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Hyperconvergence and Virtualization - What's the difference
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In my last posting I described Hyperconvergence as a technology used to access data center resources independent of hardware device specifications. Since then a number of people have asked me what the difference is between Hyperconvergence and Virtualization. This is a good question and one your students will hopefully be able to answer. To better understand the relationship between Hyperconvergence and Virtualization, it is helpful to think of Hyperconvergence as an IT infrastructure model, while Virtualization is a process used to help obtain that model. Using the Hyperconvergence model, hardware devices are represented in software structures, allowing their resources to be accessed and managed independent of the specific hardware device a resource is using. The holy grail of Hyperconvergence is the creation of a Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC), in which all servers, computing devices, and services are defined in software models that can be managed from a single administrative interface.


A Virtual Machine (VM) is an example of a hyperconverged computer system. As illustrated in the following diagram, a VM uses the virtualization process running in a Hypervisor to represent a computer environment based on a software defined structure. VMs.JPG

The virtual machine’s software structure identifies the number of CPU cores, amount of RAM, network and storage adaptor type, storage capacity, and access to removable devices such as USB ports available to the system. One of the first steps in creating a Software Defined Data Center or SDDC is to use Virtualization to hyper-converge the physical servers into virtual machines. Once the servers are hyper-converged, they become independent of the physical host computer hardware and can be quickly moved between host computers to provide fault tolerance. The hyperconverged servers can also have their physical resource usage, such as storage, memory, and CPU cores, balanced to achieve pre-set performance goals.


Until recently, data center technicians could make sustainable careers with their ability to manage virtualized servers using VMware or Hyper-V. However, today’s movement to software-defined data centers (SDDCs) requires additional skills that involve hyperconvergence of storage and network resources. To respond to this need, companies like VMware, Microsoft, and Cisco are coming out with a variety of new products and certifications aimed at the SDDC, Software Defined Networks (SDN), and Cloud environments. Our new Hands-on Virtual Computing textbook and MindTap products lay a foundation in virtualization concepts that can help prepare your students to take advantage of opportunities in this rapidly growing field.


In addition to virtualization, there are other hyperconvergence processes used in creating a SDDC. For example, Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a technology used to hyper converge network resources by separating the control plane from the data plane. In SDN, the control plane becomes a software structure that provides a logical view of the network independent of the physical switches that make up the data plane. In the past, the control plane was built into the physical switches and routers, forcing administrator to know the specifics of each device being managed. The software-based control plane used with SDN provides administrators treat network traffic based on traffic type such as video, voice, or data. An open source protocol used to hyper-converge data planes is called OpenFlow. OpenFlow allows administrators to manage data plane devices (switches and routers) from a standardized, software defined control plane. Today many switches and routers are compatible with OpenFlow, allowing hyperconvergence of these physical devices.


In summary, students should understand that hyperconvergence is the model used to create Software Defined Data Centers (SDDCs), whereas Virtualization along with Software Defined Networking (SDN) are two processes used to achieve this model. Due to the growing importance of SDDCs in the IT world, having a good background in these technologies can enhance career opportunities.


In my next posting I will help identify some of the  Virtualization and SDDC certifications available from VMware and Microsoft as well as how our Hands-on Virtual Computing materials can help students prepare for them.