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Hyperconvergence: What it is, how it works, and why it matters

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Video: Portrait of a modern multi-cloud data center

Executive Summary (TL;DR)

Hyperconvergence is a marketing term referring to a style of data center architecture that trains the attention of IT operators and administrators on the operating conditions of workloads over systems.

The main objective of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has been to simplify the management of data centers by recasting them as transportation systems for software and transactions, rather than networks of processors with storage devices and memory caches dangling from them. The "convergence" that HCI makes feasible in the data center comes from the following:

  • Applications and the servers that host them are managed together, using a single platform that focuses on the health and accessibility of those applications.
  • Compute capacity, file storage, memory, and network connectivity are collected together and managed individually like public utilities. Workloads are treated like customers whose needs must be satisfied, even if it takes the decommissioning and shutdown of hardware to accomplish it.
  • Each workload is packaged within the same class of construct: Usually virtual machines (VM) designed to be hosted by hypervisors such as VMware's ESX and ESXi, Xen, KVM, and Microsoft's Hyper-V. These constructs enable HCI platforms to treat them as essentially equivalent software components, if with different operating requirements.

Services vs servers

Since the dawn of information technology, the key task of computer operators has been to monitor and maintain the health of their machines. At some point, the value of keeping software accessible and functional to users -- especially to customers -- exceeded the cost of extending the lifespan of hardware. The key variables in the cost/benefit analysis equation were flipped, as the functionality of services became more valuable than the reliability of servers.

Although the ideal of hyperconverged infrastructure has

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