The Questions You Must Ask About Software-based HCI vs. Appliance-based HCI

It’s not on the level of “What’s the meaning of life?”, but there are important questions to ask before you make the move to a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution. The two types of offerings are software-based and appliance-based. In a software-based HCI environment, you can install the software on your existing servers or buy the software pre-configured on a number of server brands.  In an appliance solution, everything comes pre-packaged in a “sealed solution” that’s plugged into a rack.
As you embark on your hyperconverged infrastructure journey, it’s important to ask yourself some key questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve by deploying hyperconverged infrastructure? In general, you’re probably looking for positive business outcomes that include a lower total cost of ownership for your data center infrastructure environment and the ability to more quickly adapt to the ongoing needs of your business.
  • Do you want to be able to choose your server platform? Although there are some options in an appliance- centric world to choose among server vendors, with a software-only hyperconvergence stack, you have the broadest choice of server hardware: that includes the ability to change hardware based on your needs, mix-and-match hardware (including more than one vendor), and have the latest and greatest servers with improved performance and efficiency.
  • How important is granular resource scalability? With any appliance, it’s essentially a “black box,” so what you get is what you buy. Typically, if you need to add more resources, you have to add a whole new node, even if you only need one resource. With a software solution, you can upgrade individual nodes by adding RAM and storage or by replacing older processors with ones that have more cores. This can save considerable time and
  • For your company, is future infrastructure flexibility of interest? Do you want or need an infrastructure environment that allows you to easily change hypervisors in addition to server vendors? If so, most software-centric hyperconverged infrastructure solutions support only a single hypervisor; it’s often one that’s also a product of the vendor providing the hyperconverged software. If you want to avoid hypervisor lock-in, make sure that the that the hyperconverged software supports hypervisors that are likely to be the right choice for your data center

Now, analyze your answers to these questions and consider the differences between appliance-based and software-based hyperconverged infrastructure solutions to determine which path makes the most sense for your business.  If your answer is software, make sure you’re happy with the hypervisor(s) supported by each solution.
The table below provides an overview of the key differences between appliance-based hyperconvergence and a hyperconverged solution bought as software. It will help answer the questions you have, and guide you toward the right choice for your situation and needs. Remember: asking questions is always good. They lead to answers, after all!

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This article is sponsored by Maxta.
Maxta Hyperconvergence software gives IT the freedom to choose servers and hypervisors, scale storage independent of compute, and run mixed workloads on the same cluster. Unlike hyperconverged appliances, with Maxta there’s no vendor lock-in, no “refresh tax” and no “upgrade tax.”
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