How hyper-converged technology makes companies future-ready

By Brian T. Horowitz

For companies to be future-ready, they’ll need end-to-end solutions to be able to keep up with IT challenges while tuning IT performance according to workload requirements.

Companies are struggling to keep up with the growth of data in industries such as health care and video surveillance. By 2017, the industry will generate about 850 petabytes of data per day, according to Brandon Reich, senior director of surveillance solutions at Pivot3, a company that offers hyper-converged infrastructure.

“That kind of data-generation growth means that our customers’ IT departments are being challenged, struggling to keep up with how we capture, store and protect all of this data we’re generating,” Reich told Power More.

Hyper-convergence, which combines a hypervisor, server, storage and switching into a software-defined solution, can help with this problem because of the ability to scale storage and compute as well as add additional nodes.

A recent survey by ActualTech Media of 500 technology professionals and members of organizational management found that only 24 percent of respondents had adopted hyper-converged, but more than 54 percent of respondents who have not yet implemented the technology plan to do so in the next 24 to 36 months.

For companies looking to scale, a hyper-converged infrastructure is an option that can provide flexibility to choose the amount of node density they need.

“Hyper-convergence gives you scale-out capacity both in overall capacity and I/O density,” Eric Hanselman, chief analyst with 451 Research, told Power More.

In addition, hyper-converged appliances provide operational agility to deploy resources more rapidly. Companies can simplify how they provide IT services by allocating storage and computing together, Hanselman said.

Hyper-converged appliances can help manage workloads in fields such as law enforcement and education, especially when they need video feeds to keep schools secure.

Data streams in video surveillance

Companies in the video-surveillance industry often struggle to process data streams from hundreds or thousands of cameras, Reich explained.

“When you have multiple application servers together, storing video from hundreds or even thousands of cameras, you often don’t know exactly where the data is going to come from or which camera is going to generate more data when, so having a having a single pool of storage that can be shared across all of the application servers becomes very important,” he said.

He added, “It means that our storage utilization is much more efficient, and effectively all of the cameras have access to all of the storage resources.”

A future-ready balance

The key to being a future-ready organization is embracing a strategy of flexibility and choice to improve business outcomes. Companies such as Dell provide this end-to-end flexibility with hyper-converged solutions.

Schools benefit from the future-ready balance that hyper-converged solutions can provide, Reich noted.

“Where hyper-converged comes in, it enables school systems to consolidate server and storage together and scale capacity as budgets allow,” he said. “It enables school systems to deploy these modern high-end video surveillance technology so the data can be centralized or shared across multiple facilities and shared among law enforcement and first responders.”

With traditional server and storage deployments, companies face the risk of getting the size of an initial deployment right, according to Hanselman.

“You’ve got to make sure that the server you’re going to deploy has sufficient compute power and memory and that the storage array hosting has enough capacity,” Hanselman said.

Companies have to find a balance between undersizing and oversizing when purchasing storage.

“Hyper-converged systems can reduce that risk with their scale-out capabilities, offering a less disruptive way to add capacity as deployments grow.”

Another key strategy is balancing different types of workloads in a hyper-converged environment.

“You want to make sure you’re delivering a platform with the right ratios of compute and storage for the applications you’re going to be using it for,” he said. “There is no one right ratio — if you have to consume an entire node for one workload, that will limit the flexibility you’ve got.”

Various workloads will require different mixes of compute and storage, and a solution such as the Dell PowerEdge FX Architecture, used by organizations such as Pivot3 and Overlake Hospital Medical Center, can bring this future-ready flexibility as it helps companies match the requirements of their applications to the systems they build.

“It provides flexibility in the initial configuration and supports reconfiguration in the same chassis as the system grows,” Hanselman said.

Hardware platforms “must support different configurations so you’re not locked into one platform or ratio,” he added.

Combining compute and storage for the future

Pivot3 offers a hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliance built on Dell’s PowerEdge R730xd server, in partnership with Dell OEM Solutions. The R730xd provides a blend of high-power computing and dense storage capacity. The HCI appliance, which features the company’s vSTAC OS, turns the R730xd into a software-defined virtual storage area network (SAN).

“Our software does it in such a way that the scaling or expansion of the array is seamless to the user,” Reich said. “It automatically provisions the hardware resources of the node.”

Scaling compute and storage for the future is important in video surveillance, particularly for law enforcement officers wearing body-worn cameras, Reich noted.

“In some cases, they could be required to store video for a year, or even up to five years or in one case evidential video data had to be stored for 99 years,” he said.

Managing future workload demands

Scalability for future expansion was a key consideration for the island of Sentosa, a resort off the southern coast of Singapore, as it optimized its video capture and management using Pivot3’s HCI platform, powered by Dell.

Sentosa Leisure Management, which runs security for the 1,235-acre resort, needed to consolidate management of the 1,000 surveillance cameras in its Joint Command Center (JCC), which is a central hub for emergencies on the island. JCC allows the island to manage security threats.

Sentosa deployed a surveillance system running on Pivot3’s HCI technology. This combination brings density like that of a standard 16-blade chassis but with the granularity offered by rack-mount servers.

High-end video-surveillance technology allows data from multiple facilities to be centralized, so it can be shared with law enforcement and first responders, Reich said.

Having the vSTAC appliance offered Sentosa the ability to grow its surveillance network in the long term, according to William Ng, assistant director for Sentosa Rangers at Sentosa Leisure Management.

“We estimate we will need more than 2 petabytes of storage space in the future, but we expect to grow far beyond this, and the Pivot3 system will let us grow capacity as we need it, whenever we need it,” Ng said.

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