Convergence, Hyperconvergence & Software Defined

Convergence, Hyperconvergence & Software Defined

In the broadest of terms, IT “Convergence” is the collapsing of traditional IT (Information Technology) stacks of compute, storage, network and in some cases backup & recovery, into a single platform. Depending on how you define “platform”, converged infrastructure could be anything from virtual storage running on a hypervisor host (e.g. VSAN on ESX) to HPE Synergy with OneView to what most consider pure “Hyper”-converged Infrastructure such as HPE Simplivity, which includes compute, storage, network and backup & recovery in a single appliance.  When does “Converged” turn into HCI (Hyper-Converged Infrastructure)?  Some argue that being “software-defined” makes it HCI.  However, it could also be argued that “software-defined” is a separate measurement altogether, indicative of the ability to programmatically change the state of any or all components in the technology stack (e.g. the network profile of a server).  At the end of the day, fancy terms are for fancy Marketing teams.  This paper will focus on what the technology brings to the table, and what challenges it presents.


Benefit of Convergence

The primary benefit of convergence is the reduced operational burden of designing, procuring, implementing, scaling and maintaining technology infrastructure.  Examples of this range from reducing complexities associated with firmware/software updates to managing platform refreshes.  This reduced burden should lead to lower costs associated with staff; both engineering and operational support roles such as procurement & vendor management.  


Software Defined Changes the Game

If we open the discussion to include “software-defined” (SDx), which some argue is a required component of HCI, the list of benefits grows.  What does SDx mean?  It essentially means the ability to dynamically (programmatically) change the state of an infrastructure, either through a GUI or through exposed APIs.  These capabilities not only reduce management overhead but streamline deployments, allowing end users to gain access to resources in minutes where it once took weeks.  Public cloud providers are largely responsible for raising the bar on end user expectations, driving the need for internal IT organizations to deploy these capabilities internally.


Overcoming Challenges

One of the biggest challenges in the move to HCI is organizational.  Most large organizations have built their IT organizations around the technology silos.  As expected, these groups generally resist the idea of relinquishing control over their discipline and the proper Executive Sponsorship is the best means to overcome this.  These groups often site valid technical limitations as their justification. Technical limitations include lack of capabilities (e.g. storage snapshots, GPU options or hosting very large VMs) as well as lack of flexibility around growing each technology stack independently, leveraging newer technologies or use-case specific technologies such as GPUs for HPC or VDI.


Where Does HCI Fit?

In practical application, we are seeing both mid-sized and large enterprises deploy HCI.  For mid-sized enterprises, HCI is often deployed as the primary solution for the core infrastructure.  For larger enterprises, HCI is often deployed for particular use-cases, be it a technical use-case (e.g VDI) or a geographic use-case (e.g. branch offices).  These use-cases typically involve more homogenous workloads without any of the technical requirements that would be difficult for the current HCI solutions to meet.


Without question, HCI solutions reduce the management burden for Information Technology organizations. However, each organization has unique requirements, and to what extent the benefits of HCI (and Software Defined) will be realized depends largely on their organizational capabilities and technical requirements.  

For example, when it comes to leveraging software-defined automation capabilities, organizations will need to have the appropriate staff and capabilities to build on this (typically a DevOps team).  Investing in these capabilities will only make sense for organizations with dynamic environments where response times are critical, and changes are frequent.  

At SnowCap we have explored HCI solutions for many organizations, both large enterprises and mid-sized companies.  We have uncovered both unforeseen benefits as well as unforeseen pitfalls.  Careful analysis of your organization’s requirements will be critical in determining if HCI will be a fit for you.

Challenges & Limitations

  •  Organizational conflict

  •  Feature limitations

  •  Lack of technical flexibility

  •  Vendor lock-in

  •  Limitations on adopting new tech


  • Lower Management Costs

  •  Rapid deployments

  •  Simplified firmware updates

  •  Simplified upgrades & refreshes

  •  Fewer integration points

  •  Automation Capabilities

  •  Improved SLAs

Interested in learning more? Contact your SnowCap representative today!

Main office: 617-947-7004

vSphere 6.7 Update 1 and Major Support Milestone

vSphere Support and Upgrades

VMware is ending support for vSphere 5.5 on September 18th, 2018. Extended support will be available, but at a cost. Based on surveys, over 60% of the systems in use are still running 5.5 or an earlier version. While it is important that systems running older versions be upgraded as soon as possible, it is not necessarily a simple process.

Last month at VMworld 2018 VMware announced vSphere 6.7 Update 1 which will be released to GA soon. As with any major release most consumers wait for the first Update or Service Pack to arrive before deploying to production. That day is drawing close which makes this a great time to tackle any upgrade tasks. I did a previous blog on the new features of 6.7 that you can read here and have outlined the Update 1 enhancements here.


vSphere 6.7 Update 1 Enhancements

Fully Functional HTML 5 Client

Finally! The HTML5 version of the vSphere Client is 100% functional and the Flash based Web Client is no longer needed. This update simplifies administration and provides additional security by removing the need to have Flash enabled.

vCenter Server Converge Tool

There have been several architectural changes wih 6.7. One is the ability to scale and use Enhanced Linked Mode with embedded Platform Services Controllers (PSC). There was no easy way to convert an existing infrastructure with an external PSC to the new architecture, until now! This new tool will allow the distributed architecture to be converged during the upgrade process.

Upgrade Path from vSphere 6.5 Update 2

Due to the fact that 6.5 U2 was released after 6.7 GA, there was no upgrade path available as Update 2 contained additional security enhancements not included with 6.7 GA. Now with 6.7 Update 1, a direct upgrade is possible.

Enhanced GPU Operations

Systems with Nvidia Grid now support live vMotion migrations. This is especially important for Horizon View customers and enterprises that utilize this technology for High Performance Computing without sacrificing the mobility that they have come to expect from vSphere!

Support for vSphere Platinum

vSphere Platinum is a new licensing model that bundles VMware AppDefense with ESXi. For anybody that needs the highest level of security, this introduces a set of tools and features to enable you to meet these requirements.

VMware Cloud on AWS

vCenter Hybrid Linked Mode

I touched on this in my last blog, but it is worth repeating this functionality which truly enables the promise of a seamless hybrid cloud. These features include enhanced cross vCenter migration, mixed vCenter versions, and per-VM EVC.

New Announcements

Also announced at VMworld 2018 were several enhancements for the AWS offering. These include increased options for compute and storage, increased availability of NSX security features, a new three host minimum cluster size, and 50% reduction in cost! Obviously, this has the potential of making this a much more attractive offering for anyone looking to move workloads or DR to the cloud while still maintaining the flexibility of migrating these seamlessly.

vSphere Upgrade Readiness Check

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, this a fantastic time to upgrade those old, out of support vSphere versions, but it is not always easy. SnowCap Technologies can work with you to determine the readiness status of your infrastructure including the following components.

•Server hardware compatibility

•VMware software version compatibility and upgrade path

•Infrastructure considerations based on new infrastructure design

•Third-party software compatibility, especially backup software versions

At the end of the check you’ll receive a comprehensive overview of the hardware/software improvements that need to be made, as well as the services estimate for completing the upgrades on your behalf. Best of all, this check requires a low level of effort from you and costs nothing.

Please reach out to your Account Representative or fill out our contact form so we can perform this review! Soon you can be taking advantage of these new features with the comfort of knowing that you are fully supported.