Converged Infrastructure, the future of computing

Converged infrastructure provides technical and business efficiencies, according to industry researchers and observers.  These gains stem in part from the pre-integration of technology components, the pooling of IT resources and the automation of IT processes.

Converged infrastructure further contributes to efficient data centers by enhancing the ability of cloud computing systems to handle enormous data sets, using only a single integrated IT management system.

Decreased complexity, through the use of pre-integrated hardware with virtualization and automation management tools, is another important value proposition for converged infrastructure.

Historically, to keep pace with the growth of business applications and the terabytes of data they generate, IT resources were deployed in a silo-like fashion. One set of resources has been devoted to one particular computing technology, business application or line of business. These resources support a single set of assumptions and cannot be optimized or reconfigured to support varying usage loads.

The proliferation of IT sprawl in data centers has contributed to rising operations costs, reducing productivity, and stifling agility and flexibility. Maintenance and operations can consume two-thirds of an organization’s technology budget, according to a 2009

InformationWeek survey of executives in 500 companies with annual revenue over $250 million. That leaves just a third of the budget for new IT initiatives. This ratio prevents IT from supporting new business initiatives or responding to real application demands.

A converged infrastructure addresses the problem of siloed architectures and IT sprawl by pooling and sharing IT resources. Rather than dedicating a set of resources to a particular computing technology, application or line of business, converged infrastructure creates a pool of virtualized servers, storage and networking capacity that is shared by multiple applications and lines of business.

Using converged infrastructure by combining server, storage, and networks into a single framework, helps to transform the economics of running the datacenter as well as accelerating the transition to IP storage to help build cloud ready infrastructure.

Benefits of converged infrastructure

Converged infrastructure provides both technical and business efficiencies, according to industry researchers and observers. These gains stem in part from the pre-integration of technology components, the pooling of IT resources and the automation of IT processes.

Converged infrastructure further contributes to efficient data centers by enhancing the ability of cloud computing systems to handle enormous data sets, using only a single integrated IT management system

Writing in CIO magazine, Forrester Research analyst Robert Whiteley noted that converged infrastructures, combining server, storage, and networks into a single framework, help to transform the economics

Running the datacenter thus accelerating the transition to IP storage to help build infrastructures that are “cloud-ready”.[5]

Decreased complexity, through the use of pre-integrated hardware with virtualization and automation management tools, is another important value proposition for converged infrastructure as noted in an IDC study.[7]

InformationWeek highlighted the promise of two long-term advantages of a unified data center infrastructure: Lower costs as the result of lower capital expenses resulting from higher utilization, less cabling, and fewer network connections.  In addition, gaining lower operating costs coming from a reduced labor force via automated data center management and a consolidating storage and network management infrastructure team.  Increased IT agility is gained byvirtualizing IP and Fibre Channel storage networking and allowing for single console management.

Data centers around the world are reaching limits in power, cooling and space. At the same time, capital constraints are requiring organizations to rethink data center strategy. Converged infrastructure offers a solution to these challenges.

Converged infrastructure and cloud computing

Converged infrastructure can serve as an enabling platform for private and public cloud computing services, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) offerings.

Several characteristics make converged infrastructure well suited to cloud deployments. These include the ability to pool IT resources, to automate resource provisioning and to scale up and down capacity quickly to meet the needs of dynamic computing workloads.

Software-defined data center (SDDC)

In a software-defined data center, “all elements of the infrastructure — networking, storage, CPU and security – are virtualized and delivered as a service.”  Software awareness in the infrastructure is not visible to tenants.

SDDC support can be claimed by a wide variety of approaches. Critics see the software-defined data center as a marketing tool and “software-defined hype,” noting this variability.[3]

The software-defined networking market is expected to be valued at about USD $3.7 billion by 2016, compared to USD $360 million in 2013.  IDC estimates that the software-defined storage market is poised to expand faster than any other storage market.

A software-defined data center differs from a private cloud, since a private cloud only has to offer virtual-machine self-service, using traditional provisioning and management.

Instead, SDDC concepts imagine a data center that can encompass private, public, and hybrid clouds.

In a SDDC scenario, IT would define applications and all of the resources they require—including compute, storage, networking, security, and availability into one group made up of all of the required components to create a “logical application.”

Commonly cited benefits of software-defined data centers include:

  • improved efficiency from extending virtualization throughout the data center;
  • increased agility from provisioning applications quickly;
  • improved control over application availability/security using policy-based governance;
  • flexibility to run new and existing applications in multiple platforms and clouds;

In addition, a software-defined data center implementation could reduce a company’s energy usage by enabling servers and other data center hardware to run at decreased power levels or be turned off.

Some believe that software-defined data centers improve security by giving organizations more control over their hosted data and security levels, compared to security provided by hosted-cloud providers.

According to some observers, software-defined data centers won’t necessarily eliminate challenges that relate to handling the differences between development and production environments; managing a mix of legacy and new applications; or delivering service-level agreements (SLAs).

Software-defined networking was essential to the software-defined data center, but it is also considered to be the “least mature technology” required to enable the software-defined data center.

A widespread transition to the SDDC could take years.  Software-defined environments require rethinking many IT processes—including automation, metering, and billing—and executing service delivery, service activation, and service assurance. 

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