02 Feb Hyperconverged Infrastructure, the VMware vCloud Suite, & Abstraction

One of the most important aspects of hyperconvergence is the ability to replace traditional infrastructure with a streamlined, easier to use and manage solution. Since there are many technology and application needs with in a data center, the hyperconverged infrastructure must be flexible in the sense that it must be able to run multiple applications.

In addition to having the ability to run multiple software workloads, hyperconverged infrastructures are inherently flexible and scalable. By using a building block approach, components such as compute and storage no longer need to be scaled out or deployed individually, reducing time to deployment, and creating greater operational efficiencies.

There can also be a lot of choice. For example, you can run different hypervisors as your virtualization platform of choice in some hyperconverged model. One hypervisor almost always seen as a part of a hyper converged infrastructure is VMware ESXi, which is part of the VMware vCloud Suite, which consists of a number of components. At the compute layer, there is VMware vSphere, to which the VMware ESXi hypervisor belongs. There is also vCenter Site Recovery Manager, which provides disaster recovery for the hyperconverged infrastructure (unless that infrastructure solution includes its own disaster recovery, which many do.)

Adding Orchestration and Health Management

Beyond VMWare vCenter for management there are also tools called vRealize Operations and vRealize Automation. vRealize Operations serves as a dashboard for operations teams and also provides capacity and performance management features, which are further simplified by the use of hyperconverged infrastructure at the hardware layer. vRealize Automation introduces policy based management of applications, as well as the ability to automate application deployment throughout the software development life cycle.

Many of the vCloud components are available as virtual appliances, or can be deployed as virtual machines within the hyperconverged infrastructure. The vCloud suite can then be used to deploy, automate, orchestrate and protect the cloud environment that is running on top of the hyperconverged infrastructure.

Abstracting Infrastructure from the SDDC

The entire value of the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) revolves around the use of abstraction layers all the way across the physical and virtualized stack. Where vCloud creates abstractions to provide virtual data Centers across hardware, we can extend that abstraction further by leveraging features within hyperconverged solutions. It isn’t to say that other physical infrastructure can’t provide some abstraction to the hypervisor, but we have seen that the approach taken by hyperconverged platforms is designed with out-of-the-box abstraction in mind.

Another advantage is the ability to scale-out in a predictable manner, which improves the ability to respond to demand with hardware purchasing and implementation. As you build out the private cloud environment to meet capacity for your organization, you will know what the general capacity is for each hyperconverged unit.

Designing your Virtual Data Center Topology with Hyperconverged Platforms

There will be certain considerations for the design of your private cloud implementation because of the different capabilities and management methodologies of hyperconverged infrastructure. We will also see the deviation from many traditional design practices because of the differences in physical topology.

We will still use the fundamentals of logical separation of virtual data centers into clusters for management and organizational data centers. The difference with hyperconverged platforms is that we tend to see more nested deployments of management instances, or we will see a separate, smaller deployment of traditional servers to serve as the hosting platform for the management cluster.

Hyperconverged architecture brings more options for creating a horizontally scalable network and storage infrastructure, which goes counter to some of the legacy methods that derived what many regard as the “best practices”. That being said, best practices evolve along with infrastructure platforms, which will see more potential for new best practices designs, and also reference architectures for vCloud deployments.

Using the high-speed East-West traffic planes, the opportunity to scale out a vCloud platform without sacrificing performance or increasing the complexity of physical infrastructure design is a positive trait. Leveraging the dense, and scalable architecture, with tiered storage built-in, vCloud architecture complexity decreases while performance rises.

Preparing for the Next Generation of vCloud

VMware is preparing for the next generation of the product line, which will also evolve the private cloud vision and execution for customers beginning in 2015. As hyperconverged options have become both varied, and widely available, the software driving the compute layer will evolve with it.

Software-defined networking (SDN) options are now getting significant press and investment as vCloud adoption rises with the evolution of the customers as they adopt private cloud options. Using a repeatable, scalable implementation on hyperconverged infrastructure has the potential to drive much higher adoption as it reduces complexity for the deployment process.

Ultimately, the expansion of the hyperconverged platform market rings the opportunity for VMware to expand into more data centers. Scalability and density on hyperconverged platforms are presenting a stunning new opportunity for organizations to make the move to vCloud private cloud for the data center, and the ability to extend in a hybrid cloud methodology to the vCloud Air environment becomes a more viable opportunity.

What appears to be happening is that the hyperconverged architecture is enabling the private cloud data center through consistency and efficiency with deployment and operations. As more companies embrace the offerings from hyperconverged infrastructure vendors, we will see the move towards more streamlined operations. This is the enabling technology to bring vCloud as a platform option for companies. Using scale-out, and reduced complexity, we are ripe for change in the market, from the hardware layers all the way up the stack.

Scott D. Lowe, vExpert, MVP Hyper-V, MCSE
scott@actualtechmedia.com

Virtualization and storage expert Scott D. Lowe is a multi-year vExpert, MVP Hyper-V, frequent speaker for multiple organizations and Co-Founder of ActualTech Media. Scott has been in the IT field for over twenty years with ten of those years filling the CIO role for various organizations. Scott has authored several books and hundreds of whitepapers, research reports and the like throughout his career. Over the years, he has regularly contributed to such sites as TechRepublic, Wikibon, and VirtualizationSoftware.com and is currently the editor of EnterpriseStorageGuide.com

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