Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software-defined solution that is gaining rapid interest across the financial services industry due to its ability to enable seamless connection of systems, bulletproof protection of data and significant increases in agility, as well as an overall decrease in all associated costs. Today, credit unions in particular, are looking to hyperconvergence as a key enabler of their digital transformation strategies for reasons, such as the potential benefits it can provide to its emerging and increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its growing need for edge computing systems.
With the billions of smart devices spread across the globe, each with the ability to connect, communicate, share and analyze data, it should come as no surprise that along with virtually every other sector, IoT offers credit unions a truly unique opportunity to transform IT and business processes, and deliver greater value and experiences to customers (CX). With IoT, not only can customers access their finances, as well as financial information and applications in real-time, from anywhere at anytime, but banks can better view, manage, control and protect all of their customers’ data. Moreover, that customer data can then be analyzed and leveraged to create and deliver solutions and services specifically tailored to meet current and emerging customer wants and needs, which in turn drives increases in customer loyalty, revenues, profits and the bottom-line, as well as shareholder value.
Likewise, edge computing is spurring otherwise unattainable advances, enabling financial services organizations to decentralize the workload, and to collect and process data at the edge or nearest to where the work is actually occurring, which can overcome the “last mile” latency issues. In addition to reducing complexity and enabling easier collection and initial analyzing of data in real time.
Credit unions and other financial institutions’ edge data centers can also be leveraged to offload processing work near end users, acting as an intermediary between the IoT edge devices and larger enterprises hosting the high-end compute resources, for a more in-depth processing and analytics. However, many financial organizations have faced a number of challenges as they have endeavored to deploy, manage and reap the benefits of IoT and edge computing. And, that’s where hyperconvergence can make all of the difference.
Unfortunately, the common misuse and misunderstanding of the term hyperconvergence has led to confusion and continues to serve as a barrier for those that could otherwise benefit immensely from an IT, business agility and profitability standpoint. Let’s try to clear up that confusion here.
The Inverted Pyramid of Doom
Before hyperconverged infrastructure came the inverted pyramid of doom. This refers to a 3-2-1 model of system architecture. And, while it can get the job done in a few key areas, it is the polar opposite of what a businesses truly want or need today.
The 3-2-1 model refers to a scenario where there are virtualization servers or virtual machines (VMs) running three or more clustered host servers, connected by two network switches, backed by a single storage device – most often, a storage area network (SAN). The issue here is that the virtualization host relies totally on the network, which in turn relies totally on the single SAN. To say it another way, everything rests upon a single point of failure – the SAN. (Of course, the false yet popular argument that the SAN can’t fail because of dual controllers is a story for another time.)
When hyperconvergence was first introduced, it meant a converged infrastructure solution that natively included the hypervisor for virtualization. The “hyper” wasn’t just hype as it is today. This is a critical distinction as it has specific implications for how architecture can be designed for greater storage simplicity and efficiency.
Who can provide a native hypervisor? Just about anyone can. Hypervisors have become a market commodity with very little feature differences between them. With free, open source hypervisors like KVM, anyone can build on KVM to create a hypervisor unique and specialized to the hardware they provide in their hyperconverged appliances. Many vendors still choose to stay with converged infrastructure models, perhaps banking on the market dominance of VMware―even with many consumers fleeing the high prices of VMware licensing.
Saving money is only one of the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure. By utilizing a native hypervisor, the storage can be architected and embedded directly with the hypervisor, eliminating inefficient storage protocols, file systems, and VSAs. The most efficient data paths allow direct access between the VM and the storage; this has only been achieved when the hypervisor vendor is the same as the storage vendor. When the vendor owns the components, it can design the hypervisor and storage to directly interact, resulting in a huge increase in efficiency and performance.
In addition to storage efficiency, having the hypervisor included natively in the solution eliminates another vendor which increases management efficiency. A single vendor that provides the servers, storage, and hypervisor makes the overall solution much easier to support, update, patch, and manage without the traditional compatibility issues and vendor finger-pointing. Ease of management represents a significant savings in both time and training from the IT budget.
For example, one financial institution that turned to hyperconvergence was the Guardian Credit Union. The bank was seeking a solution that would support its need for an infrastructure refresh (replace aging hardware) and a hypervisor licensing renewal. It also needed a solution that would support higher uptime service level agreements (SLAs) for critical workloads. And, like most IT organizations, it wanted a solution that would reduce operational costs.
Guardian Credit Union conducted a thorough evaluation of all viable solutions. It kept in mind it had just three IT personnel responsible for its entire infrastructure, including its 25-49 virtual machines (VMs). A hyperconverged platform solution was chosen as it clicked all of the critical boxes for the bank, including reducing the time spent managing infrastructure, as well as ensuring the availability of critical workloads, scalability of infrastructure, and disaster recovery (DR). It also solved the single vendor support of infrastructure challenge. And, it promised to dramatically reduce operating costs.
Since the deployment, Guardian Credit Union has decreased the time spent recovering from a hardware failure running a critical workload from one-to-eight hours to less than 10 minutes (83-97% reduction in recovery time). And, the bank reports that it has enjoyed dramatic improvements across virtually every facet of datacenter operations, including: ease of use, ease and speed of implementation, HA of VMs, reliability, scalability, and DR. And, the icing on the cake — a dramatic decrease in capital and operational costs!
The cloud and its benefits are well established, and most financial organizations have already leveraged it, whether from an on-premises, remote or public cloud platform, or more commonly a combination of each (i.e. hybrid-cloud).
Hyperconverged infrastructure, as a fully functional virtualization platform, can nearly always be implemented alongside other infrastructure solutions, as well as integrated with cloud computing. For example, with nested virtualization in cloud platforms, a hyperconverged infrastructure solution can be extended into the cloud for a unified management experience.
Not only does a hyperconverged infrastructure work together with cloud computing, but it offers many of the benefits of cloud computing in terms of simplicity and ease-of-management on premises. In fact, for most organizations, a hyperconverged infrastructure may be the private cloud solution that is best suited to their environment.
Like cloud computing, a hyperconverged infrastructure is so easy to manage that it enables IT administrators to focus on apps and workloads, rather than be tied down managing infrastructure all day as is common in 3-2-1. A hyperconverged infrastructure is not only fast and easy to implement, but it can be scaled out rapidly when needed. A hyperconverged infrastructure should absolutely be considered along with cloud computing for any data center modernization.
Stay tuned! In part two, I will talk about what is and what should be included in a hyperconverged solution, what’s in it for you – a credit union, and how you can get started on your journey towards hyperconvergence.
In the meantime, to learn more about hyperconverged infrastructure please visit: https://www.scalecomputing.com/.
Alan Conboy is the Office of the CTO at Scale Computing (https://www.scalecomputing.com/) since 2009. With more than 20 years of experience, Conboy is an industry veteran and technology evangelist specializing in designing, prototyping, selling and implementing disruptive storage and virtualization technologies. Prior to Scale Computing, Conboy held positions at Lefthand Networks, ADIC, CreekPath Systems, Sun Microsystems and Spectra Logic. Conboy is notably one of the first movers in the X86/X64 hyperconvergence space, and one of the first 30 people ever certified by SNIA.