Malaysia must evolve its IT Infrastructure

18 Mar

Malaysia must evolve its IT Infrastructure

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A better and more cost-effective technology infrastructure is necessary for businesses to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic

Source: ITNews Asia
By Moti Uttam

In today’s world, accelerating the pace of innovation is key to business strategy. Technology is required to be a differentiator to accelerate service delivery, high performance data management, and simplify operations.

In Malaysia, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) has been increasingly applied to virtualise all of the elements of traditional data centres. HCI is a unified system that combines all elements including storage, computing, and networking to reduce data centre complexity and increase scalability.

According to Ernst & Yong’s “COVID 19: Business Impact Survey” published in early June 2020, most companies — limited liability companies (LLCs) and SMEs — highlighted their difficulties in online connectivity and communication with customers or suppliers, and having connectivity disruption during work from home amongst their employees. This demonstrates that companies need better technology infrastructure to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

Earnst & Young, June 2020 – COVID 19: Business Impact Survey

The demand for connectivity has been drastically increased during the movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia, resulting in businesses strongly requiring cost-effective, simple, and secure infrastructure to connect their apps, legacy storage, and cloud as well.

The Malaysian government, in its Budget 2021, reiterated its commitment to progress its digital transformation plan by setting aside RM 9.4 billion (US$ 2.3 billion). Out of which, RM 500 million (US$ 120 million) is to be allocated for High Technology Fund provided by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), RM 150 million (US$ 37 million) for SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme and Automation Grant, and RM 42 million (US$ 10 million) is to improve internet connectivity in 25 industrial areas to attract investment under the Jendela plan. With the digital strategy in place, businesses can now fast track their digital transformation of their IT infrastructure for business recovery and growth.

Connectivity is now regarded as the third utility in Malaysia and an economic imperative. Business applications with complex siloed and legacy storage will need to be reviewed, and infrastructure for businesses’ service level objectives (SLOs) enhanced. Business leaders should start looking into evolving the legacy infrastructure to HCI. Here are the benefits to achieve SLOs for business sustainability:

Accelerate critical applications, consolidate workloads

For businesses to unlock analytical insight and monetise data, faster access to data is important. Performance-intensive use cases, such as relational databases, online transaction processing (OLTP), real-time analytics and workload consolidation, can potentially amplify revenue-generating possibilities.

HCI can streamline IT setups and shorten the data path and eliminate I/O bottlenecks to deliver vastly improved latency and efficiency. It also helps reduce IT cost and speed the search for data, enabling business leaders to make right business decisions, faster.

Secure desktops anywhere for your remote workforce

A seamless workspace experience is required to access all employees across devices and locations, but existing mobile workplace solutions are not easy to scale. Security, compliance and rapid recoverability are strongly requested. To ensure all users have always-on, quick and reliable access to desktop and apps, while also maintaining integrity and security of company data, HCI makes a great foundation for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution to deliver an excellent experience for all users.

Seamless, device-independent collaboration drives up employee productivity while ensuring full visibility and control over corporate data with role-based authentication, retention and legal hold at the file or profile level and policy-based data protection.

Reduce cost and complexity for business priorities

Explosive growth of data volumes is making businesses want easy scalability and simplified administration of compute and storage systems. HCI also is known as ease of acquisition, which can speed up business processing and provides faster access to data for business leaders to analyse, enrich and monetise the data. It doubles transactions per minute and delivers higher responsiveness while lowering the cost. With this modern IT infrastructure, historical data can be unleashed on the same centrally managed platform that delivers scalability and business availability.

Moreover, after HCI deployment, no specialised storage skill was needed. Business leaders are able to add capacity with simple drag-and-drop action, and have automatic load balancing across a cluster which makes IT infrastructure cost-effective and reduce complexity.

As companies are still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic, business leaders should be able to realise the needs of enhancing IT infrastructure to address the challenges. Evolving the technology infrastructure would make business sense as business agility, recovery, sustainability will create new business opportunities for the next level of growth.

Moti Uttam is the Managing Director at Hitachi Vantara (Malaysia)

6 Mar

HCI: An Alternative to Cloud-Based Computing

Reading Time: 3 minutes

HCI can combine key functions into a single IT cluster while boosting an institution’s scalability and speed.

Source: EdgeTech
By Doug Bonderud

Rapid cloud adoption paved the way for post-secondary schools to navigate the pandemic. While the road hasn’t been smooth or easy, the availability of secure and scalable cloud services has made it possible for higher education to deliver learning content anywhere, anytime.

It’s not a perfect framework — lawsuits are ongoing from student groups who argue that online learning was a poor substitute for in-class interaction and want their tuition refunded — but it helped schools bridge the gap.

Yet as schools shift back to in-person learning, there’s a growing recognition that cloud isn’t the answer for everything. Instead, some institutions are implementing hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) to keep resources closer to home without losing the power and performance offered by the cloud.

So, what exactly is HCI, and how does it benefit higher education? Let’s dive in.

What Is Hyperconverged Infrastructure?

Despite the increased adoption of HCI, confusion remains about how it differs from the cloud. This confusion partly stems from the similar capabilities of both solutions, and it’s partly tied to how vendors erroneously use these terms interchangeably when looking to build their client base.

Put simply, HCI virtualizes computing, network and storage solutions and subsequently combines them under a single, software-defined umbrella. In practice, HCI deployments function as a single large cluster composed of smaller server and storage “nodes” and networking technologies that can be scaled and managed on demand.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure vs. the Cloud

Two key aspects are critical to understanding where HCI and cloud computing overlap and where they differ: characteristics and composition.

When it comes to functional characteristics, the cloud and hyperconverged infrastructure are remarkably similar. Both offer the ability to access computing power on demand, making it possible to scale up (or down) as necessary, and both provide inherent reliability.

The technologies diverge when it comes to composition. Whether schools use on-premises private clouds or offsite public options, cloud services leverage discrete computing, storage and network hardware solutions that are connected using a logical abstraction layer and managed using a hypervisor.

Meanwhile, HCI combines and virtualizes the entire hardware stack but keeps resources on-premises to reduce latency and increase visibility. Hyperconverged infrastructure is the logical next step in the evolution of data centers. First was traditional infrastructure, which saw discrete network, server and storage architecture. Next came converged infrastructure, which leveraged software-defined networking to help virtualize storage and network management. Now, HCI makes it possible to combine the key functions of computing, storage and networking technologies as a single IT cluster.

How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Can Benefit Higher Education

Making the move to HCI offers several benefits for postsecondary schools:

  • Simplicity: Thanks to its node-based approach, HCI frameworks are easy to deploy and simple to manage. This sets them apart from more traditional cloud solutions, which can quickly become complex as schools expand cloud environments with new providers and services. The unified and virtualized nature of HCI makes it naturally simple to manage and expand.
  • Spend Management: HCI can also improve cost control. Where cloud services can quickly sprawl, causing spending to increase exponentially, hyperconverged environments exist entirely under the auspices of university IT teams. Convergence can also help reduce the time and cost required for software upgrades and hardware replacement thanks to built-in failover capabilities.
  • Scalability: HCI nodes are effectively preconfigured building blocks, making it easy for IT teams to quickly scale resources up or down, on demand and with minimal effort. It is worth noting, however, that HCI deployments have specific limits when it comes to the number of nodes added per cluster, and resources must be deployed in specific increments. On the flip side, while the cloud can scale indefinitely, this isn’t always a good thing. Given the disparate nature of public and private cloud deployments, unlimited scaling potential can lead to significantly increased complexity.
  • Speed: The node-based approach of HCI also increases deployment speed, regardless of resource type. From storage to computing, networking or security, new solutions can be integrated on demand and without risk of interoperational conflict.

The New Normal: Embracing Data Center Modernization

For schools to succeed in a post-pandemic world, they need IT infrastructure capable of delivering both on-premises and offsite education without sacrificing speed or compromising security.

At the center of this next new normal is data center modernization — the ability to collect, curate, use and scale data-driven resources on demand to meet evolving staff and student expectations while ensuring personal and professional privacy.

Hyperconverged infrastructure forms a key pillar of this modernization approach. Along with solutions such as high-performance computing to drive research initiatives and core network upgrades to provide necessary bandwidth backbones, it’s now possible for post-secondary schools to create functional frameworks capable of staying ahead of the curve.

5 Mar

Five ways the HCI market is changing

Reading Time: 5 minutes

We look at changes in the hyper-converged infrastructure market as suppliers go cool, go soft, disaggregate HCI nodes, provide as-a-service options and look to containers.

Source: Computer Weekly
By Stephen Pritchard

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) promises to simplify IT by combining storage and compute and usually a virtualisation environment in a single system or appliance.

This one-box approach takes the flexibility of virtualisation and networked storage, but condenses it down. The result, so its supporters argue, is a flexible and high-performance system that is suitable for smaller businesses, branch offices or edge applications.

And, increasingly, suppliers are looking to deliver hyper-converged through software and, especially, software-defined storage.

But the market itself is changing. In part, this is in response to customer demand and the growing emphasis on cloud-based and as-a-service-style consumption during the pandemic, and this is likely to continue.

And just as some suppliers have decided that HCI is not viable for them, others have entered the market, especially with software-defined offerings. HCI is now firmly established as an on-premise option, especially in deployments where ease of management is important.

Computer Weekly has looked at some of the key trends in the hyper-converged market.

HCI market: Some vendors pull back, more software products

Industry analyst Emergen Research valued the HCI market at $7.34bn in 2020 and predicts that the market will grow by 26.8%. Drivers include the backup and recovery market, and to improve application performance.

According to Naveen Chhabra, a senior analyst at Forrester, HCI is being used for VDI (desktop virtualisation), databases, analytical workloads and VM farms.

Although hyper-converged is primarily used in the datacentre, the technology is becoming more versatile because suppliers have improved controls available to IT administrators, says Chhabra. Nonetheless, HCI is best suited to workloads that make use of horizontal scaling (adding more nodes) rather than vertical scaling (adding more CPU, storage, memory, and so on).

Perhaps surprisingly, given the overall market interest, some suppliers have pulled back from hyper-converged. NetApp has dropped (direct) support for HCI, and some analysts point out that other suppliers are paying less attention to hyper-converged than they were.

Nutanix remains the best-known HCI supplier, but others with a strong presence include Cisco, VMWare, Dell EMC, Microsoft – through Azure – and Huawei.

And software-only options are gaining ground. Nutanix now focuses more on selling supplier-agnostic software than its own hardware. Scale Computing, StarWind and Pivot3 are also suppliers to watch. Stormagic, with its software-defined virtual SAN, is also often associated with hyper-converged infrastructure projects.

Is HCI ‘disaggregating’?

The original selling point for hyper-converged was that the key components of a system are integrated. This allows IT teams to deploy systems quickly and reduce management overheads. This integration is a large part of the appeal of HCI, especially for branch office or edge locations.

However, HCI scales better horizontally than vertically. Vertical scaling, for example for large-scale transactional databases, is not HCI’s strong suit.

“If your app needs vertical scaling, don’t think of hyper-converged,” says Forrester’s Chhabra. Although there are exceptions, such as running SAP Hana on HCI, for the most part, monolithic systems are less suited to HCI. The reason is that hyper-converged infrastructure cannot usually scale its (component) resources independently.

This is prompting suppliers to “disaggregate”, or split, the components of HCI so they are easier to scale. VMWare, for example, allows users to share storage across HCI clusters through its HCI Mesh system. Users can also connect to Dell’s storage sub-systems by connecting VxRail, through its vSAN infrastructure.

HCI: Always a good fit at the edge?

HCI answers some of the problems organisations encounter when deploying technology in small office, branch office or remote locations. These might lack dedicated IT teams, or even dedicated data rooms for larger and more complex equipment.

By the same token, hyper-converged should lend itself to edge applications, especially where it is delivered in a robust, appliance form factor. Cutting out the need for separate storage, compute and networking hardware also reduces power consumption and the need for cooling.

Also, using a single supplier means there are fewer moving parts. It might be overstating it to say there is less to go wrong – hyper-converged systems can be complex – but IT departments should be able to control all their systems from a single management tool.

But, as Forrester’s Chhabra cautions, there is no single industry definition of edge. Suppliers are looking at a wide range of use cases, and those that claim they can serve all of them are best avoided.

“For some [users of HCI], it is a retail or branch location, or a telco base station, or it’s a setup in the hinterlands,” he says. “The question here is, can all HCI deployments be made to fit into this large variety of deployments? The answer is no.”

CIOs should start by looking at the use case for hyper-converged in their edge environment, then see which suppliers have the best offering for the workload and the setup.

HCI as a service

HCI as-a-service is being promoted by suppliers such as Dell EMC with its VxRail, which is, in turn, part of the Dell Apex product line. Cisco offers a service option with HyperFlex. HPE’s Greenlake customers can use Nutanix Era or Microsoft Azure Stack HCI.

IT teams can also buy Azure Stack HCI directly from Microsoft. Azure Stack HCI comprises Hyper-V for compute, Storage Spaced Direct and a software-defined networking module. HPE offers SimpliVity HCI, which it says is HCI optimised for edge, VDI and “general virtualisation”. The technology is available on demand.

The growth of hyper-converged as a service is perhaps driven more by suppliers seeing an opportunity to provide resources on a subscription basis, than as a result of technical developments.

At one level, it makes sense for organisations buying infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to purchase HCI in the same way. If the workload lends itself to horizontal rather than vertical scaling, then scaling out cloud infrastructure on a node-by-node basis should reduce management overheads. It can also facilitate replication of on-premise HCI workloads to the cloud.

Against this, CIOs need to assess whether HCI fits the workloads they are looking to move to IaaS, or the public cloud more broadly. One benefit of the cloud is being able to buy compute and storage resources separately, and scale them up or down as required.

HCI as a service removes some of this inherent flexibility. But suppliers are investing in as-a-service delivery, and this should make it easier to fine-tune hyper-converged instances to different workloads and combine this with the option to use opex rather than capex for HCI.

HCI and containers

Support for containers is one area where HCI is clearly developing rapidly.

Established hyper-converged suppliers such as Cisco, Nutanix and VMWare support containerised workloads, as do the likes of IBM. Spectrum Fusion works with Red Hat’s OpenShift version of Kubernetes, and Nutanix is also working with Red Hat.

An ability to support containers and hypervisors extends the usefulness of HCI. As more cloud-based – or cloud-native – applications are developed for containers rather than VMs, this support is increasingly important to buyers.

HCI was not designed for containers, but suppliers are adapting hyper-converged nodes to support the flexibility demanded by environments such as Kubernetes. Google Anthos, for example, is hybrid cloud-based on NetApp technology. Kubernetes applications are available through the Google Cloud Platform marketplace.

As more enterprise applications move to containers, expect HCI suppliers to follow suit.