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What does HCI 2.0 mean for hyper-convergence?

Like composable infrastructure, next-gen hyper-convergence promises to ease procurement and management by, among other things, enabling users to add disparate IT resources independently.

Hyper-converged infrastructure continues to evolve, and with that evolution has come what industry insiders call HCI 2.0. This most recent iteration -- or, rather, iterations -- of hyper-convergence grew out of the shortcomings of previous hyper-converged systems.

Why HCI 2.0?

First-generation hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) systems bundle compute, storage and network resources into standardized nodes designed to work together under a common management layer. As well as it works, however, HCI 1.0 has its faults. Most notably, components often can't be upgraded independently of one another. If an organization needs to add storage, for example, it must buy additional nodes, which means paying for unneeded compute and network resources -- and, possibly, software licenses. Similarly, an organization running compute-intensive workloads could end up overpaying for storage.

The IT industry has yet to embrace a formal definition of HCI 2.0. Even so, next-generation hyper-converged systems aim to maintain the simplicity and the standardization first generation HCI is known for, while attempting to increase flexibility. In doing so, HCI is becoming more like composable infrastructure.

Composable infrastructure is an IT architecture that enables system resources, such as compute, network and storage, to be disaggregated from hardware and placed in virtual pools of like resources. That way users can treat those resources as software-defined services that can be allocated on an as-needed basis.

What's new in next-gen HCI?

As with composable, HCI 2.0 vendors are increasingly disaggregating the hyper-converged system's storage and compute resources. Users of this new generation of hyper-converged products can upgrade storage independently of compute, for example, and they can manage the two independently, at least in some cases.

Some vendors are going a step further by enabling the use of external storage. DataCore has abandoned the phrase "hyper-converged infrastructure" in favor of "hybrid-converged infrastructure," making the point that their HCI products can simultaneously use both integrated storage and external SAN storage. Similarly, Datrium has created a next-generation hyper-converged product that breaks the stack into performance and capacity tiers, thereby allowing users to manage storage at the VM level.

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