By: Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO, Scale Computing
There is a technology gaining rapid interest across the financial services industry: Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI). This is a software-defined solution that enables seamless connection of systems, bulletproof protection of data, and significant increases in agility, as well as an overall reduction of all associated costs. With all that to offer, it is no surprise that the financial services industry, and building societies in particular, are looking at HCI as a key part of their digital transformation strategies.
As billions of smart devices spread across the planet, each with the ability to connect, communicate, share, and analyse data, it is no surprise that, along with virtually every other sector, IoT offers the financial services sector a truly unique opportunity to transform IT and business processes, and deliver greater value and experiences to customers (CX).
With IoT, not only can customers access their finances, as well as financial information and applications in real-time, from anywhere at anytime, but banks can better view, manage, control and protect all of their customers’ data. Moreover, that customer data can then be analysed and leveraged to create and deliver solutions and services specifically tailored to meet current and emerging customer wants and needs, which in turn drives increases in customer loyalty, revenues, profits and the bottom-line, as well as shareholder value.
Similarly, edge computing is spurring otherwise unattainable advances, enabling financial services organisations to decentralise the workload, and to collect and process data at the edge or nearest to where the work is actually occurring, which can overcome the “last mile” latency issues. In addition to reducing complexity and enabling easier collection and initial analysing of data in real time.
Along with other financial institutions, building societies can deploy edge data centers that can also be leveraged to offload processing work near end users, acting as an intermediary between the IoT edge devices and larger enterprises hosting the high-end compute resources, for a more in-depth processing and analytics. However, many financial organisations have faced a number of challenges as they have endeavored to deploy, manage and reap the benefits of IoT and edge computing. And, that’s where hyperconvergence can make all of the difference.
However, the common misuse and misunderstanding of the term hyperconvergence has led to confusion and continues to serve as a barrier for those that could otherwise benefit immensely from an IT, business agility, and profitability standpoint. Let’s try to clear up that confusion here.
Say goodbye to the inverted pyramid of doom
Before hyperconverged infrastructure, there was the inverted pyramid of doom. This refers to a 3-2-1 model of system architecture. And, while it can get the job done in a few key areas, it is the polar opposite of what a businesses truly want or need today.
The 3-2-1 model is a scenario where there are virtualisation servers or virtual machines (VMs) running three or more clustered host servers, connected by two network switches, backed by a single storage device – most often, a storage area network (SAN). The issue here is that the virtualisation host relies totally on the network, which in turn relies totally on the single SAN. To say it another way, everything rests upon a single point of failure – the SAN.
Welcome to hyperconverged
Reduction in cost is only one of the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure. By utilising a native hypervisor, the storage can be architected and embedded directly with the hypervisor, eliminating inefficient storage protocols, file systems, and VSAs. The most efficient data paths allow direct access between the VM and the storage; this has only been achieved when the hypervisor vendor is the same as the storage vendor. When the vendor owns the components, it can design the hypervisor and storage to directly interact, resulting in a huge increase in efficiency and performance.
On top of storage efficiency, having the hypervisor included natively in the solution eliminates another vendor which increases management efficiency. A single vendor that provides the servers, storage, and hypervisor makes the overall solution much easier to support, update, patch, and manage without the traditional compatibility issues and vendor finger-pointing. Ease of management represents a significant savings in both time and training from the IT budget.
HCI: the silver lining to every cloud
The cloud and its benefits are well established, and most financial organisations have already leveraged it, whether from an on-premises, remote or public cloud platform, or more commonly a combination of each (i.e. hybrid-cloud).
Hyperconverged infrastructure, as a fully functional virtualisation platform, can nearly always be implemented alongside other infrastructure solutions, as well as integrated with cloud computing. For example, with nested virtualisation in cloud platforms, a hyperconverged infrastructure solution can be extended into the cloud for a unified management experience.
Like cloud computing, a hyperconverged infrastructure is so easy to manage that it enables IT administrators to focus on apps and workloads, rather than be tied down managing infrastructure all day as is common in 3-2-1. A hyperconverged infrastructure is not only fast and easy to implement, but it can be scaled out rapidly when needed. A hyperconverged infrastructure should absolutely be considered along with cloud computing for any data center modernisation.