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Why Choose HCI Over Other Virtualization Approaches?

Level 13

This is the second of a series of five posts on the market space for hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI).

To be clear, as the previous blog post outlined, there are many options in this space. Evaluation of your needs and clear understanding of why you want to choose a solution shouldn’t be made lightly. Complete understanding of what you hope to accomplish and why you wish to go with one of these solutions should be evaluated and understood, and this information should guide you in your decision-making process.

Here’s a current listing of industry players in hyperconverged.

  • Stratoscale
  • Pivot3
  • DellEMC​ Vx series
  • NetApp
  • Huawei
  • VMware
  • Nutanix
  • HPE SimpliVity
  • HyperGrid
  • Hitachi Data Systems (Ventara)
  • Cisco
  • Datrium

There are more, but these are the biggest names today.

Each technology falls toward the top of the solutions set required by the Gartner HCI Magic Quadrant (MQ). The real question is: which is the right one for you?

Questions to Ask When Choosing Hyperconvergence Vendors

Organizations should ask lots of questions to determine what vendor(s) to pursue. Those questions shouldn’t be based on the placement in the Gartner MQ, but rather your organization’s direction, requirements, and what’s already in use.

You also shouldn’t ignore the knowledge base of your technical staff. For example, I wouldn’t want to put a KVM-only hypervisor requirement in the hands of a historically VMware-only staff without understanding the learning curve and potential for mistakes. Are you planning on using virtual machines or containers? There are considerations to this. What about a cloud element? While most architectures support cloud, you should ask what cloud platform and what applications will you be using?

One of the biggest variables to be considered is and always should be backup, recovery, and DR. Do you have a plan in place? Will your existing environment support this vendor’s approach? Do you believe you’ve evaluated the full spectrum of how this will be done? The elements to set one platform apart are how the storage in the environment handles tasks like replication, deduplication, redundancies, fault tolerance, encryption, and compression. In my mind, the concern as to how this is handled, and how it might be able to integrate into your existing environment, must be considered.

I’d also be concerned about how the security regulations your organization faces are considered in the architecture of your choice. Will that affect the vendor you choose? It can, but it may not even be relevant.

I would also be concerned about the company’s track record. We assume Cisco, NetApp, or HPE will be around, as they’ve been there with support and solutions for decades. To be fair, longevity isn’t the only method for corporate evaluation, but it’s a very reasonable concern when it comes to supporting the environment, future technology breakthroughs, enhancements, and maybe the next purchase, should it be appropriate.

Now, my goal here isn’t to make recommendations, but to urge readers to narrow down a daunting list, and then evaluate the features and functions most relevant to your organization. Should a true evaluation be undertaken, my recommendation would be to do some research into the depth of your company’s needs, and those that can be resolved by placing a device or series of them in your environment.

The decision can last years, change the direction of how your virtual servers exist in your environment, and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. That said, Hyperconverged Infrastructure has been one of the biggest shifts in the market over the last few years. 

Level 13

thanks for this. I learned many years ago that it's not about up sizing or down sizing. It's about right sizing - the solution for any requirement has to fit the all requirements. Too big or too small ends up costing more money than getting it right in the first place.

Level 14

Thanks for the article.  It's true that one size does not fit all. 

Level 13

Thankfully we'd been around this tree a few times, so we were pretty aware of the things to keep front of mind when specifying our environment.  One thing that always seems to surprise people is how long these systems can end up being in production - often well past the time when you originally thought they would be replaced.  Making sure you've sized it correctly, especially no undercutting your growth requirements, is huge.  Even though the vendor is solid and there are expansion options those will cease to be available within a fairly short time frame after you go live.  Expandability doesn't mean much if the parts aren't available.

Level 12

The best way to consider the knowledge base of your technical staff is to get their input before making purchase decisions.

I'm probably not the only tech here who wishes management would do this.

Level 13

@BrianJ I do agree, and in my experience, the best organizations don't unilaterally make decisions, but do poll the IT group for opinions. Even better, when I'm doing my discovery from a reseller perspective, these key individuals should be in the room, offer up their painpoints to help to guide the conversation. It can make the conversation run longer, but it's worth it. Those at the top making decisions who do not listen to their employees are not leading all that well.


Thanks for the article.

Level 11

Thanks for the article.

Level 14

Looked at HCI for our infrastructure refresh but decided to go with HP pizza boxes and retain VMWare as we all know it, spares will still be available in 5 years and it is a lot cheaper.  We can still add compute, storage and memory whenever we like.  We've only got about 200 servers on our current VM setup anyway.

Level 12

thanks for the post

About the Author
Hi, I'm Matt Leib. I'm an old dude, with years on the customer side, years on the vendor side, and now, years on the channel side. Exist as a Pre-Sales Solutions Architect in the channel space. I specialize in virtualization, orchestration, storage and cloud. On my personal blog, I talk about anything from baseball and music to most technical things I enjoy including personal and enterprise tech. For the last few years, I've been a Tech Field Day delegate, and a blogger on Thwack's Geek Speak as well as a personal blog site at . Always learning, growing (though sometimes, that's the waistline) and striving to be as good as I can. I also like to sing, play guitar, and am a rabid Cubs and Blackhawks fan. I live in Evanston, IL, a suburb of Chicago, also grew up here. I work for Connection Enterprise Solutions, in a strategic solutions role, speaking to C Level on Corporate IT Initiatives