Converged Infrastructure (CI) is all the rage and quite a topic of discussion. And whether one calls it “unified computing”, “fabric-based computing”, or “dynamic infrastructure”, there’s no escaping the literature from the hardware community. Simply put, Converged Infrastructure bundles servers, storage, networking devices and software for infrastructure management all contained in one unit.
At this point it might be good to ask, why the need for converged infrastructure? The answer lies in the wide gap between legacy IT stacks and the needs of virtual workloads. As siloed physical storage and network assets lack the optimization to support virtual servers; IT administrators tend to over provision resources. As more and more workloads get virtualized and the data associated with workloads grows, the IT environment cannot keep pace. Installing /loading more hardware only adds more complexity and cost, and doesn’t address the real problem. For example, consider storage. The local dependency between a physical server and storage shifts to a many-to-one relationship between virtual machines and a single storage device. Multiplexing the different I/O streams of multiple workloads by the hypervisor creates random I/O streams that must compete for resources. This increases IOPS required to service the virtual workloads. To address performance issues, IT administrators may add more disk spindles. However, this also increases capacity. This over-provisioning leads to a higher cost per gigabyte of storage allocated to every virtual machine. This is true of other parameters like capacity and mobility as well.
Here is precisely where converged infrastructure helps. Converged Infrastructure allows you to design, build, and maintain segments of the virtualization stack, while supporting an on-demand growth model.
The first wave of CI providers have been vendors with independent legacy server, storage and networking components. They delivered Converged Infrastructure consisting of pre-racked and cabled solutions based on a reference architecture. The next wave of converged infrastructure aggregates compute, storage and SAN functionality into modular appliances based on commodity x86 hardware that scales out by adding appliance “nodes.” Centralized management and policy configuration at the virtual machine level contribute to lower operational costs. This single-vendor converged infrastructure solution also streamlines deployment, and lowers acquisition costs – however even this system did not fully address the performance and capacity issues. It still uses inefficient methods of writing and reading data to and from storage. Nor does it consider the challenges of capturing, storing, transferring and recovering data copies for backup and disaster recovery.
The third wave of CI – HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI) holds the most promise. It addresses the performance, capacity, mobility, and management issues prevalent in previous waves of converged infrastructure. It achieves VM-centricity by tracking what data belongs to which virtual machine, enabling VM-mobility. By eliminating redundant read and write operations, HCI achieves performance efficiency. It achieves capacity efficiency by reducing the “footprint” of data on production and backup storage via de-duplication, compression and optimization of data at inception. HCI infrastructure promises to dramatically reduce total cost of ownership by eliminating siloed technology, enabling rapid application deployment, reducing labor-intensive activities, preventing over-purchasing and over-provisioning and maximizing the infrastructure investment. The data efficiency introduced with de-duplication, compression and optimization also improves performance.
It helps build a private cloud-computing environment that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within our own IT environment. Because it combines data center components into an appliance form factor, and adds centralized management and the ability to scale – it eliminates compatibility issues typical in a legacy, siloed environment. Furthermore, it streamlines purchasing, deployment and use. Emulating the architecture, processes and practices of the top cloud service providers starts with converged infrastructure, it can reduce complexity, cycle time and costs, thus allowing on premise private cloud services economics to work in IT organization favor.
We must conclude by saying that today though Anunta has created private cloud environments for thousands of desktops for clients in Financial services, manufacturing and Business processing we have not opted for “off-the-shelf” CI products. We have preferred to customize based on the users. Our experience also is, and we speak here as an IT provider to Indian companies in the Indian market, adoption of CI products is low for the following reasons:
- Cost of the solution is at least 30 – 40% higher than traditional Infra approach
- CI currently lacks flexibility when it comes to scaling up specific requirements of compute alone or storage alone and this forces clients to look for the total solution
- CI looks lucrative in green field implementation for small and medium companies, who want to start the VDI Journey in sectors like Training, Healthcare, Manufacturing and Microfinance sector but for the existing infra, re-usability of the storage or network could become a point of concern
Finally we do firmly believe that CI will be the way of adopting to the new age data centers and OEM’s will start aligning themselves to match client expectations on price and flexibility.