Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, January 29, 2022

Demystifying Hyperconverged and Hyperscale Storage 
Sponsored Content by Hedvig

Complexity is the enemy of IT. Today’s IT leaders need to simplify their infrastructure and IT operations to lower costs, improve responsiveness, and reduce risks.

Nowhere is complexity more prevalent than storage, where data is growing 10x faster than storage budgets. It’s given rise to complex tiers of primary, secondary, and tertiary storage platforms as well as islands of SAN, NAS, and object infrastructure.

What’s the best approach to simplify storage? The answer emerged from the webscale world where companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google run software-defined storage atop commodity hardware. Moving storage intelligence into software greatly simplifies data operations and the procurement, maintenance, and management of storage infrastructure.

We’ve seen two popular storage architectures rise from this trend: hyperconverged and hyperscale. Each provides distinct pros and cons.

Hyperconverged and hyperscale: Defining two approaches to software-defined storage

Hyperconverged and hyperscale both share common architectural components. They both use software-defined infrastructure and sit atop commodity servers, but differ in how they scale. Let’s examine some definitions to clarify:

  • Software-defined: Storage infrastructure where the functionality is completely decoupled from the underlying hardware and is both extensible and programmatic. Read this post for an elaboration on software-defined storage in particular.
  • Commodity-based: Infrastructure built atop commodity or industry-standard infrastructure, usually x86 rack-mount or blade servers. Components offer similar quality regardless of supplier, but don’t conflate commodity with cheap.
  • Converged: A scale-out architecture where server, storage, network, and virtualization/containerization components are tied together as a pretested, pre-integrated solution. Components are distinct in this architecture and scale in lockstep.
  • Hyperconverged: A scale-out architecture that combines software-defined components atop commodity hardware, packaged as a single solution -- often a single appliance. Components are no longer distinct and still scale in lockstep.
  • Hyperscale: A scale-out architecture that is also software-defined and commodity-based, but where the server, storage, network, and virtualization/containerization resources remain separate. Each component is distinct and independently scaled.

In summary, think of hyperconverged infrastructure as the modern, logical extreme of converged systems, whereas hyperscale is the modern, logical extreme of how we’ve been building data centers for 30 years. Both make sense for specific environments, as shown below.

When to use hyperconverged storage versus hyperscale storage

At Hedvig, we’ve noticed that about 80% of the time, customers choose a hyperscale architecture rather than hyperconverged, despite the fact we support both. What’s even more interesting is that many of our customers come to us thinking the exact opposite. About 80% initially request a hyperconverged solution, but after they get started, opt for the hyperscale approach.

Why? In a nutshell, because they favor flexibility (or agility, if you must use that term) in their infrastructure and operations. Building on the definitions above, we can provide a simple way to think about these two architectures:

hyperscale hyperconvered attributes

click to enlarge

The best approach for you comes down to how virtualized (or how containerized) your infrastructure is. Here are some guidelines to determine which solution is right for you:

  • Choose hyperscale when… your organization has 5,000 employees or more, more than 500 terabytes of data, more than 500 applications, or more than 1,000 VMs.
  • Choose hyperconverged when… you’re below these watermark numbers, have five or fewer staff managing your virtual infrastructure, or you’re in a remote or branch office.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. You can start in a hyperconverged environment, then switch to hyperscale, or you can mix and match the two. Your application needs will change over time, so should your deployment. We’d love to show you how you can get started with the Hedvig Distributed Storage Platform.

Learn how to choose the right architecture for a modern datacenter: hyperconverged or hyperscale.

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