Best Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Provider 2021

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Hyper-converged infrastructure is an approach to data center architecture that combines storage, compute and network resources in one solution. This is particularly beneficial for software-defined data centers that abstract applications and virtual machines from the underlying hardware.

Hyper-converged systems typically run in virtual environments within a data center. Typically, a hyper-converged infrastructure uses x86 servers.

Also read: What is hyperconverged storage? Advantages and adoption

Hyperconvergence requires some configuration, and to scale the infrastructure, administrators need to install more nodes. The hyper-converged infrastructure should be highly scalable.

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Difference between HCI, CI and composability

The other two common approaches to data center architecture are converged infrastructure (which came first) and composable infrastructure. Convergent infrastructure mainly comprises the gathering of storage, network and computing resources in one hardware solution. It is a convenient IT infrastructure for companies that want preconfigured or pre-installed systems.

Also read: Converged vs. Hyper-Converged Storage: Differences and Uses

The hyper-converged infrastructure pursues the same goal – combining the three data center technologies in one solution – but uses virtualization for this.

Composable infrastructure differs from these two older data center technologies in that all three resources are broken down. Instead of being tied to hardware or a hypervisor, composable computing, network and storage resources connect to the network structure and not to a server. The Composer software moves resources into pools as needed.

The converged infrastructure helps data centers to manage their IT resources in a system that rarely changes. Composability helps data centers manage their rapidly changing application and workload requirements. Hyper-converged infrastructure is a virtualization solution for companies that need to scale their computing resources quickly. Hyper-converged platforms work well in software-defined environments where virtualization is heavily used.

Top providers and products for hyper-converged infrastructures

The following companies are major players in hyper-converged and virtual platforms. We’ve rounded up nine of the best products for businesses looking for HCI solutions.

Acropolis of Nutanix

Nutanix’s Acropolis Operating System (AOS) is an exceptional solution for managing data centers and high-performance applications. AOS creates a virtual server that can be scaled up as new resources are needed. Nutanix also has its own hypervisor known as AHV. AHV supports most Linux and Windows systems.

Nutanix node clusters are redundant in case one should fail. All three components – storage, computing and networking – are present in a cluster. Nutanix offers Kubernetes support. Although users said it was expensive, they overwhelmingly emphasized the solution’s performance for critical applications and the exceptional support provided by the Nutanix team.

Nutanix offers both training and support to its customers. Users cited a learning platform that, while it could be complex, offered videos, including training for those who wanted to customize and configure AOS.

Dell EMC VxRail

Dell EMC logo.For companies that use VMware technology heavily, Dell EMC VxRail offers several integrations with the virtualization software. This includes VSa, another product on this list that supports HCI environments. VxRail also offers VMware Tanzu, a Kubernetes solution that is available in three different options depending on the company’s needs for cloud, traditional app development, hybrid cloud, PaaS or native Kubernetes pods.

VxRail performs extensive tests on the system, validates clusters, and tests hardware. Users can quickly provision virtual machines and environments.

VxRail can also run SAP HANA, a relational database management system. Organizations with intensive storage needs such as AI, video and media streaming benefit from Dell EMC storage products, including VxRail. Dell also recently added disaggregation to VxRail so that users can separate storage and compute resources.

NetApp HCI

netapp logo.

NetApp’s hyper-converged solution provides hybrid cloud-style data management for a wide variety of clouds and workloads. Users can deploy the HCI solution in multiple clouds and in an on-premises infrastructure.

The HCI from NetApp is supposed to create a kind of data structure for a company: It enables companies to access from different locations and can also be integrated into other NetApp technologies such as cloud backup. NetApp extends and improves the traditional HCI method with additional flexibility: users can use their public cloud as well as their local management.

NetApp HCI clusters are managed by VMware VCenter and NetApp uses VMware as the virtualization platform. Users can scale their storage and compute resources separately, a useful money-saving feature that reduces over-provisioning and keeps unnecessary storage costs down.

Cisco HyperFlex

Cisco logo.

As one of the most popular HCI solutions, Cisco’s HyperFlex hyper-converged platform allows users to use only NVMe in their HX220c M5 All NVMe. A bite, but its speed and low latency make it the best choice for critical business workloads and applications. The all-NVMe solution uses Intel Optane hardware for its persistent storage.

Users find HyperFlex easy to set up and use. You can choose to create multiple datastores for your important data rather than being limited to one pool. HyperFlex can be deployed in edge locations managed by Cisco Intersight, a cloud-based infrastructure and workload platform. Users can also access Kubernetes through Intersight.

Microsoft Azure Stack HCI

Microsoft Azure - Microsoft logo.

Azure Stack HCI is a cloud-based recovery and monitoring solution that can run on-premises. Azure Stack HCI runs Windows and Linux virtual machines in a data center or edge environment. Microsoft calls its hybrid-cloud-style service simply “Azure Hybrid”. The HCI solution integrates with other Azure programs such as virtual machines, and all of these Azure programs can be managed along with the stack. This includes Azure Backup, which is available to HCI users.

Azure Stack clusters contain between 2 and 16 servers running an operating system designed specifically for an HCI. Azure Stack also supports Hyper-V. Virtual machines within Kubernetes nodes are designed for failover: Kubernetes moves every container from a failed environment to a functioning virtual machine.

StarWind Hyper Converged Appliance (HCA)

Starwind logo.

With its simple hyper-converged all-flash system and comparatively low prices, StarWind is the ideal HCI for smaller businesses that still need exceptional performance and support. A hyper-converged appliance, or HCA, consists of two servers. Clusters also consist of two nodes for failover: if one node fails, the other can take over.

StarWind Command Center, an administrative console that users can use to monitor their HCA performance, has an HTML5 web interface. StarWind uses Intel Optane technology for persistent storage and Dell EMC servers. StarWind reduces total cost of ownership and IT administration costs, and also offers free configuration and deployment, which is a big deal for smaller businesses. It is one of the lower cost HCI solutions according to users who have benefited from both the features and the lower cost. Users also reported that they received good support from the StarWind team.

HPE nimble

hpe nimble logo.

HPE’s all-flash array, acquired in 2017 when HPE bought storage company Nimble, uses what HPE calls dHCI, or disaggregated hyper-converged infrastructure. dHCI, a not-fully-converged or hyper-converged infrastructure, allows users to scale whichever aspect – storage, computing power, or network – they want, when they want.

Customers also benefit from the HPE InfoSight intelligent prediction platform, which notifies customers when problems arise, applications fail, or the array needs to be scaled to accommodate growth. HPE InfoSight connects directly to the dHCI stack.

Nimble provides replication snapshots for disaster recovery, including for Hyper-V virtual machines. The replication snapshots can be expanded to storage arrays in other physical locations.

Pivot3 Acuity

Pivot3 logo.

Pivot3 offers four HCI products in its data center series, two of which are hybrid and two are flash products. Pivot3 hyper-converged environments have 8-16 nodes, depending on which of the four solutions you choose. The node clusters in each appliance have PCIe cards.

Among other technologies – SSD and HDD included – Pivot3 uses NVMe flash. Pivot3 prioritizes storage for mission-critical applications and uses QoS policies to distribute workloads where they work best. Pivot3 storage and compute can scale independently, saving users money on capacity for both resources.

Acuity uses an HTML5 graphical user interface. It can be integrated with VMWare Vsphere.

VMware Vsan

VMware logo.

VMware vSAN is a software-defined storage platform that supports HCI environments. Aggregated data storage devices form a virtual storage pool. vSAN integrates with Vsphere and provides cloud virtualization for servers. The main advantage of this HCI is the direct integration with other VMware products.

Users can learn to manage and configure their own vSAN cluster. VMware provides a file service for sharing files within the network file system. vSAN can be deployed in leading public cloud solutions and integrates with Tanzu, VMware’s container and VM management solution. vSAN can also be used for disaster recovery.

How to Buy an HCI Solution

When purchasing a hyper-converged solution, keep the following points in mind.

The best HCI solutions should provide maximum visibility – which workloads are running out of resources, when nodes or clusters fail, how virtual machines are functioning. A solution that includes built-in analytics or even AI will provide the insights needed, especially in a technology environment where data centers are automatically expected to have intelligent systems and machines.

Some solutions allow independent storage and compute scaling, but not all. If you really want to save money, choose an HCI solution that allows users to scale their storage and compute needs separately. Additional storage costs money, and it can get quite expensive to pay more than you use.

When you know you need critical applications to move between servers or environments, look for solutions that support container. Several HCI solutions can be integrated into Kubernetes, for example. Containers are an important part of future data centers – they help organizations prioritize workloads and reduce slowdowns and downtime.



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