Converged or hyperconverged: Making the right pitch
Both converged and hyperconverged solutions allow organisations to implement a hybrid cloud strategy, but they address different business needs. Industry experts weigh in on how partners can look into customer workloads and digital transformation journey to suggest the most efficient transition to a software-defined IT environment
Hyperconvergence, while still in the early stages of adoption in the Middle East, is undoubtedly the next big step in the evolution of software-defined infrastructure. With its software-defined interface on top of commodity hardware, it provides a shared pool of compute, storage and networking resources and eliminates the limitations of silos of IT infrastructure to simplify data management.
Although both converged and hyperconverged solutions allow organisations to implement a hybrid cloud strategy, they address different business needs. Hyperconverged systems are ideal for environments that lack IT expertise while converged systems are best for organisations that require a high degree of control over the hardware as it allows customers to choose specific components that best fit their requirements.
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is mainly used for applications such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), surveillance and e-services. According to IDC, the highest adoption of HCI in the region has been seen in the banking, security, and hospitality sectors, as well as among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), due to the operational benefits and CAPEX reduction that organisations can benefit from.
Digital transformation is a key driver for enterprises adopting a hyperconverged infrastructure model. Increased operation efficiency, increased data centre resource utilisation, lower investment in infrastructure and work-load flexibility are some of the other drivers.
HCI is designed to make things much easier to manage, with all the various storage, servers and networking hardware being controlled by one system.
“Not only does this allow for greater efficiency, but businesses no longer require dedicated teams for each component. HCI can be configured in multiple ways and expanded in small increments. You can add what you need when you need it. You can choose to start small and then as things get busier, or you grow, you can add nodes. This is advantageous for businesses because they don't have to make a big commitment up front,” said Bassam Al Masri, director of channel, distribution and OEM – METI at Nutanix.
So, how can channel partners help their end-user customers to choose between converged and HCI systems?
As a software-defined solution, HCI helps customers enjoy quick service deployment, flexible scale-out and easy operation and management. This means it should also have an adaptable system to fit multiple workloads, comprehensive business continuity methods to ensure service availability and high resource utilisation and performance to protect the investment. When recommending HCI solutions to customers, these capabilities should be considered.
According to Gerald Sternagl, EMEA business unit manager storage, Red Hat, the biggest mistake that channel partners make when recommending HCI solutions to their customers is to offer HCI as the answer for all infrastructure challenges. “It should be treated as another tool in the toolbox. Bad examples would be trying to achieve better scalability, getting more cost-efficient storage, etc. Also, it’s worth noting that the solution choice should avoid creating a vendor lock-in caused by highly specialised hardware or proprietary software from a smaller vendor.”
This suggests that it is very important for partners to first understand the benefits and drawbacks of the two systems and identify the customer’s actual need, to be able to put together a customised solution. Partners should also be able to carry out a detailed audit including workloads, applications, and scalability of the existing system to be able to advise if the customer would benefit from a converged or HCI system.
“The best way to approach customers before recommending HCI solutions is to understand what kind of workloads they want to run, identify the best blueprint and then recommend the best infrastructure that would fit that may or may not be HCI solutions but rather converged systems or even traditional infrastructure. The solution recommended would differ based on the type of workloads and where the customer is on their digital transformation journey,” added Victoria Mendes, senior research analyst, IDC.
Channel partners need to ensure that the HCI solution can provide flexibility and scalability where modular building blocks of IT are added incrementally into a customer’s environment, following a ‘pay as you grow’ model. The channel should be able to predict whether the solution integrates with existing infrastructure resources as most enterprises will require hyperconverged environments over time. Besides, the channel must help customers evaluate which hyperconverged solutions are strong enough to work outside of a self-contained system so customers are not locked into their infrastructure, new or old.
According to Walid Issa, senior manager systems engineering, NetApp, HCI solutions that are only optimised to run standalone workloads on a single infrastructure prevent customers from realising the full value of their investment in new technology. “Hyperconverged systems should be pluggable into existing systems that extend their benefits outside their IT ecosystem to have flexibly built out infrastructure based on evolving business priorities and customer needs. In essence, the right hyperconverged platform builds the foundation for a more efficient transition to a software-defined IT environment,” Issa explained.
Finally, QI XIAO, general manager of IT and data centre solutions, Huawei ME EBG, emphasises the vendor’s role in offering support to its channel partners. “HCI falls under Huawei’s channel partner program. As part of this program, our partners in the Middle East have access to the technology advances and innovation that come from the most robust R&D engine in the industry. Huawei is committed to enabling partners to accelerate their adoption of the Huawei product line by offering a simple partner application process and comprehensive go-to-market support. This includes flexible educational programs, technical sales, and marketing and delivery services support.”