Hyperconverged infrastructure: Network Glossary Definition

A hyperconverged network is the network component of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). HCI combines compute, storage and network infrastructure in a single preconfigured enclosure, stack or appliance.

HCI makes heavy use of virtualization for all three functions: server, storage and network resources. It provides logical pools of virtualized compute and storage resources and makes them available to virtual machines (VMs) as needed.

Providing the virtual network function is similar, using software-defined network technology to deliver network functions. All the functions normally provided by physical network switches, routers, controllers and firewalls are turned into software resources that can be delivered as needed to each VM. Network hardware is either contained in the HCI rack or enclosure, or delivered within the enclosure via a software-based controller.

The simple fact that all the network infrastructure is in a single enclosure helps simplify management. But hyperconverged network technology is also typically highly automated to further simplify management as compared to traditional network infrastructure, making it suitable for data centers and for delivering private cloud services from the customer premises. Depending on the exact implementation, the hyperconverged network may be able to discover VMs, and automatically provision network services and security policies to new applications or workloads.

The point about security is especially important, because the network services supplied in a hyperconverged system environment must adhere to the same security policies and procedures as those in the rest of the organization.

Similarly, even though the infrastructure is converged and delivered alongside server and storage systems, network professionals must still be involved in its implementation to ensure proper performance and adherence to corporate policies. That’s especially important because hyperconverged infrastructure will have significant requirements in terms of bandwidth and resiliency, which requires proper configuration.

Many traditional hardware and software vendors offer their own HCI implementations, or in partnership with others, often with proprietary network components. An alternative is to take a white box approach, with commodity storage, compute and network platforms and open software on top, to increase your level of flexibility while lowering costs.

Pica8’s PICOS network operating system, for example, is suitable for use in a number of hyperconverged infrastructure solutions. PICOS is an open, Linux-based NOS that can be ported to a range of hardware, providing protection in the event the customer wants to change the underlying hardware platform. It is a software-defined approach that is free of any hardware dependencies.