Key On-Ramps to Digital Transformation

Business drivers accelerate popularity of converged and hyperconverged infrastructure

There is a compelling reason why digital transformation is such a hot topic in boardrooms everywhere today: organizations simply must transform to remain competitive. In our recent Voice of the Enterprise (VotE) Storage survey, two-thirds of respondents said their businesses require moderate to significant transformation in the next five years. We believe IT infrastructure similarly has to change to enable and support digital transformation. Thus, infrastructure is a key on-ramp to business transformation. When lacking a highly scalable and highly reliable IT infrastructure, businesses jeopardize their ability to meet current and future stakeholder requirements.

Owing to its ability to offer consistency and accelerated time to value of IT investments, converged infrastructure (CI) has grown rapidly in popularity as a delivery vehicle for infrastructure. We define CI as the combination and integration of essentially all compute resources (hardware, software, networking), usually with a single vendor providing first-line support.

Meeting the challenges of next-gen workloads
Meanwhile, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is gaining favor as a go-to architecture choice, particularly as computing resource needs have grown in dynamism. Think of HCI as clusters of virtualized, standardized x86 servers running storage management software to create a single virtualized appliance combining compute and storage.

How both CI and HCI address transformation challenges, including their ability to support next-generation workloads such as big-data analytics and containers, will be key considerations for organizations going forward. The stakes are enormous. Digital transformation holds the promise of lower risk, improved products and services, faster time-to-market, cost reduction and increased revenue. In other words, digital transformation is synonymous with business success.

Prepping for big-data analytics and containers
More than one in four VotE respondents foresee rapid growth in big data and associated analytics in the next two years. Big data means just that – tidal volumes of structured and unstructured data requiring a rapidly scalable infrastructure to handle them. Thus, when planning the next big infrastructure upgrade, we recommend choosing vendors that have proven partnerships with legacy and emerging software providers.

For a relatively nascent technology, containers are off to roaring start. Our VotE research shows that nearly one in four respondents are already using containers, with two-thirds of these in active production. Think of containers as operating system virtualization, where workloads share OS resources, including libraries and code. Owing to their ability to improve resource sharing and overall efficiency compared with virtual machines (VMs), containers are widely seen as an enabler of DevOps, big-data implementations and microservices.

Containers can be launched or killed instantly, making them perfect for handling bursty workloads. A conventional VM cannot enable this. Unlike with a VM, there is no need to reproduce OS code for every container. Over time we believe developers will be able to deftly move test/dev projects into production without major code rewrites by using containers – a feature not available with VMs.

CI, HCI and digital transformation
Both CI and HCI owe their fast-growing popularity in large part to how quickly and consistently they provision infrastructure resources, while at the same time reducing management and maintenance with higher levels of cloud orchestration and automation. Both CI and HCI provide the performance stability required for these rapidly emerging production workloads, including all-flash storage options to further boost performance.

As mentioned, scalability is king with the newer workloads. Where legacy infrastructures usually imply costly, time-consuming migration procedures replete with downtime and service degradation, scale-out architectures like HCI allow for the nondisruptive addition of new capacity. In addition, with HCI organizations can start with relatively small configurations and then grow them incrementally to handle additional workloads. By comparison, CI is associated with flexible building blocks, its adaptability to a wider range of use cases, enterprise-grade storage, and highly sophisticated management and orchestration.

An end to finger-pointing
In legacy infrastructure environments, a big headache for IT managers is the finger-pointing at different vendors that results when network, software and hardware vendors disagree on a problem's source. One major benefit of HCI is the usual assignment of one primary vendor among all others that agrees to serve as the first line of contact.

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