There are multiple ways to approach a hyper-converged infrastructure deployment, some of which give IT a little more control.
When we talk about building a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), the mental image is usually deploying some physical appliances using high-density servers and spending a few minutes with some wizard-driven software. But buying hyper-converged infrastructure appliances is just one way to do it.
As an IT professional, you can also deploy software-only HCI on your own servers. Or you can start from scratch and engineer your own infrastructure using a selection of hardware and software. The further you move away from the appliance model, however, the more you must take responsibility for the engineering of your deployment and problem resolution.
Let's look more closely at hyper-converged infrastructure appliances and some do-it-yourself alternatives.
Preconfigured hyper-converged appliances
Hyper-converged infrastructure appliances wrap up all their components into a single order of code. The vendor does all of the component selection and the engineering to ensure that everything works together and performs optimally.
Usually, the hyper-converged appliance has its own bootstrap mechanism that deploys and configures the hypervisor and software with minimal input from IT. For many customers, this ease of use is a big reason for deploying HCI, making it possible to largely ignore the virtualization infrastructure and focus instead on the VMs it delivers.
One of the big reasons for selecting a software-only hyper-converged infrastructure is that it offers hardware choice. You may have a relationship with a preferred server vendor and need to use its hardware. Or you may simply want an unusual combination of server hardware.
Another example is that you may want a lower cost, single-socket server option, particularly if you are deploying to a lot of remote or branch offices. If you are deploying to retail locations, you may need servers that will fit into a shallow communications cabinet rather than a data center depth rack.
Once you select your hardware, you are responsible for the consequences of those choices. If you choose the wrong network interface card or a Serial-Attached SCSI host bus adapter, you may find support is problematic, or performance may not match your expectations.
HCI from scratch
As with software-only HCI, you are taking responsibility for this decision and its consequences. You can probably buy support for the hypervisor and the SDS, but what about potential interoperability issues between the layers? What is the service level for resolving performance problems?
Building a platform from scratch instead of buying preconfigured hyper-converged infrastructure appliances is only sensible if you have your own full support team providing 24/7 coverage.