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January 23, 2018

How hyper-converged infrastructure eases IT transformation for hybrid cloud

While “the cloud” is often considered a place, the reality is cloud is an operating model that leverages modern technology to implement it.

By Ellie Burns

Adapting to this new model requires transformation of both technology and IT operations. A 2016 State of IT Transformation survey conducted by Dell EMC and VMware found that, although the majority of respondents have been considering moving to a cloud model since 2010, 90 percent are still in evaluation or proof of concept mode for hybrid cloud six years later. Why is it taking so long?

When I talk with customers about why their hybrid cloud initiatives are slowed, they tell me IT transformation requires a great deal of planning, evaluation, re-organization and modernization of infrastructure technologies and applications. Every organization approaches IT transformation at a different pace, and not every organization will want to deploy a full cloud service delivery model now or even in the future. Multiple factors, including costs, skill sets, drive to innovate and willingness to transform, contribute to an organization’s approach and will determine if and when IT management teams move from traditional siloed organizational structures to infrastructure management and then cloud services management teams.


HCI Systems Accelerate IT Transformation

One of the first steps toward an organization’s transformation journey – and their journey to a hybrid cloud operating model – is to simplify infrastructure deployment and management by introducing hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) into the environment. HCI solutions that collapse traditional three-tier infrastructure by natively integrating compute, storage, networking, virtualization, management and data services significantly reduce IT administrative tasks and create the foundation for a modern IT infrastructure.

Adoption of HCI solutions has increased rapidly over the past few years. According to 451 Research, more than 60 percent of surveyed customers already have or are looking to deploy HCI. IDC predicts the market for HCI solutions will surpass $7.6 billion by 2021, as the fastest growing converged infrastructure systems market segment hands down.

Deploying HCI solutions reduces costs, simplifies deployment, improves operational efficiencies and eases scaling for organizations of all types and sizes. There is no one particular application or operating model that is driving adoption, rather it is being deployed for a wide variety of workloads across organizations of various sizes.

Regardless of vertical, workload or business driver, the ability to modernize the underlying infrastructure is not wholly related to technology; it is also an issue of organizational readiness.

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Mapping HCI deployments to transformation goals

As with many strategic decisions, there are multiple factors to consider when transforming with HCI. Customers that have or plan to adopt HCI have said that cost reduction, accelerated deployment, improved operational efficiencies, improved ability to scale and reduction in infrastructure tasks are the top benefits they expect to realize when implementing it.

The key factors that should determine which HCI deployment is best are the desired end state and the operational readiness to realize that end state. This can be referred to as the desired “destination” defined by both the degree of infrastructure and operational transformations.

For example, a vendor can supply a turnkey private or hybrid cloud infrastructure; however, if the organization has not transitioned to developing cloud services teams that know how to manage a self-service catalog and a fully automated infrastructure, the desired end state likely will not be realized.

Fortunately, organizations can transform at a pace that makes sense for their business model, and each HCI destination provides different levels of the desired benefits along the way. If organizations choose to gradually adopt HCI, each operational change they make along the way applies to the next destination, further accelerating their transformation.

digital transformation

For organizations that are just beginning their IT transformation, consolidation of compute and storage virtualization infrastructure and operational management is a natural place to start. HCI appliances enable them to start small and scale out as the IT organization transforms and adapts to managing converged infrastructure versus previous silos. Automated provisioning, integrated QoS, ability to mix hybrid and all flash nodes makes consolidation of new and legacy applications onto a single HCI cluster simple and cost effective. As organizations continue to transform to a cloud model, integration with software, such as the VMware vRealize Suite, enables full cloud automation and service delivery capabilities.

For enterprise customers looking to fully automate the provisioning of the entire IT infrastructure stack, including networking, rack-scale HCI is a good infrastructure deployment option. A turnkey rack-scale approach, addressing larger initial deployments, further collapses operational infrastructure silos, beyond the approach of HCI appliances, by integrating switches and network virtualization capability into the HCI architecture.

Just as there may be many different starting or end points for HCI infrastructure implementation, organizations may be in different states of readiness for change or have varying long-term transformation goals. How quickly IT organizations transform will be influenced by business priorities, customer expectations, market drivers and budget realities.


HCI simplifies cloud adoption and IT transformation

HCI has become a simple infrastructure for the move towards hybrid clouds. For example, when IT organizations are ready for full cloud automation, VxRack SDDC, rack-scale HCI, integrates with VMware vRealize Automation and vRealize Business for Cloud, enabling the VxRack SDDC to be the foundational pooled and elastic infrastructure for private or hybrid clouds.

To successfully transform their IT infrastructure, it’s imperative for organizations to assess cloud-as-a-model more realistically and leave behind the thought that cloud is a destination.

Organizations need flexibility to choose an HCI solution that best meets their current state of IT transformation while ensuring IT certainty, continuous innovation and predictable evolution as customers move toward hybrid cloud implementations. While organizations have the option to assemble their own HCI, or purchase completely turnkey HCI systems, it’s important that the appropriate steps are taken to transform to become more agile in the face of competition.

Implementing HCI as the foundation for hybrid cloud operating models will prove to be that step in the right direction to resolve infrastructure and application problems faster and be a catalyst for desired business outcomes.


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