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Seven steps to infrastructure hyper-convergence

Seven steps to infrastructure hyper-convergence

The concept of 'hyper-converged infrastructure', which, according to Wikipedia is a fully software-defined IT infrastructure that virtualises all of the elements of conventional "hardware-defined" systems, has burst into boardroom discussions over the past couple of years, as firms discover more and more benefits to embracing the Cloud Computing revolution.

Hyper-converged infrastructure incorporates virtualised computing and processing capabilities (a hypervisor), alongside software-defined storage, software-defined networking, as well as an array of other technologies. This set-up is designed to run on any kind of public, private or hybrid Cloud environment – giving Chief Information Officers (CIO) full control over the company's data, even as their broader Cloud strategy shifts over time.

With the software-defined elements implemented centrally within the hypervisor, IT teams can manage all resources from one location – easily federating them across all instances of a hyper-converged infrastructure.

In addition, by converging one's virtual infrastructure, organisations bring unparalleled flexibility and scalability into their IT environments. This allows them to capture and process vast volumes of data, quickly deliver new applications and services to their stakeholders, and accelerate the development of digital products to consumers.

Hyper-convergence essentially fuses the hypervisor, servers, compute and store into a single application that can be limitlessly scaled. It has the added benefits of reducing the costs of running a data centre, while offering better protection and backup for data.

Yet, in large organisations, moving towards a truly connected, hyper-converged infrastructure is fraught with complexity.

In this complexity, it's important to recognise that data is one of the organisation's most vital assets. Without clear alignment between one's approach to data management, and one's strategy for hyper-convergence, the risks of data leaks, downtime, security breaches, and other problems can quickly creep in.

Many hyper-convergence initiatives focus heavily on the technology aspects, with less emphasis on many of the related aspects of the project. Through our experience in helping clients navigate their way to hyper-convergence, we've identified seven key steps on the road to success:

Align your teams

Sweeping infrastructural changes affect numerous stakeholders, in all areas and layers of the organisation. Before embarking on the organisations hyper-convergence journey, it's essential to set the scene, involve various participants in the discussions, and ensure that the strategy addresses the needs of the entire organisation. Having strong support from leadership helps to rally the project teams around a common goal, fostering a sense of team spirit and 'co-ownership' of the transformation programme.

Evaluate business value

In today's economic climate, all costs are carefully scrutinised. As companies' hyper-convergence programmes may be competing with other projects and technology initiatives, it's important to show tangible business value for the costs that will be incurred. The more comprehensive and predictable the financial modelling, the better. The very best financial models found are very closely aligned to the organisation's broader business model and business strategy.

Control the budget

The focus on cost-management and clear business value doesn't stop once the project has the green light. Smart project management continually adapts to changes in the project, as unexpected hurdles or issues surface. Start generating business value early and continuously with an agile approach to the project, and keep very tight control over scope-creep, cost overruns, and timelines.

Put productivity first

It takes commitment, and a lot of hard work, to take your hyper-convergence programme from vision to reality. Leverage executive stakeholders and sponsors to quickly unblock challenges along the way, and apply rigorous project management to keep every aspect of the programme in sync with each other.

Think modern

The organisation's infrastructure will only be as strong as its weakest link, so it's important to understand the dependencies and inter-relationships, and modernise every aspect that has an impact on your hyper-convergence vision. For instance, in this incredible effort from Rabobank, the team created a detailed physical 3D representation of their entire technology landscape – helping them to understand dependencies and better visualise improvements.

Power data agility

It is important to find a data management and protection solution that can support any converged environment along with a myriad of cloud and Virtual Machine (VM) platforms. Choose a data management strategy and toolset that is best-fit for the organisation, and that will transcend current technology selections, making workloads portable, protected and recovery-ready no matter where they may live.

Lead the shift

Known by many as the 'Godfather' of change management, John Kotter writes that: "Nothing undermines change more than behaviour by important individuals that is inconsistent with the verbal communication" (Leading Change: 1996). Technology pros and leaders within the organisation must continually communicate the progress and benefits of one's hyper-convergence project, continually re-iterate the business value, and keep team spirits high. It's by cascading change management and communication efforts into the entire organisation that project managers can build up a critical mass of support.

* By Nick Wonfor, Enterprise Account Manager at Commvault South Africa.

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