Small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) are struggling with the complexity, cost and time commitment of building and managing IT infrastructure, according to the 2015 State of SMB IT Infrastructure Survey from ActualTech Media. Scaling server and storage infrastructure is a challenge for more than a third of respondents, while nearly a quarter have difficulty with complexity, troubleshooting and keeping technology up to date. Many SMBs have understaffed IT departments, with the majority of respondents claiming to have an IT staff of seven or fewer.
The study also shows that SMBs have made strides with virtualization, although a large percentage of workloads have yet to be virtualized. In fact, only 50 percent of respondents have virtualized at least half of their servers. Researchers suggest this is the case because it’s not easy to virtualize all workloads, and many organizations remain hesitant to virtualize mission-critical applications.
A key conclusion drawn from the study is that hyper-converged infrastructure would help to alleviate many of these challenges. Traditionally, an IT team or an outside party would design and build data center infrastructure from the ground up, often using hardware and software from multiple vendors. This process tends to be expensive and slow. Hyper-converged infrastructure tightly integrates various data center components – compute, networking, storage and virtualization resources – into one pre-configured, pre-tested solution. Hyper-converged infrastructure also adds functionality such as de-duplication, compression, backup, snapshots, disaster recovery and WAN optimization.
Essentially, hyper-convergence provides organizations with an IT infrastructure in a box, which directly addresses the complexity challenges commonly faced by SMBs. This approach reduces the risk of compatibility issues and technical glitches, simplifies deployment, and accelerates time to value. All resources are pooled, which minimizes the risk of downtime, and the entire environment is centrally managed and maintained through a single interface. This allows time-strapped IT personnel to devote more time to strategic, revenue-producing initiatives.
Branch offices typically face the same challenges as SMBs, thanks to limited IT staff and resources. A single, integrated hyper-converged infrastructure streamlines deployment and management of technology at multiple locations. This is much simpler and less expensive than trying to build and manage a more conventional infrastructure. Hyper-converged infrastructure also requires less space, cabling and power, which drives down total cost of ownership. Because of hyper-converged infrastructure’s modular architecture, scaling is as simple as plugging in new appliance modules.
Hyper-converged solutions are not inexpensive, and so far there are a limited number of options available that are designed for SMBs. However, when you add up the cost of purchasing the same functionality as individual products, coupled with increasing complexity of the traditional IT environment, hyper-converged solutions may prove to be an attractive alternative.
The business benefits of hyper-converged infrastructure are just as valuable and relevant to SMBs and branch locations as they are to large enterprises. Companies looking to simplify the IT environment, virtualize more workloads, scale their IT infrastructure and operate more efficiently would be well served to research hyper-converged solutions.