In 2016 ActualTech Media surveyed nearly 1,100 technology professionals and members of organisational management to gauge understanding and adoption of hyperconvergence.

It reported in June 2016 that, compared to similar research it had undertaken a year earlier, “Not only has adoption increased 54 percent over 2015, but those planning to deploy the technology plan to do so far sooner than those that had such plans in 2015.”

At around the same time Gartner issued a press release saying: “The market for hyperconverged integrated systems (HCIS) will grow 79 percent to reach almost $[US]2 billion in 2016, propelling it toward mainstream use in the next five years. … HCIS will be the fastest-growing segment of the overall market for integrated systems, reaching almost $[US]5 billion, which is 24 percent of the market, by 2019.”

Hyperconvergence, or hyperconverged infrastructure, is clearly rapidly becoming an important part of enterprise IT, but what exactly is it?

You can find numerous different definitions on the web, and a couple of years ago it was suggested that there were as many definitions as there were vendors, with each choosing one that aligned with their particular product offering.

However, hyperconvergence is maturing rapidly and there is now general agreement on the essential features, and benefits, of hyperconverged infrastructure. It comprises tightly integrated servers, networking and software defined storage, and the hypervisor to manage the virtualised environment supported by this infrastructure.

Forrester’s definition brings in another important attribute. Hyperconverged infrastructure includes  “a software layer to discover, pool, and reconfigure assets across multiple units quickly and easily without the need for deep technology skills.”

The result is greatly simplified data centre infrastructure that  brings many advantages over traditional  architectures, not the least of which is “one throat to choke.”

Although hyperconverged infrastructure, like that supplied by Lenovo, may combine technologies from different vendors — Lenovo’s incorporates DataCore hyper-converged virtual SAN — one vendor supplies, and is responsible for, the entire hyperconverged infrastructure.

Hyperconverged infrastructure can also greatly simplify the management of IT and reduce the need for skilled resources: the complexities of storage, servers and networking that require separate skills to manage are hidden ‘under the hood’ by that software layer in the Forrester definition, enabling it to be managed by staff with more general IT skills through a single administrative interface.

Hyperconverged infrastructure is also much easier to scale and in smaller increments than traditional integrated systems. Rather than making major infrastructure investments every few years, IT can simply add modules of hyperconverged infrastructure when required. 

The rapid growth predicted for Hyperconverged infrastructure begs the question: what can it be used for? One of the earliest use cases was to support virtual desktop infrastructure. In fact such was the dominance of this in the early days that, according to Lenovo, it’s one of a number of myths around hyperconvergence.

Lenovo says that, while VDI is the most dominant app that is only “for now” and “the killer app is still out there.” 

Hyperconvergence: the latest IT disruptor?