Companies are now recognizing the growing cost and restrictions of cloud deployments, while running a data center in-house brings its problems, such as the need for reliable connectivity and in-house skills. If you find yourself in this position, there’s a chance that converged infrastructure – a single, condensed, and pre-built cloud appliance – could help.
What is Converged Infrastructure?
Converged Infrastructure (CI) is a hardware-focused, building-block approach for minimizing compatibility issues between storage systems, servers, and network devices to reduce complex deployments and overall costs. Also referred to as converged architecture, it represents the convergence of computing, storage, and networking infrastructure in the data center. Converged infrastructure systems are usually purchased from one company instead of buying components separately from different suppliers.
How does it work?
Converged infrastructure typically includes the following elements:
- Management Software
- Automation and orchestration capabilities
Converged infrastructure solutions can be designed, tested, and prevalidated for a variety of applications and industry use cases.
Converged infrastructure vendors may deliver equipment tested, pre-racked, and ready to use. Alternatively, the equipment can be assembled at a customer site, along with a reference architecture document, which is a detailed guide on how to deploy and configure the solution.
Benefits and drawbacks
A converged infrastructure is typically comprised of components from a single vendor.
This has the following advantages:
- Greater compatibility: Helps minimize or even eliminate hardware and software compatibility issues.
- Cost savings: It saves money on data center provisioning, deployment, and management. Although currently many converged systems still require separate management tools for computing, networking, and storage even if they come from the same manufacturer, IT teams are starting to configure and manage all the system resources through a single management interface.
- Simplification: Streamlines data center management because it eliminates the need for IT to have expertise in products from multiple vendors.
Potential downsides include:
- Vendor reliance: Converged infrastructure locks a company into a single vendor, which can result in fewer features and functionality, and limited customization options.
- Increased complexity: Adding components to a converged architecture after installation can be complicated and expensive.
How do you deploy Converged Infrastructure?
The primary ways of deploying converged infrastructure are as a reference architecture and as a pre-racked configuration.
- Reference architectures are pre-validated configuration guidelines that provide blueprints for the type, quantity, and connectivity of converged system resources. This approach allows for rapid, trusted configurations that can leverage existing equipment. Compute, storage, and network resources are allocated and deployed according to vendor blueprint requirements and recommendations. With this approach, individual components can be easily scaled up or out as required by application administrators.
- Pre-racked configurations have the compute, storage, and network components pre-installed in a data center rack. The components are often also pre-connected and cabled for the rapid turn-up. This approach further accelerates deployments but often allows for scale-out only scalability.
What are the differences between converged, hyperconverged, and composable infrastructure?
Converged, hyperconverged, and composable infrastructure are all forms of managing IT solutions, though they differ in execution. Converged infrastructure and hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) are alike in that the goal is to overcome traditional infrastructure silos so that IT solutions can work together more efficiently; However, HCI does this at the hypervisor level and uses clusters of multiple nodes to create pools of shared resources. While convergence isn’t the point of composable infrastructure, IT resources are similarly abstracted from where they’re physically located so they can be managed via the web.
In the case of selecting a converged infrastructure, organizations will have to deal with some vendor lock-in, although this may not be as challenging as it sounds. It is designed as a turnkey appliance for rapid implementation, and it uses stock servers and network equipment you would need to buy either way. A standard hardware and software interface also makes it easier to manage and maintain. Organizations should request information on the vendor’s product cadence and the timeline for integrating additional features and functionality.
Is Converged Infrastructure right for your business?
Your company’s IT strategy is likely to consider in-house deployments, PaaS, and cloud computing, and each has a role to play. Converged Infrastructure adds dimension by bringing the convenience of the cloud to a private, in-house setting. It can be used where there is a tight deadline, lack of cloud, or skills shortage on the ground in a particular location.