EMC’s new converged division
    StorageIOblog: EMCworld 2016 EMC Hybrid and Converged Clouds Your Way

    What This All Means

    Hybrid (HCI) and converged (CI) are in your future in some shape or form. Watch for more to be added here soon.

    Ok, nuff said, for now.


    Greg Schulz – Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert 2010-2017 (vSAN and vCloud). Author of Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials (CRC Press), as well as Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Courteous comments are welcome for consideration. First published on any reproduction in whole, in part, with changes to content, without source attribution under title or without permission is forbidden.

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