When looking to upgrade your IT infrastructure, it can be difficult to know where to start. Do you opt for traditional, converged, hyper-converged or, the most recent to join to the industry vernacular, composable?
Gordon Grosse, our Head of Technical Services at MCSA explains the difference between each type of infrastructure and how composable infrastructure moves the game on from traditional IT.
This traditional setup typically consists of servers, storage and networking switches – that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – and can be combined to optimise a particular workload. The main advantages are that most data centres were originally built on this infrastructure type – so it’s very flexible in running different types of applications.
The main disadvantages? They can be cumbersome to deploy and manage. As compute, storage and network run on different platforms, they create many physical islands of highly under-utilised resources. With management tools not usually crossing those divides, they also create silos of management effort. This reduces the efficiency of server, storage and networking teams.
With traditional infrastructures deemed as becoming too complex, the industry set out to do things better by combining compute, storage and networking into a single solution, for a particular workload or solution area.
The key advantages with converged infrastructure is that it started on the journey to make IT infrastructure simpler to buy, easier to operate and faster to consume. The ultimate goal is to minimise compatibility issues between servers, storage systems and network devices – so it costs less to operate. Convergence also aims to reduce the data centre’s power and space footprint.
The main disadvantages are that this infrastructure achieves its benefits at the expense of creating additional, siloed management of servers, storage and networking – even when the equipment should physically integrate them. An organisation is essentially putting all its eggs in one basket – if the network has a problem, the impact is felt everywhere.
Hyper-converged systems promise to combine compute, storage and networking in a single solution – where infrastructure capacity can be easily consumed. The main advantages are derived from the integration of server, storage, networking and hypervisor being pre-built and tested to minimise compatibility issues. The main disadvantages are that physical and SAN-attached applications require a different infrastructure. As a result, hyper-convergence creates a management silo around these systems.
While both converged and hyper-converged approaches have merit, they fall short of the ultimate goal – namely a single platform with a single operational model for all workloads. In order to make this a reality, the platform must have hardware that can support a broad range of physical and virtual workloads and be configurable through a software-defined approach to match the needs of a given application or workload. These requirements have created the rationale behind composable infrastructure.
Like converged or hyper-converged infrastructure, composable infrastructure is the next evolution in data centre computing that attempts to consolidate compute, storage and network fabric into one platform. It also integrates a software-defined intelligence and a unified API to “compose” these fluid resource pools.
The main advantages are rather than being pre-configured for a single workload like a converged or hyper-converged infrastructure, composable infrastructure is user re-configurable, through a software-defined intelligence, to become whatever is needed. In this sense, composable infrastructure is actually the opposite of converged infrastructure. As the “converged” part of the name implies, converged infrastructure is the result of configuration that’s done in the past–before it arrives at a customer site.
In contrast, composable infrastructure promises to enable businesses to easily and swiftly create the infrastructure they need – when they need it. It does so, whilst also reducing the operational cost and complexity of traditional silo approaches. It should be used when dealing with traditional workloads and environments, as well as newer cloud and mobile apps. Think of it as a type of infrastructure as code.
Wondering which type of infrastructure is right for your business? Get in touch!