HCI is very popular with organizations of all sizes now, but it’s not perfect.

You always need to reach a compromise between performance, flexibility, usability, and cost… this actually happens with practically every type of infrastructure, HCI included. What’s more, it’s quite hard to find a storage infrastructure that covers all the use cases you need to address.

HCI is a good compromise for small organizations, but some of the trade-offs imposed by this type of architecture design limit its potential in larger ones where there is a large, and established, environment to support as well. 

Let’s put it this way, HCI is the perfect example of the 80/20 rule. The problem is that 20% of your infrastructure is expected to grow exponentially with AI/ML, IoT, edge computing projects and more. All things your organization is evaluating now and will impact your business competitivity in the following years. 

The Good of HCI

What most of the end users like about HCI is its user-friendliness. There is no need to change the way they operate their infrastructure, using the same hypervisor they are accustomed to and fewer complications around storage management. The infrastructure is simplified thanks to the modular scale-out approach for which each new single node adds more CPU, RAM, and storage. As a result of this, HCI shows good TCO figures as well.

The Bad of HCI

Limitations of HCI arise from what makes it a good solution for ordinary workloads and virtualization. In fact, it’s not really designed to cover all type of workloads (think about big data for example). And not all applications scale in the same way – meaning that sometimes you need to add different types of resources to your infrastructure (e.g. storage-only nodes for capacity). Last but not least, most HCI products on the market have a specific focus on edge or core use cases, but are not able to cover both of them concurrently, efficiently at a reasonable cost. These limitations might be of secondary importance today, but if you look at them in the long term that could radically change. 

The ugly of HCI

The initial investment to adopt HCI could be pretty high. Especially if storage and server amortization cycles are different. This is merely a financial issue, but I’ve seen it happen several times with customers of all sizes while trying to manage their budget wisely. This can delay and slow down HCI adoption and result in a long transition period that is not beneficial to anybody.

Closing the circle

As I mentioned at the beginning, the perfect infrastructure that excels in every field has yet to exist. HCI is a good compromise for a lot of workloads but fails with the most demanding ones – and what are usually considered its strengths could quickly become weaknesses.  

Not long ago, I had the chance of being briefed by DataCore and their HCI solution. I really like their approach and I think it could address some of the issues I discussed in this blog. I’ll be hosting a webinar with them in a couple of weeks and we will be talking about how to deploy Hybrid-converged Infrastructures. Yes, you read it right, it’s not hyper- but Hybrid-converged, and if you want to learn more about it sign up and join us. I’m interested in your opinions and will make the webinar as interactive as possible, with quick polls and questions that you’ll be invited to ask the presenters.