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The Case Against Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) for eDiscovery

Among experienced professionals working in the eDiscovery industry, from software developers to infrastructure engineers, it is commonly understood that eDiscovery operates in a niche, though prolific, space in the technology landscape. However, within this tight-knit community of experts, there is a vast difference of opinion regarding how to best deploy and leverage software/hardware resources (commonly called a technology stack) to deliver performant, cost-effective eDiscovery platforms.

One of the most polarizing debates relates to the use of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) versus Converged Infrastructure (CI, a.k.a. conventional/legacy hardware solutions) for the deployment of compute, network and storage resources.

The principal architectural difference between the two solutions is that HCI virtualizes compute/storage at or through a hypervisor, whereas CI physically separates these key functions. Simply put, HCI leverages federation to enact deployments, placing compute and storage in lockstep, whereas CI keeps them separate and flexible.

Proponents of HCI cite hardware/software integration management capabilities as the key advantage over conventional hardware. This “single pane of glass” operating model is an extremely marketable feature for technicians as it, in theory, addresses the age-old dilemma of balancing storage and compute resources with relative ease, full visibility, and without the need for specialized operators. This sentiment is widely endorsed and marketed by software developers and collaborating hardware manufacturers.

However, these developers/manufacturers built HCI solutions to address demand in the general IT market. As explained above, eDiscovery is far from generic, naturally unpredictable, workflow-intensive, and data-heavy. With this in mind, it is not surprising to learn that HCI’s value proposition for generic IT is specifically what makes it a sub-optimal solution for eDiscovery. This is what we will explore in detail in this article.

To better understand why HCI is the wrong choice for eDiscovery systems, let’s first look at the key components of the technology stack in isolation.

hci v ci


Storage in HCI environments leverages data locality (moving computations to where data resides versus moving data to computation) as a primary feature driving system performance, preventing data transfer over the network in order to maintain consistency and minimize network congestion.

eDiscovery data, however, is only sporadically used, and employing locality prevents system administrators from linking specific data repositories to performance tiers based on their workflow knowledge. This lack of flexibility in HCI environments results in volatile system performance and necessitates oversizing as a countermeasure, requiring an all-SSD configuration at a price point approximately ten times higher than traditional drives.

Another detrimental byproduct of using HCI is that workload predictability (matter size, type and urgency) is not native to the eDiscovery industry, and thus HCI’s requirement for a single, global pool of storage is neither economical nor performant for multifaceted workloads (SQL, natives, indexes, source files).

Finally, it is well known that scaling eDiscovery environments is not a parallel endeavor for compute and storage. In an HCI solution, eDiscovery data will quickly outgrow the storage capacity per host, requiring the purchase of additional licenses and compute resources (hardware) every time additional storage is needed. This inability to scale in a non-linear fashion will inevitably put decision makers into a difficult position, requiring:

  • Unnecessary capital investments to concurrently scale both compute and storage hardware resources;
  • Implementation of innovative data management and archiving methodologies (easier said than done); and/or,
  • Outsourcing eDiscovery operations to a secondary provider/platform when only storage scaling is required.

These unsavory scenarios are compounded when you factor in per-gigabyte (GB) pricing models (currently ranging from $3-$20) that drive up your cost base with the unused GBs, diluting your margins. At the end of the day, when you are unnecessarily spending money on hardware resources, operational improvements and outsourcing, your storage costs will be significantly higher with an HCI solution.


  • Unnecessary capital investments to concurrently scale both compute and storage hardware resources
  • Implementation of innovative data management and archiving methodologies (difficult)
  • Outsourcing eDiscovery operations to a secondary provider/platform when only storage scaling is required
  • Absorbing expensive per-GB costs for storage you do not need or use


Using HCI for eDiscovery forces administrators to either purchase more compute than necessary or leverage resources such as VMware DRS to shuffle virtual machines across multiple, less utilized hosts. Both scenarios are problematic, unnecessarily driving up platform costs and degrading performance.

HCI requires you to proactively purchase compute to ensure eDiscovery performance

HCI can utilize up to 50% of available compute resources to support integrated storage and overhead, with overhead consumption varying based upon machine activity (usually 10%-20%). In eDiscovery, however, the virtual machines that are sharing CPU and RAM resources are “always on” and continually taxing the system. With an HCI setup, this means that integrated storage, compute and overhead are all performing parallel to the eDiscovery application (Relativity, Nuix, Ipro, etc.) compute. During peak load, this will result in poor performance from a core count ratio unless additional compute is purchased beforehand. To illustrate the significant amount of additional compute that would be needed, research conducted by an industry-leading cloud computing company specializing in HCI software, cloud services, and software-defined storage states that the Storage Controller should provide either the same number of cores as a single socket in the host, or roughly 8-12 CPUs.

On top of purchasing additional compute to offset system overhead and storage compute requirements, service providers and platform owners must also license these unused core counts, including base software, up to the OS. In an industry where Microsoft SPLA is a major budget item for service providers, it makes little economic sense to pay for licenses and additional compute when you don’t have to.

Using VMware DRS (and similar programs) to shuffle virtual machines in real-time to less utilized hosts consumes resources, perpetuates system failure, and drives up costs.

For eDiscovery providers and users, platform performance and stability are paramount to success. For this reason, we always disable automated intra- or cross-host balancing of VMs, as this usually hampers the OS and results in job/agent task failure and making it difficult for support teams to troubleshoot issues caused by automation.

In mission-critical eDiscovery environments, where prescriptive balancing and intimate knowledge of the platform ecosystem are prerequisites, just one misguided move based on CPU metrics and enacted by automation can bring the application to a standstill. Imagine a system-wide failure on a Friday evening with a production deadline looming, and you can see the latent danger.

As a best practice, George Jon leaves a specified amount of compute resources free in all environments to avoid compute contention, which is very costly for an HCI solution.


  • Unnecessarily consumes costly resources
  • Requires that purchased overhead, which cannot be leveraged for eDiscovery performance, be fully licensed, a lose-lose cost proposition
  • Forces scaling in parallel between compute and storage regardless of need

Network Attached Storage (NAS) Filers

NAS-based filers, which are required for HCI solutions (but optional for CI) are used to write, protect, and organize data into large blocks. These filers are created through complex reverse-engineering of Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) protocol.

This imperfect process presents obvious and significant challenges when enhancements are made to the SMB protocol, as the source code is not released, thus leaving NAS software engineers in an endless cycle of reverse-engineering to accommodate enhancements/improvements. Even when the technicians manage to successfully recreate the SMB update, the overall lag in innovation is ever-present and can potentially lead to major issues.

When functioning, the large data blocks that NAS filers create artificially inflate the overall size of data growth in the environment. We have seen this data inflation range from 30% to 100%, which is an extremely high cost proposition considering that data growth and storage for eDiscovery tends to only scale up.

For the vast majority of general IT applications, NAS filers function without issue. But when they are employed for eDiscovery systems, they can promote inconsistent platform performance and compromise stability. When you have thousands of files running simultaneously, with large workload surges, the filers can fail and break the workflow process, forcing you to start over. These vulnerabilities manifest themselves as processing, production and imaging failures related to locked files and/or a systemic inability to locate files in a timely manner, commonly referred to as “time to first byte”.


  • Lag in updates and improvements, which can lead to major environmental issues
  • Inflate overall data growth, driving up costs
  • Can compromise deadlines through inconsistent performance and platform instability


30 Hour

GeorgeJon conducted a real-world test, comparing an enterprise client system using HCI to our standard enterprise offering, running Relativity on both.

The dataset was a group of mixed PSTs totaling nearly 300GB. The GJ Kit was discovered and published the files in 17 hours, while the HCI client environment completed the task in 47 hours. Both the discovery and publishing phases on the GJ Kit outpaced the client’s HCI environment.

The 30-hour difference in performance is attributed to the Conventional Hardware “Kit” not competing for CPU resources and proper SQL sizing.


It is our professional opinion, based upon fifteen-plus years of real-world, industry-specific experience, that HCI is the wrong choice for eDiscovery systems

  • Compute and storage for eDiscovery NEVER scale in a linear fashion. Yet HCI solutions must scale compute and storage in lockstep because of its integrated stack, which leads to significantly higher platform costs, both upfront and throughout the life of the system.
  • Variable eDiscovery workloads, defined by function and data type, thrive when administrators can specify storage performance tiers to optimize resources. HCI only provides a single, global pool of storage, which is inflexible and does not allow for customization.
  • eDiscovery environments DO NOT require the performance delivered by costly all-SSD (or “flash”) solutions, but HCI solutions rely heavily on the all-SSD configuration to deliver acceptable performance.
  • NAS-based filters, employed by all leading HCI solutions, ALWAYS lead to sporadic and inconsistent eDiscovery platform performance.
    eDiscovery operations yield unpredictable and inevitable data growth, large caseloads, heavy text volume, limited control of data queries, and 24/7/365 access to and maintenance of matters without expiration dates. These complex, mission-critical requirements are not aligned to HCI’s inflexible “single pane of glass” model, from either a financial or operational standpoint.
  • Committing to an HCI solution forces a “vendor lock-in” scenario, whereby users are unable to mix-and-match compute and storage resources for future scaling, architectural updates, or technology improvements. Once implemented, altering an HCI solution requires you to rebuild your systems from scratch, a costly proposition.
  • The proprietary storage protocols inherent to HCI solutions typically result in complicated troubleshooting, requiring technology-specific, high-priced experts to ably maintain the system.

Do your business (and yourself) a favor by avoiding HCI. Adopt a more sustainable, scalable, cost-effective, and proven solution using conventional hardware for your on-premise or cloud-hybrid eDiscovery environment.

Questions? Contact Us:

About this Document

GeorgeJon is an eDiscovery infrastructure, product, and process specialist, delivering performant, scalable, fault tolerant environments for users worldwide. GeorgeJon works with global corporations, leading law firms, government agencies, and independent resellers/hosting companies to quickly and strategically implement large-scale eDiscovery platforms, troubleshoot and perfect existing systems, and provide unprecedented 24/7/365 core services to ensure optimal performance and uptime.

The Research

GeorgeJon’s conclusions are informed by fifteen-plus years of conducting enterprise-class eDiscovery platform assessments, application implementations and infrastructure benchmark testing for a global client base. GeorgeJon has compiled extensive quantitative and qualitative insights from the research and implementation of these real-world environments, from single users to multinational corporations, and is a leading authority on eDiscovery infrastructure.

About the Author

Reynolds Broker | Chief of Staff, GeorgeJon

As a strategist, consultant and implementer for GeorgeJon, Reynolds positions the company for sustainable growth and long-term success through business and technology roadmap development, cross-functional process and structural improvements, strategic initiatives management, and holistic data-driven reporting. His eclectic work and scholastic backgrounds are rooted in and delineated by a successful track record in the Technology (eDiscovery), Corporate Finance, and Government Affairs sectors. Reynolds holds an International MBA in Corporate Finance & Spanish (University of South Carolina) and a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs (University of Georgia).

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Nico Van der Beken


Former Big 4 Partner and renowned forensics expert Nico Van der Beken is a key member of our Advisory Board. Following a distinguished career assisting major law firms and corporations involved in criminal, civil, regulatory, and internal investigations as a partner at KPMG Switzerland, Nico today provides advisory services to global eDiscovery businesses. Employing his specialized knowledge in Investigations, Intelligence, Diligence, Digital Forensics, Cryptocurrency Forensics, Data Analytics, eDiscovery, and Cyber Response, Nico provides expert insights into the European market and steers strategic growth for GeorgeJon.

In an industry where knowledge is power and experience begets performance and profitability, GeorgeJon is constantly absorbing and documenting real-world solutions to proactively improve client systems. Tapping the knowledge of a 25-year industry veteran augments this knowledge base with a client-side focus and market-specific insights. A leader of Forensic Technology teams at PwC, Deloitte and KPMG, and a co-founder of the Swiss office for Stroz Friedberg, Nico aligns GeorgeJon’s proven solutions with client expectations and needs.

Nico is also the co-founder of Undecom, the first global internet search platform specifically designed to congregate investigators, forensic experts, detectives, intelligence professionals, security experts, and customers from all over the world. He holds an Executive MBA in Technology Management from the Université de Fribourg and a Master of Science in Industrial Sciences from Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen.

Amy Mejia


Amy Mejia has spent her career enhancing people operations and leading strategic HR initiatives for growing companies across a wide range of industries. She develops and evolves GeorgeJon’s HR processes and programs on a daily basis, including talent management and development, employee engagement, compensation/benefits, and much more. She is perpetually focused on helping GeorgeJon achieve ever-evolving goals by optimizing company-wide productivity and satisfaction.

Amy holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern Illinois University, a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) Certification from the HR Certification Institute, and is a Society for HR Management (SHRM) Certified Professional (CP). She is a Chicago native and mother of two young boys.

Kaya Kowalczyk


Kaya drives GeorgeJon’s marketing strategies and initiatives. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of marketing, branding, and communications to enhance the company’s visibility, attract target audiences, and support business growth. Works closely with the executive team and collaborates with cross-functional departments to achieve marketing goals and ensure alignment with the company’s overall objectives.

During Kaya’s 18 years at GeorgeJon, she has excelled at myriad technical and business roles, developing a comprehensive understanding of GJ’s operating model while implementing programs that nurture the sustainable growth and healthy maturation of the organization. 

Reynolds Broker


Reynolds is the primary advisor, spokesperson, and tactical right hand for the Executive Team (Founder, COO, CTO). As an innovative strategist, consultant, and implementer, he spearheads the successful execution of mission-critical projects and strategic initiatives across the organization, specializing in organizational alignment, business operations governance, and marketing/communications management. His diverse professional and educational experience is rooted in the technology, corporate finance, and government affairs sectors.

Reynolds holds an International MBA in Corporate Finance and Spanish from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the University of Georgia.

Darrin Hernandez, CPA


Darrin Hernandez is the Vice President of Finance for GeorgeJon, responsible for ensuring corporate financial vitality, including accounting strategy, cash flow, reporting, forecasting, budgeting, and legal/insurance/tax compliance. Possessing a unique background that meshes accounting & finance expertise and executive management with emerging technology initiatives, Darrin is uniquely qualified to bring stability and foresight to GeorgeJon’s financial endeavors.

Over the course of his twenty-year career in corporate finance and accounting, Darrin has established himself as an authority in tech-enabled services and SaaS businesses. Prior experience in the cyber-security, bookings management as an online marketplace, and digital transformation consulting spaces provided invaluable insights for anticipating and adjusting to the ever-changing landscape that permeates the tech industry. Being nimble, adaptable, and prepared is necessary to deliver stability for fast-growing companies, and Darrin is the man with the plan.

Darrin has a B.S. in Accounting from Northern Illinois University and is a Certified Public Accountant. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids.

Allison Jessee


Allison Jessee is the Chief Revenue Officer at GeorgeJon. With 20+ years of experience in sales, account management, and customer success, Allison has demonstrated a profound commitment to driving growth and success for both GeorgeJon and its customers. She delivers deep industry knowledge, strategic vision, and an endless passion for innovation to guide customers through the complexities of data ecosystems while future-proofing operations.

Allison’s expertise in sales automation, strategy and sales execution, and customer relationship management makes her the ideal leader to guide GeorgeJon’s revenue growth.

Formerly Vice President of Customer Success at GeorgeJon, Allison led a team of customer success managers dedicated to optimizing eDiscovery ecosystems and data management solutions for some of the world’s leading law firms and corporations. Her collaborative approach with the sales, marketing, and tech teams has been instrumental in developing and executing strategies that have increased customer retention and satisfaction.

Prior to her tenure at GeorgeJon, Allison was the Vice President of Customer Success and Account Management at UPSTACK, where she played a pivotal role in launching and scaling a cloud-based platform for IT infrastructure services. Her experience also includes serving as the Director of Client Engagement at HBR Consulting, where she managed a diverse portfolio of clients in the legal industry and delivered strategic and operational solutions for Data Center, Network, and eDiscovery Hosting.

Ryan Merholz


Ryan Merholz is the Vice President of Engineering at GeorgeJon. An experienced eDiscovery industry veteran, Ryan oversees our support, professional services, and security programs to ensure world-class customer experiences for our global client base.

Ryan’s service acumen and technical expertise was honed over 15+ years in the eDiscovery realm at Relativity, where he built and led customer support/success, program management and consulting teams. He led the transition of Relativity’s support organization to the cloud and evolved their approach to customer success management for service providers. He is also a passionate advocate for workplace inclusion, diversity and belonging.

Ryan has a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ohio Northern University and lives in the Chicago suburbs with his family. When not working, Ryan enjoys going to the theater, trying new restaurants, and walking his dogs.

Tom Matarelli


Tom Matarelli is the Chief Sales Officer at GeorgeJon. A proven eDiscovery innovator, thought leader, and community contributor, Tom’s leadership skills, global perspective and technical expertise provide deep knowledge to our global customer base. He brings 15+ years of experience in Governance Risk Compliance and Legal Technology to the GJ Leadership Team. 

Tom has held leadership roles at multiple eDiscovery technology providers, including Relativity, Vertical Discovery / Ligl, and Reveal. Starting his career as a CPA, Tom quickly moved into forensic accounting and investigations, eventually focusing on forensic technology for eDiscovery. He migrated this knowledge base to the software market, joining Relativity to build and lead their global advisory practice. He has helped law firms and corporations adopt AI-based workflows for eDiscovery, investigations, audits, and corporate compliance.

Tom holds a BA in Accounting and Marketing from Western Illinois University and an MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is active in the local community, mentoring Chicago Public School students and coaching little league baseball.

George Orr


George Orr is a transformational leader who informs and drives the day-to-day operations of GeorgeJon. Working in close partnership with George Nedwick, CEO, he strategizes and implements both daily and long-term initiatives for the business.

Orr held multiple executive roles at Relativity, leading customer teams focused on support, professional services, customer success, and the growth of the certified professional community throughout his tenure. Orr was an original member of the Relativity “go-to-market team” in 2007, and helped grow the company in revenue and employees (5-1500). Orr brings his operational expertise and understanding of the eDiscovery customer landscape to the GeorgeJon team.

When not in the office, George can usually be found at a Pearl Jam concert or taking on new adventures with his family.

George Nedwick


George Nedwick is the founder, owner, and principal architect of GeorgeJon (GJ). Under George’s leadership, the company has grown from an IT startup to an internationally acclaimed industry leader serving a global client base.

George is a world-class systems architect who has spent fifteen years perfecting a performant, scalable, modular eDiscovery framework that can be replicated and managed on a universal scale. Recognizing a deficiency in technical expertise, storage capabilities, and cost-effective oversight within the eDiscovery industry, George methodically built a team to address this challenge. This includes forging partnerships with hardware manufacturers (Dell), software providers, and leading industry software providers to develop best practice methodologies for optimized infrastructure, specifically designed to meet the demanding needs of eDiscovery users.

George has developed clients in multiple vertical markets, including multinational corporations, leading law firms, government agencies, consulting firms, and premium service providers. He has proven expertise in working with sensitive/classified data and is well versed in navigating complex international data export laws. George has also moved the firm into creation and delivery of proprietary hardware, specifically monitoring appliances that can be placed at client sites to allow for remote access and 24/7 monitoring of all infrastructure components.