IT infrastructure market is undergoing unprecedented transformation. The most significant transformation is reflected by two major trends: convergence and software- defined data centers (SDDCs). Both trends are responses to the IT realities of infrastructure clutter, complexity, and high cost; they represent attempts to simplify IT and reduce the overall cost of infrastructure ownership. Today’s infrastructure environments are typically comprised of 8 to 12 hardware and software products from as many vendors, with each product offering a different management interface and requiring different training. Each product in this type of legacy stack, however, is grossly overprovisioned, using its own resources (CPU, DRAM, storage, and so on) to address the resident applications’ intermittent peak workloads. The value of a single shared resource pool, offered by server virtualization, is still limited to the server layer. All other products are islands of overprovisioned resources that aren’t shared. Therefore, low utilization of the overall stack results in the ripple effects of high acquisition, space, and power costs. Simply put, too many resources are wasted in today’s legacy environments. This article explores a leading solution: convergence, which ultimately leads to hyperconvergence.
THE EVOLUTION OF CONVERGENCE
The following sections describe the evolution of convergence over the past few years.
The earliest infrastructure convergence solutions have complete network, compute, storage, and virtualization capabilities, but they’re simply conglomerations of existing hardware and software, with little to no actual innovation in product features to be leveraged. Many people look at the solutions offered by major original equipment manufacturers as being ways to lock customers into their technology stacks. Integrated systems do offer a few benefits. Most notably, customers gain a single point of contact for their infrastructure, from purchase to end of life. These systems are always tested and almost always arrive at the customer site fully racked and cabled, so they’re ready to go. On the downside, these systems often have a big step size. When you need more power, you have to buy a big chunk of infrastructure. Also, these products usually don’t solve the serious challenges that so many organizations face.
The converged infrastructure products combine the server and storage components in a single appliance, effectively eliminating the need for dedicated storage area network (SAN)-based storage. These systems provide a localized single resource pool solution, offering simplified management and faster time to deployment. They have effectively virtualized the storage layer and allow it to run in the virtualization platform. Overall acquisition cost is lower, and management (at least, for the server and storage resources) is simplified. With these systems, overall resource utilization is higher than with a legacy island-based infrastructure. Converged infrastructure has some limitations, however.