Evaluator Group has been conducting research on hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) for the past four years, at first to gauge its appropriateness for larger organizations and more recently to track its adoption as enterprise IT sought to reduce infrastructure complexity. Initially a product used by small and midsize companies and for special applications, such as VDI, HCI is now a mainstay in the enterprise, supporting a variety of workloads in almost every possible environment.
What We Found
In this annual study we survey over 300 IT professionals from US and international companies, most with 1,000 employees or more. Three years ago, out of 230 qualified responses, over 70% were evaluating or planned to evaluate HCI, with the remainder having actually deployed it. This year the numbers have flipped, with over 70% of 220 qualified companies surveyed having HCI in production or a deployment pending (see graph below). Again, three-quarters of those surveyed were from enterprise-level companies (over 1000 employees). If we extrapolate these numbers out to domestic and international companies, this means that most have accepted the value of this technology and are using it in their data centers.
When we started this study, HCI was primarily a technology that companies would use for some applications or workloads but did not fully embrace for mainstream production. According to the IT professionals we surveyed, maturity was the primary drawback. They were willing to evaluate hyperconverged infrastructure benefits and drawbacks – and use the technology – but not for their most critical applications. Last year we saw HCI cross the threshold into the enterprise data center and IT folks accept this technology as a viable solution for most of the workloads they had to support. This year, that trend continued, with maturity a decreasing concern and HCI increasingly perceived as a solution that can support any workload, based on the graph below.
Early on HCI gave smaller companies a way to consolidate their server and storage infrastructures with a single, flexible solution. Many of these companies were just getting into server virtualization and HCI presented a way to simplify the whole thing with a clustered architecture that could start small and grow as large as they needed, in a granular fashion. As a comprehensive solution with a single software management layer, HCI was easy to set up, operate and expand. This was especially appealing to smaller companies that didn’t have an abundance of IT expertise or for remote offices or departments without dedicated IT personnel.
As it turned out, enterprise IT shops found similar hyperconverged infrastructure benefits. While they have the expertise to run complex infrastructure, they still want gear in their data center that’s easy to design, deploy, use and upgrade. Simplification and consolidation were the leading drivers for HCI projects, showing the appeal of standardization in larger companies that have multiple environments to support, from regular production workloads that run in the data center to stand-alone systems in remote offices or departments.
From Convenience to Necessity
Flexibility and simplification don’t just lower operational overhead; they also drive agility. Companies are pushing software development to provide the innovation they need to meet challenges presented in the real world and to stay ahead of their competitors. This means IT departments have to stand up compute infrastructure with very little lead time and be ready to reconfigure or expand it, on premises and in the cloud. HCI is an enabling technology, making it possible for IT to keep up with development teams and the realities of managing more and more infrastructure.
HCI nodes are now available with hundreds of terabytes of flash storage, up to four CPUs, terabytes of memory and graphical processing units (GPUs) for high-performance applications. An HCI cluster can be configured to support almost any application, giving IT organizations a standardized infrastructure that can cover all the bases and still be easy to design, deploy and grow.
The Evaluator Group study explored which HCI products were chosen most often, how they were evaluated, how they were deployed, the features deemed most important and the drawbacks enterprise IT still sees in this technology. It asked respondents which workloads they put on HCI and which they wouldn’t and why. Finally, it asked IT professionals how HCI supports their company’s public and hybrid cloud strategies, their backup strategies and their adoption of containers and edge computing. For more information, please visit the Evaluator Group page “HCI in the Enterprise 2020.”