Managing the Transition to a Hyperconverged Estate. Bimodal Operations.

Hyperconverged solutions – solutions where compute, storage and network components are all managed through a single hypervisor, (often along with additional features such as compression, deduplication, and data protection), are attracting a lot of interest from all angles of the industry.

Hyperconverged solutions are different to traditional infrastructures, and as such will require a different operating model. As most enterprise IT is unlikely to be keen on big-bang like transformations, both a traditional support structure and a new-world one will be needed at the same time, perhaps for several years.  Managing bi-modal operations will be a key challenge for CIOs / IT Directors during this transformation period.

In a hyperconverged environment all layers in the IT stack can be found in the same place, managed through the hypervisor.  The infrastructure is greatly simplified and the management centralised. In this brave new world, the need for separate server, storage, backup and to a lesser degree network teams goes away (there will always be a need for a physical network outside of the hypervisor – although it may be as simple as a flat layer 2 network with gateways to the outside world).  Not great news if you’ve been building a career as a storage admin.  Whilst the need for separate teams goes away, the need for relevant specialist, with broad-ranging, knowledge and skills, does not.  The architects, admins and operators of hyperconverged solutions can’t have silo-ed knowledge; a resource that knows storage and storage only, will not be as useful as a resource that has a broader understanding of the underlying infrastructure and hypervisors, cloud, orchestrators and beyond. The most valuable will have public and hybrid computing, governance, compliance and security on their CVs as well.

For the CIOs / IT Directors transforming their architecture from traditional to hyperconverged, two of the many challenges to be presented will be: How do I down-size the traditional infrastructure teams in line with the diminishing size of the traditional IT estate, and how do I attract, retain or train a different breed of administrator who understands the bigger picture?  Answering these questions will be a critical part of managing bimodal operations.

The transformation from traditional architectures will involve a repetitive process of: Build (design, install and configure the hyperconverged infrastructure); Migrate (transition applications and services into the new environment); decommission (remove unneeded/aged capacity from your traditional estate) and; restructure (evolve your operating model to reflect the changes).  It is this last point that will be the hardest, infrastructure is often easy, people and process often not. If it hasn’t been put in place previously a dedicated support function/team will be needed for the hypervisor.  This team will need to be resourced by staff with a broad understanding of all aspects of IT, from network to application. Such resources are hard to find in the marketplace and often command high salaries as a result. While initially expensive, establishing retention incentives and comprehensive training plans for your most motivated staff will be required.  As this team expands, so the requirement in other areas diminishes. During such periods of transformation inflexible architects and operators alike will struggle. However, caution is to be applied so that the baby is not thrown out with the bath water.  If you storage estate is expanding dramatically quicker than your compute estate or if you have granular backup/restore requirements not yet provided by the hyperconverged solution, or if you intend to keep your traditional network architecture, there will remain, at least for now, a requirement for the traditional subject matter expert. A hyperconverged data centre strategy is more than just an infrastructure roadmap – as much effort and time needs to be spent on defining what the future of the wider IT department looks like as is spent on implementing the technical solution.

 

David Boyd,
Director Accordant Solutions Ltd
David.Boyd@AccordantSolutions.co.uk
Mobile: +44 (0) 755 737 5993