A converged infrastructure (CI) is a vendor-defined collection of products delivered as a unit to run a workload. Usually the workload is x86 virtualization and the hardware is a set of servers, networking tools and a storage array, but other things also get the converged infrastructure label. An example of a converged infrastructure is NetApp’s FlexPod Solutions. Converged infrastructure is:
- A single-unit product a customer orders.
- A rigidly controlled collection of components.
- A small number of differently configured units available from the vendor.
- A working infrastructure within a short amount of time following delivery.
The vendor mandates the hardware and software combination in its unit, ensuring that the pieces work together. As a result, the infrastructure is delivered as a fully functioning unit. By offering a small selection of different converged infrastructure units, vendors simplify both the testing and ordering processes.
Usually the different configurations relate to scale. One configuration might suit running a few hundred virtual machines (VMs), while the next might suit a few thousand. Customers order the configuration that can accommodate their workload.
Cost is always a factor for IT, but converged infrastructure is a long-term play that can pay dividends. Though the initial price is more than that of the components (if they were the sole purchase), the cost of integrating these parts—to the point where they are ready to run VMs—is more than the converged infrastructure product.
READY WHEN IT ARRIVES
Because the CI vendor has worked out the integration between the parts of each unit, the customer can immediately focus on putting the infrastructure to work. The vendor has selected each element so that it can perform in conjunction with the others. Every piece of hardware, every firmware version and most of the settings are fixed to ensure compatibility.
The provider thoroughly tests new firmware and configurations, meaning a buyer does not need to put time into testing.
Converged infrastructure allows customers to focus on their workloads, not the infrastructure’s components. Everything below the virtual machine hardware is defined by the converged infrastructure product and is validated by the vendor. The customer looks after the VM operating system and applications— without worrying about any of the physical infrastructure.
The alternate approach is usually referred to as “best of breed,” where the customer chooses each of the components. The servers, the network and the storage array are separate purchases, and each may be sold by different vendors. This requires an organization to ensure that all parts work together. It is then required validate each firmware upgrade and settings change.
For more information about our Converged Infrastructure Solutions, contact us.