Next-Generation HCI: Fine-Tuned for New Ways of Working

Novel capabilities give state and local governments an enterprise-grade foundation for managing data.

by NETAPP / February 21, 2018
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Traditional data center management focuses mainly on managing infrastructure. But this approach is rapidly shifting as state and local governments take advantage of cloud platforms, shared services, software-as-a-service (SaaS), managed services, the Internet of Things, mobile devices and other external resources to achieve their missions and meet their business goals. As organizations extend their infrastructure operations to embrace the cloud and other solutions, their focus is increasingly on managing data itself. Next-generation hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) supports data center modernization and new ways of working by giving organizations an enterprise-grade foundation for managing data, regardless of where it exists in the extended enterprise. 

Next-Generation HCI Breaks Agility, Scalability and Performance Barriers 

The following capabilities set next-generation HCI apart from less advanced HCI solutions and are critical to enterprise-scale operations in an extended ecosystem. They allow state and local governments to roll out new services more quickly, reduce the burden on IT staff, guarantee service levels, improve operational efficiencies, save money and more. They are vital for organizations moving to the cloud and other IT environments.

  • Single-pane visibility – Next-generation HCI uses a data fabric to provide a unified view of resources, processes and data and allow their seamless movement across the extended enterprise. Global visibility improves decision-making, simplifies management and expedites the allocation of resources so that organizations can deliver new applications and services more rapidly. It is vital for moving data to the cloud and is also important to disaster recovery and other strategies.
     

Data fabric is a software-defined approach for visualizing, moving, managing and protecting large volumes of disparate data in a hybrid environment. It virtualizes data and makes it visible and accessible across the extended infrastructure ecosystem. 

 

  • Automated infrastructure – Administrators can set policies to automatically allocate storage, compute and networking resources to applications, processes, virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs) or other environments. By reducing the number of manual tasks, organizations can alleviate the need for skilled IT and enable self-service provisioning for specific functions. Imagine, for example, a fire department or state tax board automating a mass deployment of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for training purposes. Instead of having to individually deploy 50 new virtual desktops, it can use an automated script to deploy all 50 desktops at once. 
     
  • Reliable performance – With traditional HCI, organizations risk performance problems when they run disparate applications (e.g., databases, web apps and VDI) on the same infrastructure. These applications can compete for compute or networking resources or interfere in other ways that impact performance. Next-generation HCI allows organizations to run mixed workloads on the same infrastructure while guaranteeing performance for every application; it does so by enforcing fine-grained, software-defined quality of service (QoS) limits on each application.
     
  • Independent scaling of compute and storage – Traditional HCI combines storage and compute resources in a single building block (i.e., node). Even when an organization needs more of only one resource (e.g., more storage but not more compute), it must pay for an extra node that contains both resources; this over-buying is costly and inefficient. Next-generation HCI uncouples storage from compute so organizations can independently scale these resources, optimize the use of existing infrastructure investments, simplify performance/capacity planning and reduce licensing costs.
     
  • Resource re-allocation – Next-generation HCI’s capability to independently scale resources also enables organizations to flexibly re-allocate unused compute and storage resources as needed. For example, a police department that moves body-worn camera footage to the cloud can direct the freed up on-premises storage to back-office processes.
     

Next-Generation HCI Enables Better Disaster Recovery

Many agencies struggle to meet disaster recovery objectives in hybrid environments because traditional backup and restore methods are not designed for the high volumes of data, diversity of data types and interdependencies in these environments. Large agencies with multiple campuses can use next-generation HCI’s data portability capabilities to quickly replicate data from regional data centers to a remote location when hurricanes, floods and other disasters strike. Using this solution, they not only minimize data loss and recovery time, but also can replicate the entire infrastructure to seamlessly continue operations within minutes. 


Next-Generation HCI as a Cloud Enabler 

Today’s government data centers increasingly encompass both on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure. In a 2017 NASCIO survey,1  83 percent of state CIOs said that their states have developed or are developing cloud migration strategies to migrate legacy systems to the cloud. Key drivers included cost, security, efficiency and agility. In a Center for Digital Government (CDG) market forecast, county CIOs rated cloud computing as one of their top five areas of increased spending.2  

Next-generation HCI bridges the gap between on-premises infrastructure and cloud-based services so that organizations can flexibly choose the best solution for any given use case. By integrating with a data fabric, next-generation HCI enables state and local agencies to easily manage data in this distributed environment. Automation, independent scaling, QoS enforcement and other next-generation HCI capabilities accelerate deployment of private cloud and shared services, supporting processes wherever they occur. 

Using next-generation HCI, agencies can use a private cloud when they require compliance with government regulations related to data privacy, protection, portability and availability; keep processes on-premises when they need flexible storage parameters or low latency; move customer relationship management (CRM) and other workloads to the public cloud to take advantage of higher-bandwidth; and more. Whatever the use case, next-generation HCI allows all these infrastructure pieces to work together as part of a virtualized infrastructure so that organizations can manage data, not silos. 

Key Considerations for Moving Data and Processes within the HCI Environment 

Setting up next-generation HCI is a relatively simple process. The following steps can help government IT leaders ensure the success of data center modernization.

  • Review service catalogs – Determine where data, applications and workloads live, as well as the people and processes that are connected with them. Then decide where they should ideally live (e.g., in the data center, in the cloud or in another configuration).  Key considerations should include not only costs and IT skill requirements, but also regulatory requirements related to personally identifiable information, data portability and availability. Some workloads with sensitive data may be suitable for cloud services that comply with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). 
     
  • Prioritize quality of service – Re-examine the overall information architecture to determine whether processes and workloads are properly prioritized in terms of performance and availability. Identify opportunities to flexibly re-allocate storage, compute and networking resources on demand — either within the data center or across shared services or the cloud.
     
  • Protect data and control access – Traditional security controls such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems cannot protect data once it leaves the enterprise network. Focus on protecting the data itself regardless of where it is in the extended ecosystem (e.g., by using access controls and encrypting data at rest and in transit). Where possible, use automated policies to enforce controls before data ever leaves the organization. 

  • Ensure availability and accessibility – Integrate with a data fabric to ensure that data and services are available and accessible regardless of where they exist. This capability expedites disaster recovery and self-provisioning. It also improves service delivery to constituents by enabling data to take the fastest path to the user endpoint. 

Future-Proof Technology for Today 

The use of hybrid IT – where data is stored, processed and transferred across on-premises, private clouds, public clouds and other locations – has evolved from a trend to a best practice for state and local governments. Next-generation HCI frees organizations to flexibly adopt the infrastructure solution that is best for any given scenario or new opportunity. Besides providing a solid foundation for the data center of tomorrow, next-generation HCI provides tremendous opportunities for improving operational efficiencies and saving money. It is the solution of choice for organizations looking to simplify data center operations, reduce costs and prepare for the future.

Learn more about NetApp next-generation HCI.

 

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1NASCIO. The State 2017 State CIO Survey. October 2017.
2Center for Digital Government. GovTech Navigator: 2017 States & Local Market Forecast. 2017.