Data centre infrastructure is often complex and costly for businesses to run. But in recent years hyper-converged systems have been touted as a way to offer greater flexibility, scalability and ease of management with on-premise systems.
It builds on the widespread adoption of virtualisation, and to some degree, can be seen as part of the move towards much greater automation of data centre operations.
"The broader vision of it is this software-defined data centre layer where you have got a lot more choices underneath of what your infrastructure is going to be - because most of the intelligence is built into the software," says 451 Research analyst, John Abbott. "It then diverts the workloads to the most appropriate infrastructure"
So what does hyperconvergence mean for your business, and can it be the next step in automating control of the data centre?
Hyper-converged infrastructure: What does it mean?
In simple terms, hyperconvergence is an approach to infrastructure that combines server, storage and network functions, all managed via a software layer.
This means breaking down some of the traditional silos between parts of the data centre, and - unlike converged infrastructure systems - relying on modular, commodity hardware systems. Software defined storage is a key part of this, with hyperconverged appliances using locally attached storage, rather than dedicated SANs.
Importantly, it can also mean that customers have one vendor to contact if anything goes wrong.
"The aim is to simplify IT," says Jesse St Laurent, VP of product strategy at Simplivity. "The amount of complexity is extremely high in IT infrascture and our goal is both from a capital and operating perspective to take those costs down by simplifying the infrastructure."
He says that traditional environment has "ten to twelve different things to manage - appliances and software packages and stuff like that", whereas hyper-converged infrastructure relies on a "single unified interface embedded into something you already use - your hypervisor management toolkit" to manage everything hardware.
There are two main approaches taken by vendors - either offering a pre-integrated hardware appliance, or software which can be downloaded.
For the most part it means that individual hyper-converged modules can easily be added to expand deployments, with virtual machines up and running within 15 minutes, according to some vendors.
And the market for hyper-converged systems is increasingly crowded - not surprising, given the growth being noted by industry-watchers.
According to IDC, sales of hyper-converged systems are set to reach $2 billion worldwide this year, doubling to nearly $4 billion by 2019.
Nutanix was arguably first to offer hyperconverged system in 2011 and is now reportedly valued a around $2 billion. It was quickly joined by Simplivity and other startups such as Scale Computing.
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