Software-Defined Shifts: The Business Value of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Solutions

I recently blogged about how the need for greater speed and agility will impact IT careers and how IT decision makers will opt for simpler, more modular architectures. Many organizations are moving with a sense of urgency to shift the time IT teams spend on non-differentiating solutions (such as agile, programmatic compute, networking, storage, and security) to differentiating solutions (such as improving patient processing speeds).

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware

Chris Wolf, Chief Technology Officer, Americas at VMware.

Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions such as EVO SDDC and VxRAIL provide hardware-independent and virtualized programmatic compute, networking, storage and security services required by all applications, whether they are traditional or cloud-native. Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions are deployed in minutes, providing rapid time-to-value and their modularity allows organizations to easily add capacity as needed rather than guessing anticipated capacity up front. Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions also don’t rely on a traditional storage area network (SAN), so storage infrastructure cost savings can be considerable. That all said, you can look to quantify the total business value and associated total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of hyper-converged infrastructure both in terms of Capex and Opex.

On the Capex side, the following benefits are realized:

  • Lower upfront compute and network hardware costs by using commodity x86 industry standard hardware.
  • Lower storage costs in terms of both capacity ($/GB) and performance ($/IOPS). Native data deduplication and compression capabilities reduce storage hardware costs even further.
  • Native micro-segmentation capabilities eliminate the need for physical network firewalls for east-west network traffic segmentation.
  • Native software-defined networking capabilities leverage server compute resources to their full capacity – rather than being underutilized due to constraints placed by hardware-based networking zoning requirements. This drives up server consolidation densities and thus lowers infrastructure costs.

Hyper-converged infrastructure further lowers TCO by reducing OpEx on a variety of fronts:

  • Standardized architectures and modular, linear scaling dramatically reduces infrastructure complexity and reduces infrastructure-related support calls. Many early hyper-converged infrastructure adopters that I have worked with found this to be their top unexpected benefit in terms of overall cost savings.
  • Out-of-the-box automation frees IT operations to focus on differentiation. Automation capabilities include:
    • Auto-provisioning of server or desktop VMs, IP address management (IPAM), firewall rules, storage resources, backup and disaster recovery
    • Automated performance monitoring and capacity optimization
  • Change management is simplified through the use of automated and pre-validated upgrades and updates.

Opex cost reduction by early adopters was also significant, with early adopters seeing a significant reduction in infrastructure support Opex costs.

Every organization is different; however, that doesn’t mean that you won’t see similar results. You should have a good idea of the time it takes to provision new workloads and the number of support tickets and manual work hours involved. You also have a history of infrastructure procurement costs. Start with a small pilot project – perhaps using a lab equipment refresh as a test case, or the deployment or update of a new set of applications (or VDI refresh). Look at the pilot project over three to six months, and document the amount of support calls and hours required to operate and maintain the environment. I’m confident that you’ll see a considerable reduction. Then use that data combined with the Capex savings that are easy to quantify to build a business case for making hyper-converged the new standard for data center infrastructure purchases. Even if you don’t leverage hyper-converged solutions for your applications that require special attention and perhaps customized hardware, you can still realize considerable savings by leveraging hyper-converged solutions for all other workloads that you still plan to run in your existing data centers or branch locations.

To learn more about hyper-converged trends, read this month’s column in Virtualization Review.