Solution Provider Panel: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Doesn't Mean Throwing Out Existing IT Investments

Hyper-converged infrastructure has become a big opportunity for solution providers looking to help customers find an easy-to-deploy alternative to legacy IT infrastructures for an ever-widening range of applications.

That's the message from a panel of solution providers who Monday told an audience of their peers at this week's NexGen Cloud conference, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company, that while customers are increasingly implementing hyper-converged infrastructure, the technology is no panacea to all of their IT ills.

Hyper-converged infrastructure, which combines server, storage, virtualization and often networking into a single platform, is being driven by a customer need for simplifying their IT infrastructures, said Leif Morin, president of Key Information Systems, an Agoura Hills, Calif.-based solution provider.

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Early adopters of hyper-converged infrastructure tended to focus on specific workloads like virtual desktop infrastructure, Morin said. "But now we're seeing adoption in hardcore applications. … People want to deploy intelligent systems," he said. "They want to focus on their own workloads."

There are still plenty of customers -- and solution provider personne l-- who have yet to accept the idea of hyper-converged infrastructure as an alternative to traditional IT infrastructure, said Dan Molina, CTO of Nth Generation, a San Diego-based solution provider.

However, Molina said, that is OK as there are indeed still many workloads for which fully baked storage solutions are a better choice, especially for clients who already have legacy systems for key workloads.

"But there are many cases where customers are looking for new solutions," he said. "They want to be educated on how to move to the cloud."

Molina said a successful hyper-converged infrastructure deployment starts with a thorough total cost of ownership study. "It's hard to do," he said. "But you can't skip it. You have to plan for downtime, and look at the various components."

Understanding the total cost of ownership is not easy, said Ken Payne, chief technologist at Abba Technologies, an Albuquerque, N.M. based solution provider.

However, Payne said, customers who look at the total cost of ownership can often find huge savings versus traditional IT infrastructures, Payne said. "And big dollars talk. … We find we're sometimes saving customers 100 percent," he said.

Adopting hyper-converged infrastructure does not mean throwing away existing IT investments, Nth Generation's Molina said. Instead, most of the projects for which hyper-converged infrastructure is implemented are new opportunities, he said.

Nth Generation, for instance, continues to invest in its Hewlett Packard Enterprise blade server and 3Par storage business to meet continuing cloud and other business requirements even as its hyper-converged infrastructure business grows, Molina said. "Customers can move to hyper-converged infrastructure at their leisure. … They don't [all] have plans to move away from traditional IT," he said.

For all the hype hyper-converged infrastructure is generating, it is not really accelerating any customer moves away from traditional data centers, Molina said. "We're seeing the changes in on-prem data centers in parallel with the rise of hyper-converged infrastructure, not because of it," he said.

Instead, customers who implement hyper-converged infrastructure actually find they are expanding their applications and workloads, including new offerings such as disaster recovery they might not have considered before, which means data center spending is static or actually rises, Molina said.

Abba Technologies' Payne said that is certainly the case in his own company's data center where the introduction of hyper-converged infrastructure did lead to a decrease in data center footprint. "But what we did with that space has quadrupled," he said.