Improving operational efficiency and cutting IT costs were the top two drivers of hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) adoption in a recent survey of more than 1,100 IT professionals. With operations and maintenance accounting for almost 75 percent of IT expenses, even a modest improvement in operational efficiency can equate to millions of dollars in a large government enterprise.
State and local governments can achieve even greater savings and efficiencies by taking advantage of the unique scaling, agility, performance and management capabilities of next-generation HCI. Besides providing tremendous value in and of themselves, these capabilities also create an easier path to data center consolidation, virtualization, cloud computing and other modernization initiatives that further reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Next-Generation HCI Brings New Value
The next-generation features that contribute to better scalability, agility and performance also contribute to operational efficiency and cost savings. Cost reductions come in the form of fewer capital expenditures (capex) or licensing expenditures for servers, storage and software; lower deployment, maintenance and management costs; reduced power and footprint costs for on-premises resources; and decreased costs for IT staff and training.
Take an agency’s accounting department for example. It can use next-generation HCI to consolidate databases, VDI, payroll, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other workloads onto a single platform; automate infrastructure management tasks; centrally view, manage and protect data and resources across the enterprise; and quickly allocate (or re-allocate) additional storage and compute capacity when accounting adds new workloads. And because next-generation HCI allows organizations to easily move data across the extended IT environment, accounting can also leverage public and private clouds, shared services and other environments as needed to reduce costs and operational complexity even further.
- Single-pane visibility – When organizations have a centralized view of all their resources, processes, data and other assets across the extended ecosystem (e.g., on-premises, shared services, private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud), they can simplify management, control IT sprawl and more intelligently allocate assets to the most appropriate and most cost-effective environment. They can identify unused compute and storage resources and reallocate them on demand, reducing the need for additional investments and capex.
- Independent scaling – By enabling organizations to separately provision storage and compute resources, next-generation HCI eliminates unneeded licensing fees, physical footprint costs and other waste associated with over-provisioning.
Scientists working on a project for a large government agency needed additional computing, but they were unsure of how much additional compute space they would ultimately need. Next-generation HCI allowed the agency to deploy a VDI solution that can grow over time, while eliminating the agency’s risk of investing in the complete infrastructure on day one. As virtual desktops are added, the agency can scale compute and storage capacity independently to accommodate the scientists’ evolving requirements.
- Business process automation – Automation reduces most of the routine, manual tasks associated with infrastructure deployment; allows dynamic, self-service provisioning of resources; and reduces errors and performance issues that result in support calls. Organizations not only improve operational efficiency; they alleviate the burden on central IT teams and hold down the costs of skilled IT.
- Quality of service controls – These controls ensure that applications always have sufficient compute capacity to meet performance requirements. This is an important difference between next-generation HCI and less advanced HCI and gives organizations the freedom to mix workloads within a single HCI environment — without impacting service level objectives. Workload consolidation decreases the number of servers that an organization requires to run applications and processes, meaning lower capex and operational costs, as well as lower administrative and support costs.
Increasing Efficiency and Driving Down Costs in Next-Generation HCI
The following five practices can help organizations reap maximum value from next-generation HCI.
- Use solid state drives (flash storage) – Flash drives cost more than traditional hard disk drives (HDD, i.e., spinning disks), but flash drives last longer and fail less often than HDDs. They also outperform spinning disks (in terms of how fast they can read and write data); this means that fewer are needed and their storage footprint is smaller.
- Deduplicate (compress) – Deduplication is a process that eliminates redundant copies of data. Best practice is to deduplicate all data coming into the HCI environment by default. By retaining only one instance of the data, organizations significantly reduce storage and administration costs, especially in VDI, data backup and disaster recovery replication scenarios. Be sure that your vendor’s dedupe features do not negatively impact performance; some solutions do.
- Control performance – The more organizations can automatically control quality of service (QoS), the less time they spend dealing with bottlenecks, support calls and remedial activities. Although next-generation HCI allows organizations to adjust performance by manually provisioning additional compute resources on demand, the ideal scenario is to write scripts that automatically provision resources as needed.
- Implement policy-driven administration – As disparate solutions, vendors and services are introduced into the extended IT ecosystem, it is increasingly difficult to ensure that policies are consistently applied across all environments and devices. Inconsistencies can result in inefficient use of resources, data loss and compliance violations. Policy-driven administration simplifies management, enables automation and ensures consistency across the organization.
- Adopt a new mindset for planning and budgeting – State and local governments often do large multi-year deals for storage and compute procurements. In today’s rapidly changing environment, it’s difficult to accurately predict what an agency will need over time. With next-generation HCI, organizations can pay as they grow — both by independently scaling resources and by connecting to cloud-based services as needed. These approaches may require organizations to adjust planning and budgeting strategies to align with the ways that government funding typically works.
Sustained Value for the Future
Next-generation HCI provides the enterprise-scale agility, scalability and performance that state and local governments need to fully embrace HCI. Besides the operational efficiencies and cost savings delivered by traditional HCI, organizations can take advantage of next-generation HCI’s unique features to add a whole new level of monetary, operational and strategic value. This value will support them in cost-effectively evolving and sustaining their digital transformation efforts as they move into the future.
Learn more about NetApp next-generation HCI.