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When it comes to Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Management, every element needs attention


Software updates – they’re a necessary evil, right? Let’s be honest, although you know they’re going to patch possible loopholes and improve performance, sometimes you’re just too busy – or have too many browser tabs open – to consider updating your PC, or your phone. Are all your devices TRULY up to date, or have just pushed away the latest restart because you’re just finishing something off?


It’s the same story when it comes to software updates in the data center – but when you’re talking about devices running critical workloads, the concept of putting these on hold while you update the firmware, software or change some hardware has a broader impact. It’s also a lot more complicated in integrated systems, where each of the software components that have been pulled together into a convenient, easy-to-operate bundle each have their own cycle for updates. And just to add to the complexity, there are dependencies that some software must be updated before you can install the next patch …


The overhead of keeping systems patched and up to date is the sting in the tail for Hyper-Converged Infrastructures (HCI), which are now coming of age. These were initially deployed to manage sprawling virtual desktop infrastructure workloads or host virtual machines. Today, they have grown up and are increasingly utilised to manage many mainstream business applications, and even mission-critical ERP systems. As it was right from the start, the attraction of HCI is clear – these appliance-like solutions combine software and hardware into an integrated platform, to help drive down costs and reduce time to value by simplifying IT infrastructures.


The deployment of HCI continues to expand – with a recent survey by analyst firm Freeform Dynamics confirming that 83% of the top performing IT departments plan to increase investments in HCI over the next two years. However, for businesses to effectively leverage and expand their HCI, they must ensure operational management and systems administration is as simple and automated as possible. And they must remember that just because HCI components are “commodity” resources, they should not be managed as essential, foundational elements.


HCI systems might represent a simplified approach, however they still comprise multiple different components, and their corresponding lifecycle and upgrade requirements are not to be underestimated. The servers alone have a significant number of elements. For example, the CPU, memory, storage and networking each require regular firmware updates. These deliver functional enhancements or address new security issues. It’s also important to ensure that an HCI’s system software, from the operating system to virtualisation stacks, is also kept up to date.


To add to the complexity – each element is linked directly or indirectly to at least some of the others. This means the ripple effect must be taken into account – the impact of an individual update on others. Of course, this challenge is not unique to HCI systems: understanding the intricate interdependencies of any IT system is what has always kept IT managers awake at night. Nobody wants to take a whole system down with a simple firmware update, but there is always a risk that it could happen.


To really benefit from the simplicity and “self-managing” characteristics of HCI systems, we always advise users to take a holistic approach to the lifecycle management, for hardware, firmware and software stacks – particularly when lifetimes can extend six years or more. A new whitepaper from Freeform Dynamics outlines how businesses can take a lifecycle view of HCI systems management. Produced in association with Fujitsu, this offers advice including a breakdown of different approaches and a checklist of elements to consider as you look at acquiring HCI solutions.


A new approach to streamlining HCI lifecycle management


Fujitsu and VMware have come up with a new way of simplifying HCI lifecycle management and minimising operational costs. We’ve done this based on the firm belief that the operation and maintenance of HCI systems should also take an integrated approach. FUJITSU Integrated System PRIMEFLEX for VMware vSAN is the result: an appliance that simplifies and streamlines not only the deployment of the integrated system but also focuses on the ease of its management.


Just like all PRIMEFLEX family members, this Integrated System is built around Fujitsu PRIMERGY x86 servers. These deliver VMware benchmark-leading performance and availability. Truly an all-rounder, the appliance is optimized to support a wide spectrum of workloads and HCI use cases. And it seamlessly integrates FUJITSU Software Infrastructure Manager (ISM) with VMware’s vCenter management software. This means a single interface to manage the lifecycle of an entire hardware and software stack. This is a big step forward in terms of dramatically reducing the time and complexity usually associated with updating firmware and software, as mentioned above, making sure that all components are up to date, failsafe and compliant.


As businesses increasingly depend on agile, resilient and cost-efficient hyper-converged infrastructures to form the foundations of their digital transformation, their ability to mitigate any associated complexity is the key to their future success. We believe that this collaboration between Fujitsu and VMware, extending the simplicity and tight integration to the way systems are managed, will truly unlock the potential and help drive further adoption of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI).


For more information about HCI lifecycle management, download the associated whitepaper we have created in association with Freeform Dynamics: “Lifecycle Management of HCI Systems. Every element of the solution needs attention”.


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