Does the H in HCI matter?

If twitter is where the conversation is then you might be following the debate about what exactly is HCI? and does it matter? Does it matter if the H in HCI is for Hypervisor or Hybrid if the outcome is the same? If the H is still really all about the hypervisor, then does it matter which one is used? What about the infrastructure, is it important or invisible in a software defined world?

Its cards on the table time. I have spent a large part of my time the last few years working on Hyperconverged appliances. I make no secret that one of the reasons I fell head over heels for this technology and decided to become an evangelist of HCI – is because it makes the day job much easier. I spend half my time talking about HCI and the other half using it for customer POCs and Demos. I have been able to deploy, expand, update and redeploy customer POC requests on-demand because I’m using HCI appliance technology to do it. If I get a customer request to build out a simple POD of HCI or a more complex multi-site “stretch” scenario the effort is not that much different tbh – as the secret is in the automation integrated directly into the solution.

I tend to speak about the “appliance experience” when i talk to customers about the HCI form factor.  This begins with easy and accurate sizing using free tools from Dell EMC like Live Optics to right-size the infrastructure. These tools are critically important for customers new to HCI that are used to traditional data center technologies. Hyper-converged is simple to scale out, so the sizing work is for the existing or planned workload, and doesn’t require planning for unknown future business requirements.  The deployment experience should be automated and not require the services of an infrastructure scientist to complete. Tools to pre-check the network and make the planned install run smoothly should be used. Ultimately the goal is to have a solution that is as easy to use and as simple to support as any household appliance that we have come to reply upon. If we can do this, it becomes accepted and the new standard.

The appliance experience is not necessarily guaranteed just because you decide to design and market a HCI solution.  The simplicity in achieving business outcomes that customers want to enjoy is only realized when the entire experience is made as easy to consume as the public cloud. This means from design to sizing, deployment to day-2-operations and updating and upgrades it needs to be simple. Behind the scenes of any solution, is an engineering, services, support and sales effort that must be able to deliver today and design for tomorrow as technology changes. This requires tight integration with the hardware, software and hypervisor roadmaps that go into what makes a HCI appliance.  If the solution is cobbled together from different places; hardware from one vendor, hypervisor from another vendor, software for cloud from another vendor; who does the customer call when something goes wrong?

The reason I love using my VxRail HCI appliances is the pure simplicity in being able to quickly respond to a customer POC request.  The truth is I’m not an expert in hardware, virtualization, storage or even networking – and yet I can use an automated appliance that does most of the work for me! What started out as a small 3 node cluster in a badly placed corner rack of my shared lab has grown over time. I now look after (at last count) 3 x 2U clusters-in-a-box, 2 x VDI based clusters, an 8 node stretch, and I’m working on a future HCI lab that focuses more up the stack… showcasing tech like Pivotal PAS, PKS, NSX and RP4VMs.

This is my first post for #BlogtoberTech.  In the next post, i will dig into the detail around what makes the VxRail HCI appliance so successful for customers.


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