What does Converged Infrastructure mean to you?
Over the past several years I have been in countless discussion around Converged Infrastructure (CI) and what it is and the benefits that it provides. The one thing that I keep noticing is that there is a large variance in what CI means to different people. So I thought that in effort to get feedback from others and provide some of mine I would write this post to get the discussion started.
There are a number of vendors in the market today, that are selling some form of a converged infrastructure product or solution.
My definition of Converged Infrastructure
In my mind I think that for something to be considered CI it must do two things. It must converge at least two hardware or infrastructure pieces, such as compute and networking or server and storage. I think that it must also do a good job of converging the management of these converged pieces in a single place. For example Cisco UCS converged compute with network and storage networking. UCS manager is a single point of management to setup and maintain this type of CI. UCS has dramatically changed the server market over the past few years and laid the foundation for what others consider CI in the next section.
Under my definition I think that Cisco UCS, VMware EVO:RAIL, Nutanix, Simplivity and a few others are doing this effectively today. They may call it different names but it comes down to converging hardware and making it easier through software. I will attempt to explain through the image below. The following van is an elegant solution created at the factory that was purpose built and fully integrated. Each part of this vehicle was built to be one solution, there are no out of place windows, radios and tables. Everything was considered when designing it for the purpose.
Other definitions of Converged Infrastructure
The second option is when a vendor(s) take a stack of infrastructure and builds a new product or reference architecture out of them. Some of the parts of these options may be a converged product by itself. Below are two common definitions of CI that I found from popular sites on the internet.
- Converged infrastructure (CI) is an approach to data center management that relies on a specific vendor and the vendor’s partners to provide pre-configured bundles of hardware and software in a single chassis.
- Converged infrastructure operates by grouping multiple information technology (IT) components into a single, optimized computing package. Components of a converged infrastructure may include servers, data-storage devices, networking equipment and software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration.
My problem with these is that simply taking other converged products and non-converged products and selling them as a new product does not make them any more converged. Wow that was a lot of converged in one sentence. To accomplish this I think that you need to be adding extra value and simplicity in my mind to call it a converged offering. So are you making the storage, compute and networking any easier to setup and maintain? Or are you just taking the same approach as conversion vans from the 70’s and 80’s? Where garages would purchase cargo vans in bulk and cut out fancy windows and bolt in tables, these are no where close to the option above that was built for the purpose by the manufacturer.
There are still benefits to this type of offering. It saves me the time from buying all the pieces and assembling them myself. I might mess something up and will waste a lot of my time. But this is more of a business value rather than a CI value.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone, but rather talk about what I think converged infrastructure is. I know others hold this similar thought, but others also believe that the second option is also CI in their minds. I work with and use both types of these products on a regular basis and think that they both have value for the right situation.
Join the conversation and give your thoughts on what CI is and what it is not. Do not turn this into a us versus them discussion.
About Brian Suhr
Brian is a VCDX5-DCV and a Sr. Tech Marketing Engineer at Nutanix and owner of this website. He is active in the VMware community and helps lead the Chicago VMUG group. Specializing in VDI and Cloud project designs. Awarded VMware vExpert status 6 years for 2016 - 2011. VCP3, VCP5, VCP5-Iaas, VCP-Cloud, VCAP-DTD, VCAP5-DCD, VCAP5-DCA, VCA-DT, VCP5-DT, Cisco UCS Design