Converged and Hyperconverged Secondary Storage: What Can They Do For IT Teams?

September 23rd, 2019

If terms like “converged secondary storage” and “hyperconverged storage” make you feel like you’ve just stepped into an episode of Star Trek, you aren’t alone. Compared to traditional data center infrastructure models, these are relatively new concepts. However, more and more data center backup vendors are adopting these features into their product offerings. 

As technology progresses, IT teams have less time and fewer resources while working on more projects. And, they’re experiencing higher than ever risks in terms of data protection. Designed to alleviate the complexity of safe data storage are Converged infrastructure (CI), which converged secondary storage is a version of, and hyperconverged infrastructure. They tackle this by combining processes that used to be separate such as backup, recovery, archiving, data management, and copy data management. This lessens the workload for IT teams by consolidating several pieces of hardware into one.

Read on to learn more about what these terms mean, starting with converged secondary storage.

What is converged secondary storage?

With advances in cloud backup capabilities, organizations have transferred their storage infrastructure from utilizing several hardware units to incorporating them into one. This is called converged secondary storage. As a form of CI, converged secondary storage incorporates storage, computing, and networking elements based on x86 hardware in a unified turnkey product. Converged storage vendors typically tout that this type of data storage is easier to purchase (one vendor vs multiple), faster to deploy and manage, and offers lower operating and capital costs. 

It’s important to keep in mind that not all data center backup software provides converged infrastructure. These options may be suitable for organizations that are happy with their current storage setup and wish only to seek out third-party services specific to backup and recovery. However, leading vendors in the converged backup field, like Nutanix, include data encryption, data tiering, and backup to their converged infrastructure offerings, and even incorporate CI into their data management offerings outside of storage. Converged secondary storage and data center backup are not opposing parties, but rather two pieces of a broader data management puzzle.

A competitive converged infrastructure product for backup will have several qualities:

  • Integrates everything from storage hardware and software (backup, deduplication, compression)
  • A single, simplified user interface
  • Backup capabilities
  • Creates snapshots and clones
  • Cloud-based, software-defined architecture
  • Storage and backup scalability
  • Non-disruptive syncs and upgrades
  • Instant recovery

What is hyper-converged infrastructure?

Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is very similar to CI, but differs in that it is software-defined versus hardware-defined. You may also see some vendors refer to it as “hyperconverged secondary storage.” HCI virtualizes data center backup. HCI vendors suggest that its main benefits are reduced costs, enhanced efficiency, and enhanced productivity within IT teams. The most common workloads running on HCI are smaller databases, but virtual desktop and SaaS tools work great with HCI as well.

One key difference between HCI and CI is in how you can (or cannot) divide data. With a converged infrastructure, computing, storing, and networking elements are discreet and can be divided. With HCI, components cannot be separated because of its virtualized nature.

In this arena, Rubrik and Cohesity are two major players. Their HCI instruments both promise to break down silos that house distinct data protection and management tasks, including backup, archiving and restoration. In addition, they promise to provide low-cost, built-in infrastructure with hardware and software-defined architectures that are effective for scale-out, worldwide deduplication, and cost.

While adopting or extending CI and HCI can produce cost savings and improve efficiency, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. With both solutions, it’s important to be mindful of keeping applications up and running, without interruption, given their support on the cloud and virtualization. It’s also important to be mindful of your particular project’s needs—for larger databases and online transactional processing, converged infrastructure may not be such a great fit.

A final point to consider with converged secondary storage is startup cost. While vendors claim long-term cost savings, initial expenses may actually be greater. Given this concern, organizations should consider whether they will spend less by using a traditional secondary storage solution if it still meets their particular needs.