Hyperconverged infrastructure was born from fairly humble beginnings almost a decade ago. And while they haven’t taken over the world’s data centers as many predicted, these hybrid virtualized server storage platforms now sport virtual networking and management software integrated into a single appliance. and have found their place.
HCI first established itself in a few niche markets, in particular virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for companies with somewhat distributed workforces (a demand that only accelerated during the pandemic of COVID-19).
However, since that time, the HMI market has grown, in several dimensions, including spending. IDC analysts said in March that hyperconverged infrastructure continues to be the largest and fastest growing segment in the largest converged systems space. In the fourth quarter of 2020, HCI’s worldwide revenue increased 7.4% year-on-year to $ 2.5 billion, representing 54.2% of the overall converged systems market.
It has also become a highly competitive space, crowded with traditional hardware and software makers such as Dell Technologies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco Systems, and Nutanix. VMware is also a major player in the market, both through its collaboration with Dell on the Dell-branded VxRail HCI as well as through its own software offering which includes its virtualized storage offering vSAN, the vSphere hypervisor, the platform NSX virtual network and vRealize Suite. for data center and cloud management. VMware tops IDC’s HCI software vendor list with 38.7% market share, well ahead of Nutanix.
What VMware and others are seeing now is another evolution of HCI – in the types of applications that run in highly integrated environments. In a survey released this month – the results are presented in an ebook – the virtualization and cloud software maker found that organizations are increasingly relying on hyperconverged infrastructures to run some of their most critical applications.
In a 2017 survey of over 300 organizations, the company found that the top three types of software applications deployed on HCI were relational databases (67% of respondents), Microsoft applications (26%), and VDI (21%). This year, VMware surveyed more than 600 users in North and South America as well as Europe, and found that companies were rapidly shifting their analytics workloads from Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning and container orchestration to HCI (below).
The company also found that 86% of those surveyed said they plan to make HCI the standard for most of their future deployments. It was all nice to see but not necessarily surprising, according to Lee Caswell, vice president of marketing for VMware’s Cloud Platform Business Unit. VMware, like other HCI vendors, has added capabilities to its HCI offerings to improve the performance and capacity needed to keep up with modern workloads and the company’s ongoing transition to hybrid cloud environments.
vSAN comes with all-flash support, including NVMe, and other storage technologies, with the largest cluster sizes running over 9 million IOPS. The vSAN 7 Update 1 software upgrade, released in September, improves performance by up to 30% with enhancements such as processor optimizations, network enhancements, and improved parallelization. It can scale from two to 64 nodes per cluster and can scale through nodes added to a host or drives to existing nodes. Additionally, in September, VMware released HCI Mesh, which disaggregates compute and storage and allows it to scale to clusters or by allowing vSAN clusters to share capacity with non-HCI clusters.
VMware has also integrated Kubernetes directly into the hypervisor to enable its HCI offerings to better support containers. the acquisition of Pivotal in 2019 and enables organizations to run and manage both virtual machines and containers.
âAt VMware. we took traditional applications – and by that I mean like databases and Microsoft applications – and virtualized them, âsays Caswell The next platform. âBut more and more applications are being developed using containers. A lot of people thought early on that containers were going to be the end of VMware because they looked alike on some level. The containers virtualized some of the properties of the operating system. But here’s what we found to be true: Containers are about speed of development and therefore container development environmentsâ¦ basically allow you to build applications, test them and develop them much faster. At the same time, you want to deploy these applications on a proven resilient enterprise infrastructure. This is what VMware has. What we hoped to be true turned out to be true, which was that containers would be deployed in virtual machines.
HCI has also become a key enabler of hybrid clouds. According to VMware’s survey, more than half of respondents cited the ability to extend vSAN between on-premises sites and the public cloud as a significant benefit. The goal is to provide businesses with a single operating and management environment that can run in data centers and public clouds. VMware has been aggressive in extending the reach of its offerings beyond the data center and into the cloud through innovation and partnerships with leading cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
âYou’re going to have this distributed cloud environment,â Caswell says. âThe question then becomes: how do you manage these multicloud endpoints? I have my private cloud here and I have something on google here and so on. What VMware offers is the same stack that runs on-premises and in each of the public points of presence. Now our hybrid cloud modelâ¦ leaves clouds aside for users and that means you have exactly the same consistent operating model. We can still vMotion on all servers, but now with that you have the same storage unit, the same server, you have the same security model across the whole hybrid cloud. If you look at the results, the hybrid cloud is actually the number one reason people switch to HCI. They want this model of operating the system and investment protection because no one knows where they will be three years from now. They all make it up. You now have this really interesting and consistent model across the entire hybrid cloud.
HCI will continue to evolve, especially in three directions, he says. The first is in the workloads. Hyperconverged infrastructure caters to various databases and containers. Next up is AI, Caswell says. For VMware, that means working with GPU maker Nvidia. In September, at the VMworld 2021 virtual event, Nvidia Founder and CEO Jensen Huang and then VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, now Intel CEO, talked about a partnership. expanded to include VMware integrating Nvidia’s NGC suite of AI-optimized software into its cloud. and with VMware’s âProject Montereyâ to create a hardware architecture for the VMware Cloud Foundation hybrid cloud platform to run modern applications more efficiently.
The goal is to ensure that businesses will be able to run AI workloads on HCI rather than bare metal without losing performance.
“This means that if you are an airline, you will be able to perform automated searches for lost baggage faster, âhe says. âIf you’re in the retail business, you’ll be able to make an automated payment with built-in fraud detection. You will be able to live monitor a retail environment or traffic flows to facilitate product placements. These are exciting new use cases. The idea is that most of these AI and ML deployments are done by data scientists and the average deployment takes over 40 weeks to get them in place. VMware is basically making sure that in the enterprise, the idea that AI could be applied to every business right now in HCI becomes that way of doing things and deploying it in a really transparent way. This new workload is going to be really critical.
Likewise, VMware will leverage data processing units (DPUs) to handle data-intensive workloads. One of the keys to DPUs is that they operate independently of the CPU, rather than subordinate to it, says Caswell. This allows the DPU to offload non-computer tasks from the CPU and then the HCI to perform them. Additionally, the DPU can be used to perform core-intensive security tasks, such as distributed firewalls and secure boot, and VMware can run its software on the chip.
âIt opens up a big market for us to have basically a business model to run their metal applications where you might want to run them on bare metal for performance or license for other purposes,â he says. .