Converged Infrastructure (CI) combines and optimizes multiple information technology components – compute, networking and storage – so they operate as a cohesive whole.
While the concept of CI has been available to businesses for several years, it has only recently become recognized as a mainstream IT solution. Over the last few years, the rapid growth of CI has been accelerating and parallels the growth of the private cloud market.
According to a study released by 451 Research in February, 79 percent of enterprises intended to increase their spending on converged infrastructure this year.
A recent survey by IDG Research Services, examining the impact and benefits of CI, found that 48% of respondents were using CI has part of their larger cloud strategy, while a further 43% had either implemented CI or planned to do so in the near future.
The survey also revealed some significant insights in relation to the increased demand for CI, and how organizations are assessing their CI options, as well as the perceived immediate and long term benefits of CI.
A solid, stable and scalable CI is the basic building block and starting point for an organisation’s ICT environments, as this system enables and allows wrap arounds that supports all of the key functions, such as application deployment and availability, user portability, data management and protection, and security.
At Diversus Group, we have been involved in many CI implementations, particularly with NetApp.
In summary, these are main benefits of CI, as we see them.
Supporting Business Needs
Ease of management is the top benefit of CI. As companies are placing more demands on IT department to provide essential business resources, CI can reduce this pressure by providing IT service-level improvement, data centre transformation and private or hybrid cloud deployment.
IT generally drives the decision to deploy CI, although in some companies it is a joint decision between IT and the business, particularly when IT is a strategic partner in the business.
CI platforms and infrastructure have vendor validated designs that are tailored to the specific business applications being delivered while supporting underlying infrastructure. The application vendors endorse and support their applications within the CI.
The benefit of flexibility
Flexibility is another primary benefit in using CI as part of the cloud strategy. While some organizations are still wary of adopting CI because it seems complicated to establish, organizations that have adopted CI have found that the single platform system simplifies their IT so their operations are far more coordinated, efficient and responsive.
Once CI is implemented, IT has more direct control over available resources and greater scope to simplify operations and improve responsiveness, ultimately making the organization more cost-effective and efficient. As CI continues to evolve through a multivendor approach, organizations can also evolve and develop their CI strategy while reaping its benefits.
The ideal platform for hybrid environments
CI gives the user the freedom to navigate seamlessly between public and private clouds, and the specific workload or requirement can be placed on the most appropriate platform, whether it is on premise or off premise, or a combination of both. For example, you can work directly from your own storage array which is under your own control, while simultaneously accessing the public cloud for non-predictable or variable workloads.
This method of usage demonstrates why the growth of the private cloud market parallels the growth of the CI market, with approximately half of all users utilizing CI as a component of a larger cloud strategy.
IT service levels improve when a private/ hybrid cloud is deployed and companies that deploy CI as part of their larger cloud structure were more likely to call cloud deployment their primary driver.
Scale up and scale out
CI enables the user to scale the required component only. You can add more disk if your application or workload needs more storage capacity or you can add more CPU if you need more processing power in your server. You are not restricted or required to add an entire new single combined building block of server, storage or network.
CI can be implemented efficiently, so it has an overall positive impact on finance and time management. There is minimal consulting time required for design work, so there is no negative impact on productivity. After the initial installation, scaling the solution is a simple matter of plug and play so this requires no further consulting time.
This efficiency also reduces development cycles and provides fast application deployment. While it previously took months to add new features into apps on the CI, it now only takes a matter of weeks.
Leverage your existing investment
CI enables you to create a more efficient, flexible platform using your existing or new hardware. For example, if you have invested in Cisco switching and compute, you can leverage a vendor endorsed Reference Architecture and build a CI solution by acquiring storage and following reference architecture.
Secure multi-tenancy (SMT)
CI can provide a secure multi-tenancy architecture for server, storage, software and networking hardware to enable data sharing, reuse and dynamic data centre resource allocation. Multiple tenants have secure separation while leveraging a single physical infrastructure.
Big Data and IOT
CI provides appropriate platforms for both big data and IOT, and can handle both structured and unstructured data. At the same time, CI can support big data apps which provide value from the collection, storage and analysis of the large data streams generated by IOT.
Unlike a hyper converged infrastructure, CI enables you to choose your preferred hypervisor so you are not locked into a specific hypervisor or vendor.
Chris Starsmeare, CEO Diversus Group