Evaluating HCI: An Infinite Approach
A different way to look at decision making and where to start when evaluating Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI). Ignore the noise, analyze the problem and design the right solution, not only for the problem itself but the company's vision and future.
I just finished listening to Simon Sinek's recently released book: The Infinite Game, and it compelled me to write this blog. While the idea or concept of the book can be applied to just about anything, I wanted to apply it to what I do daily: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.
I highly recommend the book if you’re interested in looking at a different way of helping lead an organization (yours or those who you help) into the future. Before moving on, I want to make it crystal clear that this is not a book review as I wouldn’t do it the justice it deserves.
What changes matter with new HCI technologies?
It seems that every week, a new article comes out about one of the major HCI technologies. Most talk about Who’s on first and What’s on second. Our inherent need that someone “must-win” drives a lot of these articles and discussion points. While these articles certainly hold some weight, it’s important to see the forest for the trees and ask yourself, What metrics were cherry-picked to sway the reader, and will it truly matter in the Infinite Game?
We’re all human; emotions can get the best of us, and that’s OK, but being able to recognize that we are in this type of situation can allow us to step back from the revenue numbers, politics, stock prices, market shares, and please, especially, “This vendor was ripped out because it failed” stories and start making fact-based decisions. Technology fails, environments are undersized, the business grows faster than anticipated, improper training led to an outage, but for the most part, technology evolves and gets better over time. Each one of the aforementioned problems are only tiny segments of an overall decision process. They don’t give all the details, and they provide a myopic view of the market, oftentimes skewed (positively or negatively) towards a certain vendor. Putting them all together to get the bigger picture is the hard part.
The rules of business are not black and white. There are no clear winners or losers. The process of picking an HCI platform (or otherwise) would be much easier if they were, but the reality is that they aren’t. However, there are basic questions that can be answered up front to narrow down the choices. These are by no means all-inclusive, but they do start to pave a path for which technology may be a fit.
What problem(s) are we trying to solve and/or what is the use case?
Contrary to popular belief, HCI is not the bee's knees to every use-case or business model. Make sure to understand how the technology will be used. It's OK to make the decision NOT to use HCI.
Am I ready to update or change my operational procedures?
Over the last several years, businesses have built data centers using 3-tier architecture. Operation teams have built procedures with how to manage/monitor/fix these environments. While HCI can help bring simplicity, the initial uplift shouldn't be overlooked.
What is the company's cloud strategy and how does HCI integrate?
This is a bit harder to wrap one's head around. HCI vendors are quickly evolving with their cloud strategies but what that will ultimately look like, no one knows. Understanding the immediate vs. future viability of having this functionality will be important. First to market doesn't mean best, both technologically, and fit for the business.
Are there specific hardware requirements?
The phrase "hardware is hardware" is often used in this context, however, depending on your business model, this can be quite important. Highly secure environments need to understand the entire supply chain to ensure their network isn't compromised at the physical layer.
Does the solution need to integrate with existing tools, and if so, what are those tools?
This relates to the operational question above. Perhaps the business is willing to change the operational model but requires certain tools to stay around. How well will these HCI platforms integrate with those tools is something to consider.
How to make the right HCI decision for your organization?
As Simon says in his book, “As human beings, we are naturally inclined to seek out immediate solutions to uncomfortable problems and prioritize quick wins to advance our ambitions.” Understand your company’s vision, ask “Why” multiple times, don’t fear change and uncertainty, take emotion out of the equation, make fact-based decisions that help align to the vision and truly answer the “Why.” Challenging the status quo with good intentions in mind should not be a punishable offense. Understand what having an infinite mindset means and try to apply it to your world, or in this case: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.
The good news in all of this is that WWT is ready to help and get much deeper. We offer an HCI workshop that can help craft a vision of where HCI can integrate into the business with the right solution and avoid the pitfalls. Furthermore, our Advanced Technology Center can help you prove it out before making the big decision.
This article was originally published November 2019.