Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a solution built upon the idea of simplicity and ease of use with storage, compute, and networking capabilities located in a single piece of hardware. While HCI has allowed for more efficient IT infrastructure management, there have been some issues with the first generation HCI solutions available in the marketplace today and their inability to be as flexible and scalable as needed. NetApp recently announced that they will launch their own hyperconverged infrastructure based on SolidFire – promising to provide the scalability and flexibility public sector customers need to support their mission. We had the opportunity to sit down with Kirk Kern the chief technology officer with NetApp US Public Sector for insights as to how this new solution will provide the agility to scale that customers are looking for. Continue reading for more.

GovDataDownload (GDD): Can you give us some background on converged and hyperconverged infrastructure? What’s the difference between the two?

Kirk Kern (KK): Converged infrastructure (CI), like NetApp’s FlexPod solution typically involves the integration of compute functions, storage, and networking in a single box, with preconfigured hardware. It offers immense flexibility in terms of scaling any one of those three components. As an example, if you need additional compute capacity, scaling out is as simple as sliding in a few compute blades and adding them to the cluster. Similarly, if you need additional storage, all you have to do is add shelves or additional controllers. You can also change and add in networking components as needed. CI offers flexibility because each of the three components can be adjusted to scale depending on the customer’s needs.

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a software defined solution that offers compute, storage, and networking in a single shared resource, making it suitable for many workloads because the infrastructure can be provisioned and configured at the software level. There are some limitations with HCI in scaling out because each node includes every resource so you can’t add or subtract compute independent of storage because the elements are fixed. For example, if you need more storage you will always deploy some compute resources with it.

GDD: What are the benefits of a hyperconverged infrastructure? Why are customers choosing hyperconverged over converged infrastructure?

KK: HCI provides efficiencies with resource and system management because one central resource is being managed instead of separate components in the stack. As such, it’s also generally perceived as faster to deploy than CI. From a cost perspective, HCI is somewhat more predictable since you have small step-based growth rather than independent resource growth. We have found that customers are looking for the ‘easy’ button, and with HCI, they don’t need to have expertise in compute, networking and storage. One box does everything – it’s all inclusive and easy to purchase.

GDD: Where do you see the industry moving with regards to converged/hyperconverged infrastructure and why?

KK: There is still a mix of agencies that choose CI versus those who use HCI, and the choice is made depending on the agency’s mission. Without a doubt, they are all looking for faster outcomes to support the work they do. Some agencies choose CI because of its flexibility while others buy HCI because of its simplicity and ease of use. At NetApp, we have invested a lot of time and resources to make the management component as simple as possible for public sector customers.

GDD: How will the new SolidFire hyperconverged infrastructure address customer demands?

KK: The NetApp HCI we’re launching will leverage SolidFire all-flash storage and NetApp Data Fabric technology that links on-premise and cloud storage. We have discovered that there are some gaps in the hypercoverged marketplace with regards to performance, flexibility, scale, and workload consolidation and our product is being built to address those needs. With first generation HCI products, users have ended up creating silos of applications, preventing them from consolidating workloads more efficiently. Our NetApp HCI solution will allow users to add more storage, compute or networking without the current fixed-node configuration. One of the ways we’ll do this is through SolidFire’s guaranteed qualtiy of service, which provides performance across thousands of applications at once. This is something that has been built into the core of the SolidFire architecture. The new product will have the flexibility in adding and subtracting nodes dynamically as requirements may change. It will be a part of Data Fabric as well – so you can move data from HCI to the traditional OnTap FAS file sharing environment and back. We’re excited to be offering something so innovative that we believe will finally address customer pain points and make operations and infrastructure management as simple as possible for them.

You can learn more about NetApp’s Data Fabric technology here.

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