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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Hyper-converged infrastructures require continuous monitoring

In recent years, hyper-converged infrastructure has been embraced by a growing number of government IT managers as a solution to agency data center performance and security challenges. It’s no wonder, since HCI merges storage, compute and networking into a much smaller and more manageable footprint.

As with any new technology, however, HCI's wide adoption can be slowed by skeptics, such as IT administrators concerned with interoperability and implementation costs. To them, HCI seems like a heavy lift. And realistically -- if agencies want to realize its full potential -- it is. However, HCI doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Indeed, migration is best achieved gradually, with agencies buying only what they need, when they need it, as part of a long-term IT modernization plan.

HCI skeptics are often won over once they understand the benefits of the technology. The software-centric architecture helps streamline IT management and brings the essential elements of an IT framework into tighter alignment, while maintaining reliability and availability.

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits HCI provides to government agencies, then examine key considerations when it comes to implementing the technology -- namely, the importance of automation and infrastructure monitoring.

Combining the best of physical and virtual worlds

Enthusiasts like the fact that HCI gives them the performance, reliability and availability of an on-premises data center along with the ability to scale IT in the cloud. That flexibility allows them to easily incorporate new technologies and architectures into the infrastructure.

HCI also consolidates previously disparate compute, networking and storage functions into a single, compact data center. This has the benefit of shrinking the physical footprint of IT, freeing up valuable space and reducing total cost of ownership.

Strategically, HCI gives organizations an agile foundation from which to pursue mission-critical initiatives. It supports a service-oriented mindset and culture, paves the way for agile and DevSecOps philosophies and practices and lays the groundwork for continued transformation via the cloud.

Extracting value through monitoring and automation

However, convergence cannot come at the expense of network monitoring. Agencies are very familiar with monitoring storage, network and compute as separate entities; when these functions are combined with HCI, network monitoring is still required.

Indeed, having complete IT visibility becomes more important as infrastructure converges. Although a consolidated infrastructure will ultimately be easier to manage, the act of combining different services into one is a highly complex task fraught with risk. Things change rapidly, and errors can easily occur. Managers need clear insight into what’s going on with their systems throughout the entirety of this process.

After the initial deployment is complete monitoring should continue unabated. It is vital IT managers understand the impact that apps, services and integrated components have on each other and the legacy infrastructure around them. Not everything will be part of the HCI. Some aspects of the network, for example, may exist outside of it. Agencies must be able to closely monitor all the pieces of their operations and do so as regularly and rigorously as they did when compute, networking and storage were run as separate systems.

Additionally, all of these processes should be fully automated. Autonomous workload acceleration is a core HCI benefit. Automation binds HCI components together, making them easier to manage and maintain – which in turn yields a more efficient data center. If agencies don’t spend time automating the monitoring of their HCI, they'll run the risk of allocating resources or building out capacity that they don’t need and may expose organizational data to additional security threats.

Investing in the right technical skills

HCI requires a very unique skillset, and organizations cannot manage their hyperconverged infrastructures in the same way they may have handled their traditional infrastructures. Unfortunately, many agencies do not have the workforce talent required to fully leverage automated HCI monitoring.

It’s therefore important they invest in technical staff with practical HCI experience and the knowledge to effectively implement infrastructure monitoring and automation capabilities These experts will be critical in helping agencies take advantage of the vast potential this technology has to offer.

Reaping the rewards of HCI

Incorporating infrastructure monitoring and automation into HCI implementation plans will enable agencies to reap the full rewards: lower total cost of IT ownership thanks to simplified data center architecture, consistent and predictable performance, faster application delivery, improved agility, IT service levels accurately matched to capacity requirements and much more.

Above all, thoughtfully designed HCI will enable government IT managers to spend less time “running IT” and more time supporting strategic initiatives -- from agency modernization and mission-readiness to the improvement of public services. That’s a lot of return for simply applying the same level of care and attention to monitoring HCI as traditional infrastructure.

About the Author

Mav Turner is senior director, product management, for SolarWinds.

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