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SMART Hyperconvergence, part 2: A Software-Only Solution

Welcome back!

In my previous post I introduced the SMART framework for hyperconvergence, and discussed what hyperconvergence is and why so many people already plan to deploy this type of solution.


This post will focus on the benefits of a Software-Only solution on servers of choice.

Software-only is the best foundation for hyperconvergence

As discussed last week, the value of hyperconvergence is driven by intelligent software that is aware of compute and storage components and can therefore allocate resources needed by workloads across the cluster. All vendors in this space agree that the value is in the software.

So the question now becomes what is the best delivery model – packaging software with an unknown server and deploying alongside the brand name servers you have in your datacenter, or buying software and running it on your server of choice? We believe it should be the latter – and we worked hard on qualifying hardware from leading server vendors like Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo and others.

This approach helps make the transition to hyperconvergence much easier, without disrupting existing datacenter practices. You can continue buying servers from your preferred vendor and use the same server management tools such as Cisco UCS Manager for both your hyperconverged and legacy environments.

Conversely, an appliance-based approach creates a separate hyperconverged-island in your environment that does not interoperate with the rest of the datacenter. In that way, hyperconvergence, which aims to simplify operations by taking out network storage, can ironically create new complexity of having to manage separate traditional and hyperconverged environments.

Getting started is so much easier

A software-only approach is not only more intuitive – it’s also a lot more practical. It’s simply much easier to buy a few more servers from your preferred vendor, or use existing hardware, as basis for your hyperconverged solution. Rather than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get started with a 3-4 node cluster, you can get started without a major investment, knowing that the hardware can be used for any need in the datacenter.

However, an appliance-based approach usually entails a very large upfront commitment in which the price includes very large premiums for both software and hardware. So not only is the upfront solution cost high today, but then when you plan to refresh the hardware, you would have to pay that hardware+software bundle cost once more. This is what we like to call the “hardware tax” – you effectively pay for the same software a second time. With a software-only approach you purchase new servers, and then migrate the software licenses over to the new hardware.

Driven by software flexibility, customers can then optimize the deployment topology by mixing racks and blades, and fine-tuning compute and capacity required for the I/O pattern of their workloads.

Single platform for all workloads

Since hyperconvergence is a new approach to enterprise IT, one should consider the long term potential it has within the organization. A software-only approach translates to an agnostic approach to workload type or hardware.

From a workload perspective, this approach aligns with multi-hypervisor flexibility, where hyperconvergence spans across multiple environments. Other deployment constructs like containers can be easily supported. Effectively, the hyperconvergence layer simply supplies efficient infrastructure resources to any environment in the datacenter, becoming the single source of resource management and allocation within the datacenter.

On the hardware side, multiple server vendors across IT departments or BUs can be supported under this unified layer. Each team continues to receive a high level of onsite support for their preferred vendor (e.g 4-hour response level), while enjoying the benefits and resiliency of the hyperconvergence layer.

It’s almost obvious

Often when I speak with newbies, “software-only” sounds intuitive, almost trivial. After all, server virtualization was adopted in the same manner – running software on qualified hardware to achieve server consolidation and resolve a variety of operational challenges. Luckily, VMware focused on building the best virtualization software possible, not selling specific “virtualized-appliances” where virtual workloads run on dedicated hardware. That focus allowed organizations to adopt virtualization for a wide variety of applications.

Hyperconvergence Software simply takes this idea to the next level by solving for both compute and storage challenges, and advancing IT organizations towards the vision of a software defined datacenter.

Next up on this series is M – Management Simplicity with no learning curves, so make sure to check in soon.

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