Next-Generation Hyperconvergence – Building an Effective Bridge to IT Modernization

New technology helps address today’s IT challenges while preparing state and local data centers for an unpredictable future.

by NETAPP / February 21, 2018
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The next generation of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is here, and its improvements over earlier versions — in the areas of scalability, visibility, agility and performance — are likely to make it a top choice for state and local governments. Even before the evolution, Gartner reported that HCI is the fastest-growing category of data center infrastructure. An ActualTech Media survey of 1100 technology professionals saw a 54 percent increase in adoption of HCI in just one year.1 These findings reflect the growing recognition that HCI solves key infrastructure challenges for organizations as they move into the future.

The Quest for Simplicity, Agility and Cost Savings

Government IT leaders face the following challenges when managing their data centers.

  • Disparate legacy systems – Many government data centers run a hodge-podge of legacy systems that come from multiple vendors and are not designed to work together. Servers, storage, networking hardware and other infrastructure components sit in silos that are costly and complex to manage and integrate.
  • Distributed data – Fifty-four percent of states own or operate multiple data centers; 69 percent outsource some IT infrastructure operations; 74 percent use an IT shared services model; and 79 percent outsource some applications.2 As data volumes skyrocket and data resides in or travels across the extended enterprise, organizations struggle to see, process, manage and analyze one of their most valuable assets –their data.
  • Pressure to move to the cloud – State CIOs have identified cloud services as one of their top priorities for the last three years, with cloud services being the second highest priority for 2018.3 Cloud-first policies are now “either formal, informal or in development” in more than 70 percent of states4 and a growing number of local governments. The challenge is to make data in existing systems available to services in the cloud.
  • Shrinking IT staff – As workers retire and government agencies struggle to compete with higher salaries in the private sector, IT teams face a shortage of skilled workers to deploy, run and manage infrastructure and applications.
  • Reduced funding and spending – Federal grants for states and localities are at a historic low and federal spending is expected to decrease. With federal grants providing about 31 percent of state budget funding and about 22 percent of state and local budgets combined,5 government agencies are under renewed pressure to do more with less.
  • Constant demand for new services – IT teams don’t always have the personnel or the compute, storage and networking resources immediately available to support new service requests in a timely manner. When the IT department cannot respond rapidly enough, employees take matters into their own hands — trying to stand up servers and devices on their own or in the cloud. These unsanctioned applications and services (i.e., shadow IT) pose security risks and can also impact the performance and availability of other resources.

Next-Generation HCI – A Launching Pad for Change

Also called enterprise-grade HCI, this advanced solution reflects an evolution that started with converged infrastructure and surpasses earlier HCI deployments.

Converged infrastructure consolidates servers, storage, networking and other infrastructure components from multiple vendors into a centrally managed framework. HCI solutions go a step further by combining these separate hardware layers into a single, software-defined solution that is managed by a single vendor. By virtualizing these components, HCI provides flexible building blocks for consolidating, integrating with, or extending IT infrastructure as needed; however, traditional HCI has scalability, performance and visibility limitations that hinder IT growth and modernization in enterprise-scale environments.

Advanced HCI for Advanced Challenges

Next-generation HCI addresses the limitations experienced with traditional HCI so that government organizations can meet challenges and opportunities with more agility and at less cost than ever before. The following capabilities transform HCI into a true IT modernization solution for state and local governments:

  • Workload consolidation – Consolidate multiple mixed workloads (e.g., databases and applications) onto a single infrastructure, prioritize quality of service for each workload and guarantee performance
  • Independent scaling – Scale storage and compute nodes separately to reduce overprovisioning and total cost of ownership
  • Enhanced data visibility, portability and protection – Shift to a data-centric approach by integrating existing or legacy storage and data management resources with a data fabric that virtualizes data — regardless of format — and allows organizations to seamlessly view, transfer, copy/replicate, store or protect data anywhere in the extended enterprise

Emerging Use Cases

As HCI moves from a disruptive to mainstream solution, the range of use cases is growing. While first-generation HCI is increasingly used for general business processing, data backup, disaster recovery, remote site management and more, next-generation HCI enriches those functions and creates new opportunities.

  • Self-service provisioning for data centers, private cloud infrastructure, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) – Next-generation HCI simplifies provisioning so that IT teams can minimize reliance on IT specialists and even delegate provisioning of some resources to smaller business units, giving them the autonomy and agility to roll out new services more quickly.
  • Mixed workload consolidation – Next-generation HCI allows organizations to mix different types of resources (e.g., databases, VDI and legacy applications) on the same platform — without creating performance problems. An HR department, for example, can set quality of service policies so that payroll and other high-priority processes always have the compute and network resources they need — regardless of what else is running at the same time.
  • Flexible scaling of IT environments – Next-generation HCI allows agencies to start off small and quickly add compute or storage capacity as needed to support the addition of services or growing volumes of data.
  • Customized disaster recovery – Using software-defined data management, organizations can customize disaster recovery to use the most cost-effective and most appropriate data replication method for any given type of data. For example, a social services department can replicate non-sensitive data to a less expensive public cloud environment, while replicating sensitive data such as clients’ health, financial and other personal records to a more secure private cloud.
  • Data center modernization – State and local governments can use next-generation HCI to phase in new technology or architecture and phase out the old as time and funding permits. For example, a community college or a police department with multiple campuses can manage data—and its compute and storage requirements— from a single orchestration layer, regardless of where data is located.

Turning to the Future

Next-generation HCI is an advanced, enterprise-grade solution that overcomes the limitations of past HCI iterations. It provides unmatched data visibility, independent scaling, guaranteed performance and other capabilities to give state and local governments the edge they need to work in new ways, prepare for disruptive technology and create a launching pad for the future—all while reducing operational costs and complexity. As state and local governments plan cloud initiatives, consolidate resources, move to a data-centric approach and take other steps to modernize their data centers, next-generation HCI should be at the top of their list.

Learn more about NetApp next-generation HCI.

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1http://www.hyperconverged.org/2016-hci-report/?partner=hc-org-home
2NASCIO. The 2016 State CIO Survey. September 2016.
3NASCIO. State CIO Top Ten Priorities for 2018. November 2017.
4NASCIO. The 2016 State CIO Survey. September 2016.
5Center for Digital Government. GovTech Navigator: 2017 States & Local Market Forecast.