What is HyperConvergence
Legacy data centers originally designed to support conventional client-server applications can’t meet the increased agility, scalability and price-performance requirements of today’s virtualized IT environments. Conventional data centers composed of independent compute, storage and networking platforms are costly to operate and scale, and difficult to administer and automate.
Most legacy data centers are made up of distinct servers and storage arrays with separate Ethernet LANs for data traffic and storage area networks (SANs) for storage traffic. Each technology platform (servers, storage arrays, L2 switches, SAN switches) consumes power, cooling and rack space, and supports a unique management interface and low-level APIs. Rolling out a new application is a manually intensive, error- prone process involving a number of different people, devices and management systems. Turning up new IT services can take days or weeks and involve multiple operations teams. Troubleshooting problems or orchestrating services can be just as difficult.
Many IT organizations are looking to hyperconverged integrated systems1 (HCIS) to reduce infrastructure cost and complexity. In a Gartner survey, 74% of respondents indicated they are using, piloting or actively researching HCIS solutions. Next-generation HCIS solutions from vendors like Nutanix and SimpliVity pack compute and storage resources into compact x86 building blocks that are fully virtualized and uniformly administered. Hyperconverged systems contain CAPEX by collapsing compute and storage silos and eliminating SANs. And they contain OPEX by reducing IT sprawl and lowering recurring power, cooling, rack space and administrative expenses. By consolidating and unifying the compute and storage domains HCIS solutions can reduce TCO, accelerate time-to-value and simplify operations. But many enterprises fail to consider the networking implications of HCIS. Current data center networking constraints can hinder IT service agility, impair the performance of contemporary applications and hamper HCIS initiatives.
Re-architecting Data Center Networks for HCIS Implementations
Hyperconverged systems consolidate diverse applications, workloads and traffic types onto common infrastructure, introducing network engineering challenges for IT planners. Conventional data center networks designed to support siloed IT environments aren’t well suited for carrying diverse HCIS traffic. Most are simply overprovisioned to support peak traffic demands—an inefficient, application- agnostic approach that squanders bandwidth and budget. And because all workloads are treated equally, a data-intensive or bursty application can monopolize network capacity, impairing the performance of other applications (the so-called noisy neighbor problem).
As Gartner (1) points out “Mixing user access, node-to-node application traffic, VM mobility, storage access and back-end storage traffic on a single network can lead to unpredictable performance, availability and data integrity.”
When implementing HCIS solutions, IT planners must make a reset on their old practices and re-architect data center networks to ensure adequate performance and service quality for all applications.
(1) Gartner’s “Leverage Networking to Ensure Your Hyperconverged Integrated Systems Can Support Demanding Workloads”
(2) This article is inspired from a joint paper Gartner/Plexxi