Kentik - Network Observability

Hyperconverged Infrastructure

In the rapidly changing world of IT, conventional infrastructure and systems often struggle to keep pace with evolving business needs. The demands for flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiency continue to rise, driving the evolution of IT infrastructure.

What is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is a modern approach to IT infrastructure that integrates computing, storage, and networking resources into a single, software-defined system. This distributed infrastructure leverages storage arrays and hardware to streamline IT operations and enhance the efficiency of storage systems and networking resources through virtualization.

Hyperconvergence Technology: A Brief History

Early Siloed Infrastructure

Data center infrastructure was originally siloed, with separate management of compute, storage, and networking components. This approach was efficient but difficult to scale and manage.

Convergence and Virtualization

The introduction of converged infrastructure (CI) bundled these components into pre-engineered units, improving efficiency. However, scaling still involved buying more units, leading to possible over-provisioning and increased costs.

Virtualization technology allowed the creation of virtual versions of physical components, improving resource utilization and flexibility. This led to the creation of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), combining compute, storage, and networking into a single, software-defined unit managed through a unified software interface, simplifying management and scaling.

The Impact of HCI

HCI aligned IT resources with business priorities, enhancing data protection, reducing infrastructure costs, and maximizing operational efficiency. Today, HCI is a key part of modern data center strategies, facilitating private and hybrid cloud environments, edge computing, and the integration of AI and automation technologies. The evolution of HCI continues with new technologies and business needs, shaping the future of data center infrastructure.

While Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) and cloud computing might seem like separate entities, they are deeply interconnected in modern IT strategies. Both HCI and cloud computing aim to deliver a flexible, scalable, and efficient IT infrastructure. They each have unique advantages and, when used together, can often provide a solution greater than the sum of its parts.

HCI and Private Clouds

HCI can serve as an ideal foundation for a private cloud setup. A private cloud is a cloud computing model where IT services are delivered over a private IT infrastructure for the dedicated use of a single organization. This setup gives the organization enhanced control over data, infrastructure, and security.

Given its integrated nature, HCI is often used to form the backbone of private cloud environments. By providing a consolidated, easy-to-manage platform, HCI helps businesses set up and maintain private clouds without the complexities and inefficiencies often associated with traditional IT infrastructure.

The virtualization capabilities of HCI enable efficient resource allocation and improved scalability - essential features for running a private cloud. The unified management interface simplifies IT operations, making it easier to manage the private cloud and adjust resources as per business needs.

HCI and Public Clouds

HCI can also connect on-premises data centers with public cloud resources, enabling a hybrid cloud environment. In a hybrid cloud setup, data and applications can move between private and public clouds for greater flexibility and more deployment options.

Hyperconverged systems can integrate seamlessly with public cloud platforms, providing a consistent and unified management experience across on-premises and cloud resources. This integration facilitates the efficient transfer of workloads between environments, allowing businesses to leverage the scalability of public clouds while maintaining the security and control of an on-premises infrastructure.

Furthermore, HCI’s built-in data protection and disaster recovery features also have applications in hybrid cloud environments. These features ensure that data remains safe and accessible, even when moving between on-premises and cloud environments.

HCI in Multi-Cloud Environments

As businesses increasingly adopt multi-cloud strategies—using multiple public cloud services in combination with private cloud or on-premises infrastructure—HCI’s role becomes even more critical.

HCI can provide a centralized, streamlined platform for managing resources across multiple clouds. This can significantly simplify multi-cloud management, reducing the complexity of tracking resources, managing security, and optimizing performance across different cloud environments.

However, integrating HCI with multi-cloud environments can present some challenges. It requires careful planning to ensure compatibility between the HCI platform and different cloud services. Additionally, network connectivity and data transfer speeds can impact the performance and efficiency of a multi-cloud setup.

HCI and cloud computing are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they complement each other to provide a versatile, efficient, and scalable IT infrastructure that meets the evolving needs of businesses. By understanding the relationship between HCI and cloud computing, organizations can make more informed decisions about their IT strategy and leverage the strengths of both approaches.

Converged vs. Hyperconveged Infrastructures

While both converged and hyperconverged infrastructures aim to streamline IT operations by integrating computing, data storage, and networking resources, they function differently. Converged infrastructure combines these components into a single optimized package, while hyperconverged infrastructure further enhances this integration by leveraging software-defined solutions, reducing hardware dependency and operational costs.

How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Works

Components of HCI

Hyperconverged infrastructure operates through the integration and virtualization of several key components:


At the heart of HCI is the concept of virtualization, the process of creating digital versions, or “virtual instances,” of physical components such as servers, storage devices, and network resources. In a traditional IT environment, these resources can be underutilized, as each serves a specific purpose and cannot be repurposed on the fly.

Virtualization fundamentally changes this dynamic. By abstracting the software from the hardware, virtualization allows each physical resource to be split into multiple virtual ones that can be used more flexibly and efficiently. For example, a single physical server can host multiple virtual servers, each running its own operating system and applications. This flexibility means resources can be allocated and adjusted as needed, enabling better utilization and scalability. Furthermore, virtualization enhances disaster recovery capabilities by allowing entire servers, including their operating systems and applications, to be backed up or replicated.

Software-Defined Storage (SDS)

In a hyperconverged environment, storage is typically handled by a Software-Defined Storage (SDS) system. Traditional storage systems often tie specific software functionalities to dedicated hardware. In contrast, SDS decouples the storage software from its hardware, making it possible to manage and automate storage resources independently from the underlying infrastructure.

This decoupling provides several benefits: It allows for enhanced flexibility: storage resources can be allocated and adjusted dynamically without manual intervention. It supports better scalability: as storage needs grow, additional storage resources can be added to the SDS without disrupting existing operations. By reducing dependence on proprietary hardware, SDS can help lower costs.


In a hyperconverged infrastructure, networking is also typically software-defined. This means that software now implements the networking functions that were once tied to specific hardware devices such as routers, switches, and firewalls.

Software-defined networking enables the creation of virtual networks that can be managed independently from the physical network. These virtual networks can be created, adjusted, and removed on the fly, providing a level of flexibility that’s hard to achieve with traditional networking hardware. Furthermore, software-defined networking enhances security by allowing for micro-segmentation, where each workload can be isolated in its own network segment.

Management Software

One of the advantages of HCI is the simplification of management. This is largely achieved through unified management software, which provides a single interface for managing all infrastructure components.

With traditional infrastructure, each component (servers, storage devices, network devices) typically has its own management interface, which requires specific knowledge and skills to operate. This complexity can lead to inefficiencies and errors.

In contrast, HCI’s unified management platform simplifies these tasks by providing a single point of control. This can greatly reduce the time and effort required for tasks such as provisioning new resources, adjusting configurations, monitoring system health, and troubleshooting issues. The unified management platform also enhances visibility across the entire infrastructure, making optimizing resource usage and performance easier.

By comprehensively understanding these components, one can better appreciate how HCI delivers its benefits of flexibility, scalability, and simplified management. However, it’s important to note that the implementation of these components can vary between different HCI solutions, depending on the specific technologies and architectures used.

Key Features of HCI

Hyperconverged infrastructures offer the following important features:

  • Scalability: HCI solutions are designed to scale easily, allowing businesses to add resources as needed to meet growing demand.
  • Flexibility: Thanks to its software-defined nature, HCI provides the flexibility to adapt to changing business needs and workloads.
  • Resilience: HCI provides built-in resilience features like data replication and redundancy, reducing the risk of data loss and improving disaster recovery capabilities.
  • Simplified Management: With all resources managed from a single interface, HCI simplifies the complexity of IT management.

Why Hyper Converged Infrastructure? Benefits of HCI

Modern data centers face several challenges, including managing an increasing variety of workloads, maintaining performance and uptime, and reducing costs. Traditional data center infrastructures often struggle to meet these demands due to their complex, siloed nature. In contrast, HCI offers a range of benefits:

  • Cost savings: By consolidating resources and simplifying management, HCI can significantly reduce both capital and operational expenses.
  • Increased performance and efficiency: HCI solutions optimize resource use, reducing wastage and enhancing performance.
  • Simplified management and maintenance: With a single interface for managing all resources, HCI significantly simplifies IT management and maintenance tasks.
  • Scalability and flexibility: HCI allows for easy and efficient scaling of resources, providing the flexibility to adapt to changing business needs and workloads.
  • Multi-cloud support: HCI can support multi-cloud strategies by integrating seamlessly with public cloud resources, providing a consistent management experience across environments.
  • Security and data protection: HCI solutions often include built-in security and data protection features, enhancing the resilience of the IT environment.

Networking in HCI: The Need for Observability

In a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), networking is typically handled through software-defined networking (SDN), which abstracts networking hardware, allowing administrators to manage network services through a centralized, automated interface. While this abstraction simplifies networking tasks and offers greater flexibility, it also introduces new network monitoring and performance management complexities.

Because HCI environments are highly dynamic, with virtual machines, containers, and services being continuously created, modified, and moved, it becomes even more critical to have network observability. Network observability gives NetOps professionals insights into the performance, health, and dependencies of all network elements, allowing them to identify and resolve issues faster, optimize network performance, and ensure reliable service delivery.

Monitoring Network Performance in HCI

Hyperconverged infrastructures can benefit significantly from advanced network performance monitoring (NPM) tools. These tools can provide granular visibility into the HCI environment, tracking key real-time performance indicators (KPIs) like bandwidth usage, latency, packet loss, and network congestion.

Any performance issue can have a ripple effect in an HCI environment, where compute, storage, and networking are tightly integrated. For instance, high storage I/O can impact network latency, which in turn can affect application performance. Therefore, NetOps professionals must have comprehensive visibility into all aspects of their HCI environment to quickly identify where issues may be occurring.

NPM tools can also offer valuable insights for capacity planning and infrastructure optimization in HCI. For example, they can help identify trends and patterns, forecast future network capacity requirements, and ensure resources are used efficiently.

The Role of AI and Machine Learning

Advanced NPM tools that leverage AI and machine learning can be particularly valuable in HCI environments. These tools can analyze large volumes of network data, detect patterns, and provide predictive insights to proactively identify potential issues before they impact network performance. For example, they can alert NetOps teams to unusual network traffic patterns that may indicate a security threat or predict impending network congestion based on current usage trends.

Network Automation in HCI

Given the dynamic nature of HCI, network automation plays a critical role. Automation can help ensure consistent network configurations across the HCI environment, reducing manual errors and increasing operational efficiency. In the context of network monitoring, automation can be used to trigger alerts or remediation actions when certain conditions are met, such as a spike in network traffic or a sudden drop in performance.

Automated network management tools can integrate with HCI platforms to maintain the health and performance of the network. For instance, if the monitoring tool detects a congested network link, it can automatically reroute traffic to less congested links to balance the load and maintain optimal performance.

As HCI environments continue to grow in complexity and scale, network observability, performance monitoring, and automation will be critical for maintaining the network’s health, performance, and efficiency. As a company focused on network observability and monitoring, Kentik’s tools can provide valuable insights and automation capabilities to help NetOps professionals effectively manage their HCI environments.

Conclusion: The Future of HCI

The rapid evolution of business needs and technological capabilities suggests a bright future for HCI. Emerging trends such as increased automation, AI integration, and edge computing are likely to further enhance the benefits of HCI. As these trends evolve, HCI is poised to become an even more integral part of data center management strategies.

FAQs: Hyperconverged Infrastructure

How does Hyperconverged Infrastructure support mission-critical workloads?

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) is well-suited for mission-critical workloads due to its inherent resiliency and high-performance capabilities. By tightly integrating computing, storage, and networking resources in a unified system, HCI ensures reliable and efficient handling of vital business operations.

Can existing hardware be used with Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Most HCI solutions are built to be hardware-agnostic, meaning they can seamlessly integrate with your existing hardware. This flexibility allows businesses to leverage their current infrastructure investments while transitioning to a hyperconverged approach.

What is the effect of Hyperconverged Infrastructure on network bandwidth?

HCI introduces efficiency to the network through advanced virtualization techniques, which can lead to a reduction in network bandwidth requirements for certain workloads. This optimization results in better network performance and can significantly streamline IT operations.

Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure more costly than traditional data center infrastructure?

While the upfront investment in Hyperconverged Infrastructure might be higher compared to traditional data center infrastructure, the total cost of ownership (TCO) can often be lower in the long run. This is due to factors such as reduced operational expenses, improved resource utilization, and increased overall efficiency that HCI brings to the table.

What is an example of hyperconverged infrastructure?

A practical example of hyperconverged infrastructure in action is an HCI appliance. This device effectively merges compute, storage, and networking resources into a single, scalable unit, which is managed through a streamlined software interface. HCI appliances can be utilized in a variety of scenarios, ranging from forming the backbone of a private cloud infrastructure to supporting specific enterprise applications.

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