How do you choose between hyperconverge or external disk arrays?

My customers that own storage arrays that are aging ask me the same question: Is it time to make the transition to hyperconvergence, or should I just stick with the same external disk arrays I’ve been using?

It’s an important decision, but let’s start with looking at the key differences between them before we can get to some advice.

What is hyperconvergence?

This is IT architecture that combines storage networking, storage resources, servers  and virtualisation. It consolidates them all together to make up building blocks that can be managed and scaled up together. HPE SimpliVity goes to the next step: it integrates WAN optimisation, backup and disaster recovery capabilities in a software-defined all-flash platform to extend functionality.

So, when is hyperconvergence right for you? Firstly, it’s for a 100% virtualised environment. It’s ideal if you want to deploy pre-provisioned server and storage nodes in predictable increments. HPE SimpliVIty integrates backup and restore, which is guaranteed to significantly lower your storage footprint by at least 90%

What are external disk arrays?

They are storage devices that stand-alone and allow customers the flexibility to scale and manage storage and compute separately, and to share storage across multiple devices to create a SAN.

When are external disk arrays right for you? They’re perfect for businesses that want to manage servers and storage separately. They provide more flexibility to you to scale storage independent from other IT resources. Meanwhile, some disk arrays give you the flexibility to use more controllers as IO requirements grow for your business. As an example, Nimble lets you upgrade controllers if you need more IO or capacity, while HPE 3PAR can scale up from two to eight controller nodes.

So the big difference is that external disk arrays are standalone devices and hyperconverged architecture are consolidated platforms.

There are three other sets of factors that you should consider.

1. Simplicity or flexibility

What is more important for you and your business: simplicity or flexibility? The answer will affect what direction you lean towards.

In terms of product features, technologies take different approaches to address storage functionality and capacity scalability.

My recommendation if you want simplicity is HPE SimpliVity and HPE Nimble and if you ’re willing to trade off some flexibility of configuration.

On the other hand, I recommend HPE 3PAR for customers that want full feature sets and configuration flexibility, especially for the most demanding environments. HPE 3PAR storage arrays are more difficult to manage than Nimble and SimpliVity but provide you with the widest set of storage features.

HPE Nimble can provide you with a simple new approach to support and storage. However, it is more complicated to manage than SimpliVity when backup and disaster recovery is implemented.

HPE SimpliVity really is simple, as hinted at by the name. It simplifies the whole IT stack by combining servers, storage, storage network, hypervisor, backups and DR in one hyperconverged device. This simplifies managing IT considerably. But even though the components have been tested and performance-matched to work together, it reduces the flexibility somehow to tailor the platform to your specific requirements. As they say, not all workloads are created equal.

2. Application workloads and data accessibility

Data is the most precious asset for a company. If it’s inaccessible or you have slow data access, it can drive a company out of business. So, a company’s chosen technology must make data readily accessible to meet its specific requirements.

Data is accessed by application in most environments. So, whether virtualised applications, databases, VDI or hybrid cloud, technology must suit the application workloads.

What is suitable then?

  • Virtualisation: I start with HPE SimpliVity for 100% VMware or Hyper-V environments, and consider external disk arrays when a driver is the scale of the enterprise.
  • High performing database/applications: When high IO is critical to the application, I recommend external disk arrays. Block storage still provides the lowest latency and faster IO and with the right configuration can achieve over 1M IOPS.
  • VDI: I recommend HPE SimpliVity for desktop virtualisation for its ability to optimise provisioning, deployment and protection. HPE delivers improved VM density, performance and scalability.
  • Hybrid cloud: Other technologies like HPE Synergy may offer more flexibility and performance for hybrid cloud deployments but either option is fine.
  • Large data sets: When the application needs to access large data sets of at least 100TB, external disk arrays offer a business better scalability.
  • Heterogeneous environments: Hyperconvergence is not an option when a mix of physical and virtual workloads is required – so external disk arrays are the right choice, although does anyone need to run physical workloads these days?

3. The total cost of ownership

You can’t avoid a consideration of costs. Hyperconverged technologies, especially HPE SimpliVity, may look like it will involve a higher capital outlay but the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is in fact less than traditional IT architecture with three tiers. You can use our TCO calculator for to compare both options or make a quick estimation.

Helping you make the right choice

Sometimes the best advice is to get good advice. Even if you’ve got your head around whether you prefer simplicity or flexibility, how applications and data will best be served and the costs, it can still be difficult to make a decision.

You might have complex requirements but not the IT skills to deploy and administer all the components in a complex system. You might have advanced skill sets but not the budget. You might have both the skills and budget but not be really clear on your future requirements or growth.

In all these scenarios, you risk making the wrong choice and getting locked into a technology for the lifecycle of the investment. The truth is there’s no one simple answer as to which is the best technology, but NTT ICT can help you understand your options, consider the variables and then assist you in making the right decision. Get in contact with an NTT ICT expert to help you make the best choice to address your particular technical and business requirements.

Orlando Garcia NTT ICT Australia web
Author Name: Orlando Garcia

Orlando Garcia is a HPE Solutions Consultant at NTT Communications ICT Solutions. He is a HPE technology evangelist who supports NTT ICT's HPE business by establishing mission critical platforms, or introducing HPE's next generation technologies for customers.

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Added 12 June 2018

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