The difference between convergence, hyperconvergence and superconvergence is a matter of degree. When the concept of convergence emerged, it was in answer to siloed architectures where compute, storage and network capabilities remained separate. In a converged system, some part of these three facets were bundled together by the use of management software. Hyperconvergence meant that certain equipment might house both compute and storage, but usually not networking. Superconvergence attempts to bring everything together, along with virtualization and management.
Let’s return to this idea of silos. A silo in IT is usually related to segregation of data, but we can also see it in terms of functionality. We generally think of computers, such as workstations or servers with their individual operating systems and software packages, as a distinct type of IT component. Network devices, like switches, routers, firewalls and load balancers, have traditionally been understood as different from workstations or servers. With the development of high-functioning storage networks, that too has been viewed as a different type of component. Virtualization and management can be considered two more silos.
The divisions between the convergence concepts are not along exact lines. Rather, it appears to be a progression toward greater convergence in a sort of evolution. Cloudistics, in their white paper “The 4th Era of IT Infrastructure: Superconverged Systems,” sees the changes as generational:
- 1st generation: siloed
- 2nd generation: converged
- 3rd generation: hyperconverged
- 4th generation: superconverged
In a chart comparing the infrastructures, they detail how the generations stack up in terms of cost efficiency, performance, ease of use, resiliency and future potential. One interesting point is that they identified a loss of scalability with the hyperconverged infrastructure, but a restoration of scalability in the 4th generation through the integration of elastic block flash (EBF) storage. They claim that their product Ignite is the first superconverged infrastructure system on the market, and that it overcomes limitations apparent in previous IT infrastructure generations. The Ignite platform combines computer hardware, hypervisor, storage visualization and network visualization all into a single package.
When we combine two or more functionalities in a single unit, we have convergence. Just as equipment manufacturers found they could house various functions within the same multiservice box, cloud computing providers are bringing more and more functions together in smaller packages. New technologies such as network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) make it possible to add once-cumbersome technologies to their portfolio of IaaS and SaaS offerings. As virtualization works hand-in-hand with cloud computing, the convergence of technologies becomes possible to the nth degree.