Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions are among the hottest technologies on the market today. According to IDC, the HCI market saw year-over-year growth of 110 percent between 2015 and 2016. Forty percent of organizations are now using HCI solutions, according to a recent 451 Research survey, and that number is expected to rise substantially over the next two years.

Hyper-convergence is popular because it reduces IT complexity and enables organizations to roll out applications faster and with less risk. HCI solutions tightly integrate compute, storage, networking and virtualization services, delivering them through software on a commodity x86 hardware. This eliminates the need to build out data center infrastructure using discrete components that must be individually configured and managed.

Unified communications (UC) systems traditionally were deployed in the three-tier architecture with physical servers, storage arrays and network gear. While it offered a definite improvement over traditional PBXs, this legacy approach was difficult to scale, manage and support.

Virtualization ultimately broke the one-to-one relationship between applications and servers, reducing capital expenses, power consumption and operational overhead, and increasing server utilization and efficiency. Early virtualization solutions were unable to deliver the performance needed to support real-time applications such as voice and video. However, those limitations have been overcome and modern UC systems such as the ShoreTel platform are commonly deployed on virtual machines (VMs).

HCI solutions are ideal for virtualized applications, including UC. Virtualization is built into the HCI platform, so VMs can be spun up quickly and replicated to other nodes or the cloud for redundancy and failover. The software-defined approach of HCI also enables single-pane-of-glass management and a high degree of automation.

UC solutions typically involve multiple applications, including call routing and control, voice mail, and collaboration tools, which can be run as a set of VMs on one HCI system.  All system resources will be dedicated to the UC applications, ensuring high levels of performance and quality of service.

Hyper-convergence also features a scale-out architecture that makes it possible to increase capacity simply by adding nodes. Organizations can create pools of compute and storage resources to meet changing workload demands, such as UC systems that must support growing numbers of users.