The Storage Array is dead, long live Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (or is it?)

All industries must strive for constant improvement to drive change (and therefore revenue), the objective is to periodically make the current install base of equipment obsolete so it must be replaced. Just take a look at TVs – in the late 1990s we had bulky CRTs, then flat screens appeared, but they were Standard Definition, so in the late 2000s they were upgraded to HD, but of course it does not end there, as in the last few years we have seen the introduction of 4K/UHD panels. The worst thing that can happen to any industry is for its customers to not see any benefit in upgrading, so the IT industry has tried hard to tell customers that they must change as the future consists of one or more of the following:

  • Hybrid Cloud
  • Software-Defined Data Centre
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)

This blog will focus on HCI and I will leave the other two for another day – now HCI vendors will have you believe that their technology is state-of-the-art and is analogous to a 4K/UHD TV, whereas a storage array is more like a CRT and belongs in the 1990s – clearly this is not true, but without a doubt, for running Virtual Machines, HCI platforms have many strengths:

  • Simplicity – easy to deploy, manage and scale
  • Performance – an all-flash HCI solution will transform your VMs
  • Density – far smaller footprint than separate compute and storage
  • Troubleshooting – with a single point of support for the entire compute and storage stack

On the other hand storage arrays also excel in a number of areas:

  • Scaling – independent scaling of storage and compute
  • Capacity – optimised to deliver very high usable capacity (PBs)
  • Data protection – efficient double disk failure protection
  • Flexibility – support for datastores with different performance characteristics
  • Auto-tiering – policy based automation of the placement of data
  • Multi-protocol – with support for CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel
  • Multiple use cases – Virtual Machines, Physical Servers, Multi-platform File Sharing, and Backup and Archive targets

Single Point of Support

One of the key reasons organisations consider HCI is to cut down on the number of vendors involved in the solution – this ensures there will be no compatibility issues when it is deployment and also reduces on going troubleshooting – ultimately delivering a solution that maximises uptime and requires less resources to manage. Now if you add a storage array into the mix then you are in danger of breaking the most significant benefit of HCI, this is true when they are purchased from different vendors, but not if they are the same. I therefore believe that moving forward it is not sustainable for vendors to focus exclusively on HCI, and the same goes for storage arrays – the array vendors will need to snap up a HCI platform or vice versa.

Conclusion

We have reached a tipping point whereby if you are refreshing both compute and storage, then it makes a great deal of sense to consider an all-flash HCI solution for your Virtual Machines, and if required, additional storage arrays for your physical servers, NAS, and Backup and Archive requirements.

Related Posts

  1. An introduction to EMC Unity – new mid-range unified storage platform
  2. EVO:RAIL is dead long live VxRail
Mark Burgess has worked in IT since 1984, starting as a programmer on DEC VAX systems, then moving into PC software development using Clipper and FoxPro. From here he moved into network administration using Novell NetWare, which kicked-off his interest in storage. In 1999 he co-founded SNS, a consultancy firm initially focused on Novell technologies, but overtime Virtualisation and Storage. Mark writes a popular blog and is a frequent contributor to Twitter and other popular Virtualisation and Storage blog sites.
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About Mark Burgess

Mark Burgess has worked in IT since 1984, starting as a programmer on DEC VAX systems, then moving into PC software development using Clipper and FoxPro. From here he moved into network administration using Novell NetWare, which kicked-off his interest in storage. In 1999 he co-founded SNS, a consultancy firm initially focused on Novell technologies, but overtime Virtualisation and Storage. Mark writes a popular blog and is a frequent contributor to Twitter and other popular Virtualisation and Storage blog sites.

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