The IT infrastructure market has long sought to balance the simplicity and control advantages of centralized architectures with the modular flexibility of distributed approaches. In today’s increasingly cloud-centric enterprise IT environment, innovations on the centralized model are making hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) one of the hottest new concepts.

HCI systems combine compute, storage, and basic systems management in a highly automated unit. But HCI is hardly your father’s mainframe. These highly integrated platforms duplicate many of the functions of cloud infrastructure in a scalable and easily manageable on-premises package.

For many companies, the combination of cloudlike features such as automation and self-provisioning in a single, rack-mounted appliance is making HCI one of the safest on-ramps to cloud computing.

Gartner expects the market for hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS) to reach $10.7 billion by 2021, growing at 48% CAGR. “We are on the cusp of a third phase of integrated systems,” says Andrew Butler, former distinguished analyst at Gartner. “This evolution presents IT infrastructure and operations leaders with a framework for evolving their implementations and architectures.”

Agility Drives Adoption

HCI has come along at a time when IT organizations must focus on agility to an unprecedented degree. Senior executives say making IT faster, more flexible, and more responsive trumps other priorities such as cost reduction, data protection, and IT automation. This finding isn’t surprising: Being more agile can protect against disruption and achieve the benefits of digital transformation.

Agility elevates IT’s role to that of a reliable and responsive business partner—and cloud computing is a key element of this evolution. Features such as virtual machine self-provisioning and software as a service (SaaS) help reduce time-to-productivity and give users what they want when they want it. Instead of waiting days or weeks for infrastructure to become available, developers can service their own needs, and automated management reduces delays, making IT resources available on demand.

Because HCI offers the flexibility to test cloud environments in a controlled manner before moving infrastructure, hybrid cloud is a principal driver of HCI adoption. Among the responding organizations, 40% have already leveraged HCI to ease hybrid cloud deployment and another 45% plan to do so, according to the IDG research.

Best of Private and Public

Cloud IT organizations want to leverage HCI to move closer to the right mix of private and public cloud for increasing responsiveness to market needs while maintaining control and security. Software-defined infrastructure can be deployed either on-premises or in a public cloud and removes the barriers of costs and complexity to maximize the benefits of hybrid cloud architecture.

Integrated software-defined data center (SDDC) cloud infrastructure that combines HCI systems with network virtualization and automation for operation and lifecycle management delivers ready-to-consume IT services with native capability to stretch the data center in a public cloud. Highly agile, available, and programmable multitenancy enables IT transformation for modern enterprises.

Cloud computing has triggered a reassessment of IT architectures driven by the economics of vertical integration and massive scale. It has been a proof of concept for the benefits of large-scale virtualization, automation, and dynamic scalability, and customers want to enjoy those same features in their data center environments. These capabilities have the collateral advantages of enabling businesses to customize their workloads without the security and manageability risks that distributed systems entail.

In short, HCI increases the agility of IT organizations, particularly those that are prepared to make major commitments to the cloud—and this maps perfectly to IT’s current priorities.

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Hyperconverged IT: Key to Increasing IT Agility and Fueling Digital Transformation