Jan 27 2020

This Emerging Technology Promises Easy Data Management

Superconverged infrastructure could make K–12 data center operations easier and less expensive, experts say.

Superconvergence, an emerging data center methodology, promises to take the benefits of hyperconverged infrastructure even further. It would combine five capabilities in a single platform: networking, storage, computing, virtualization and management.

IEEE Fellow Tom Coughlin has high hopes for this approach.

“I could have one piece of equipment I am installing, and it does everything,” he says. “It offers the possibility of greater cost efficiency, because you are buying everything at once instead of buying pieces.”

Experts say superconvergence could be a boon to K–12 education, promising to meet the unique computing needs of K–12 districts at lower cost, with greater ease of deployment, ready scalability and a reduced maintenance workload.

The Promise of One-Stop Data Management

Like HCI, superconvergence aims to combine multiple aspects of data center operations and management at a single point, but with the added benefits of integrated networking and sophisticated management tools.

That integrated management piece may prove to be the key differentiator, offering a “single pane of glass,” a one-stop portal for a range of management activities, says Shaun Snapp, a researcher at Brightwork Research & Analysis.

“That is where everything is visible — a single screen where everything is available to you,” he says. “It allows everything to be monitored very easily within an application. It shows the entire physical setup of the data center and everything that’s going on.”

This integrated management could help IT departments to optimize their budgets by making maximum use of the resources at hand.

“In data centers, hardware is often underutilized. Some percentage of servers are just dead; they are not doing anything,” Snapp said. “This approach gives you the top-end view, so that you can know what is going on. Your waste is lower, you can better identify under-utilized items, and overall efficiency is increased.”

MORE FROM EDTECH: Find out why more K-12 districts are upgrading their data centers with hyperconvergence infrastructure.

Districts Benefit from Greater Flexibility, Lower Costs

Many (if not most) U.S. school districts outsource their data center needs to managed service providers. If those MSPs were to adopt a superconverged strategy, districts could benefit from increased scalability and flexibility, says Fred Hicks, director of infrastructure at Adelphi University.

“As the needs grow, the provider could add new resources and new applications on the fly. That’s valuable in a situation where the needs are changing or evolving from year to year,” Hicks says. “An MSP with a superconverged infrastructure would allow districts to adapt really easily, either by adding new resources or just swapping applications.”

This ease of management could in turn reduce the cost of K–12 computing.

“The outsourcing companies might find it appealing to get a lot of stuff together for a fixed price, and the schools in turn could get more functionality for a lower price,” Coughlin said.

Whether this promise is fulfilled will depend on how superconvergence is actually delivered as this emerging methodology continues to take shape in the IT marketplace.

“It’s such a sexy term, but it is still so loosely defined,” Snapp said. “It’s still an unproven technology.”

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