"The hyper-converged vendors are saying that this is an easier way of doing it - it is modular, supports new application models, is cheaper than traditional big systems and easier to scale."
Jesse St Laurent, VP of product strategy at Simplivity claims the total cost of ownership of its systems can actually be lower than going to public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services. However, he adds that cost should not be the main consideration for where to place workloads.
"The message is 'don't assume that to get the agility you are seeking in your business, you need to rush out and move to the public cloud'," says St Laurent. "Often IT organisations would prefer to be internal - but it is this need for agility."
However, hyper-convergered infrastructure is also seen as a way of bridging the gap to the public cloud.
The University of Wolverhampton - which has 21,000 students and 2,400 staff - is using HPE's HC 250 hyper-converged appliance, which supports the Helion OpenStack platform. This will make it easier to move workloads to public cloud providers where necessary.
"This gives us the ability to move services from our own private cloud to public cloud and between public cloud vendors," says Dean Harris, assistant director for ICT Infrastructure at the university.
Hyper-converged infrastructure: Automation and scalability
Customers that have invested in hyper-converged infrastructure say the scalability and ease of deployment are some of the main advantages.
Harris says that investing in hyper-converged appliances allows the university's IT department to be far more agile in reacting to business demands, acting as a "broker" to internal resources or external cloud services.
"That puts us in a very strong position as an internal service provider," he says.
Automation is a key aspect of this. Harris adds that easier management means the university's first-line support and service desk can maintain its infrastructure. This frees up systems engineers to "deliver projects of value, and that makes a difference to the business."
"It is not just easier to manage, it is the skill level required," he says.
"Currently I have my systems engineer managing my storage environment because they need to know about firewalls, networking and LUN structures.
"With hyper-converged systems it is just lumps of storage, it is logical, and it is not all about the technical detail, so your level of skill can be reduced and allow your higher level of expertise staff to really focus on the most value-added things."
Hyper-converged infrastructure: Challenges and drawbacks
There are a number of areas where hyper-converged systems fall short, however.
Some say that running large, mission-critical applications is less suited to the hyper-converged model - one of the reasons why adoption has been lower among larger enterprises so far.
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