Now that we have demystified HCI, where do we start?
By Eugene Maritz, Services Director at First Technology National.
Our last article spoke about what hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) is, and the benefits it offers to business. In this next chapter, we talk about ensuring a successful HCI deployment, and how to attain the best from HCI.
Common mistakes: environment, compatibility, future growth
HCI is not the silver bullet to fixing business infrastructure problems; however, businesses should take into account the relevant factors that are required to build a successful HCI solution. In order for HCI to succeed, companies need to fully understand the current IT environment and future business needs.
HCI solutions could easily be underspecified if you do not analyse and understand their environment. Some businesses do take the time to assess their environment but may lack the skills required to integrate the solution to deliver on their business outcomes. Engaging with a certified solution provider can ensure the right design is developed.
Applications and data compatibility need to be analysed to understand the functionality of on-premises, cloud or hybrid environments. Businesses should confirm with their solution provider whether their applications are cloud-ready and, if not, whether they intend on investing in HCI and cloud compatibility.
It is important for organisations to invest in the time to review their future growth and take this into account with regards to their requirements going forward. Data growth is exponential and near-future growth should be factored in. Aligning the HCI solution to the business requirements could make a significant difference, catering for immediate and long-term growth.
Where to start?
The first thing an organisation should do is assess whether HCI is the right solution fit for their business. It's prudent to look at alternatives to transform legacy systems, over a period of time, in order to align with the HCI methodology. This is an important consideration for companies with proprietary business-critical applications that are hard-coded to their hardware, as they will find it more difficult. An assessment by an experienced HCI solution provider should therefore be completed to confirm the business requirements in order to identify the right HCI solution for the business.
HCI solution providers have tools to analyse the existing environment and note the performance metrics and data required to build an HCI solution. They will take into account storage performance, capacity requirements, what virtualisation platform is used or required, network performance statistics, applications, compute power and security. A security assessment is particularly important and will ensure that HCI delivers the same if not better security as well as the redundancy required for failover.
The provider will then align their findings and recommendations with the business's compliance officer and CIO, to ensure all elements are covered from a regulatory, performance and security standpoint.
Finally, it's important to check the sizing and architecture measures up to not only current requirements but caters to future predicted growth too.
What to bear in mind before implementation
Once a business has decided on an HCI solution that fits their business needs and budget, it's a relatively easy process to implement, manage and support. Organisations that have identified areas that require modernisation before going ahead with HCI will find the process more difficult, as they will need to standardise their environment, including applications and networking devices.
Where organisations have no virtualisation, it's important that they virtualise their environment before implementing HCI, migrating data from old to new systems. This is the first critical step towards HCI and the cloud. They can start as small as they need to, establishing a small HCI footprint and then scale up as and when their systems become ready to move to HCI.
The right partner
It's critical to engage with the right solution provider regarding HCI. HCI solution providers become trusted advisors to their customers, guiding them on how to get the best out of HCI with minimal impact on operations. They walk the entire journey with the customer, from assessing the existing environment and requirements to sizing the solution, to implementing, supporting and maintaining it.
Partners bring years of experience to the table and understand not only a business's unique needs but also leverage experience with failure to avoid potential pitfalls along the way. HCI can deliver extensive value, accelerating a business's digital journey while saving them costs and enabling everything-as-a-service (X-as-a-service) potential. It's vital that businesses use a true partner who can help them get the best out of their HCI.