In this Tech Express, Axian’s Justin Edwards tackles the topic of converged infrastructure with CBR’s Ellie Burns.
EB: What is converged infrastructure?
JE: Converged infrastructure is the pooling of various IT components, such as servers, data storage systems and networking hardware into one single converged and tightly integrated virtualised platform from which to run your workloads.
EB: Why is converged infrastructure so important to today’s business?
JE: Traditional IT infrastructure is very much silo-based, while converged infrastructure encourages agility and efficiency in a number of ways.
Over the past decade, IT infrastructures have grown more complex and costly. To increase efficiency and shorten the payback of investments in existing infrastructures, IT environments must be streamlined, and this is achieved through network convergence and virtualisation. This is a strategic orientation to boost the performances of data centres and make them more agile.
The convergent infrastructure driven by next-generation data centres is a sound alternative to siloed architectures, making them available to support all business applications.
EB: What are the main business benefits of converged infrastructure?
JE: Streamline architecture to improve profitability
To maximise return on investments in IT and ensure high availability and strong responsiveness across existing systems, infrastructures must be designed with flexible and advanced performances in mind. Converged infrastructure solutions are based on reference architecture that is properly tested and validated to take away any uncertainty of different components working together.
Improve business reliability through IT risk containment
When critical applications or systems are unavailable, this can be a serious threat to your business activities. 24/7 protection of a business and corporate data is therefore a priority. By optimising your core data centre infrastructure, companies can ensure data and applications can be accessed and always protected.
By making your infrastructure more efficient through converged solutions, you can do more with less both from a technology and staffing perspective enabling you to deliver a highly utilised platform thus delivering financial benefits back into your business.
Achieve availability and quality of service goals
Data losses may result in a financial drain for any impacted organisation. By designing and implementing disaster recovery and business continuity plans for data centres in conjunction with the very high levels of availability provided by converged infrastructure, businesses can deliver improved levels of service, meet regulatory compliance requirements, and ensure end-to-end data integrity. Converged infrastructure can lower capex by reducing cabling and power costs, as well opex by increasing automation in the data centre.
Reduce energy consumption
With high density, low-energy and low-carbon solutions, businesses can reduce the energy footprint of a data centre, helping them meet sustainable development goals.
EB: How do converged and hyper converged infrastructure differ?
JE: Converged and hyper converged infrastructure share many advantages (simplified operations, integration, shortened deployment, easier support models, fully documented compatibility matrices). One of the key differences that can be seen in hyper converged infrastructure is that the vendor solutions often target specific workloads such as VDI, SAP, Oracle or SQL, etc. The infrastructure itself is almost entirely software driven – making it easy to manage. Hyper converged infrastructure is often of a smaller footprint but slightly more scalable than converged infrastructure so you can add capacity without introducing complexity to your environment.
Over time, you may even end up with multiple hyper converged systems (still retaining a single management platform) for differing workload requirements e.g. a dedicated VDI infrastructure running Citrix.
EB: What are your top tips for companies looking at converged infrastructure as a solution?
JE: Complexity, supportability and performance are a few of the key considerations in the drive to buy and implement any converged or hyper converged infrastructure. Any converged solution should be feature rich, predominantly software driven (through an easy to use management console) and simple enough to enable quick deployment and migration of your current workloads.
Ease of support is also a key factor as all the different hardware components have been pre-tested and verified for you, so any support calls should be swiftly dealt with by your chosen vendor. Lastly you should be looking for highly available, highly performant infrastructure that is scalable and agile enough to meet changes in demand.
The final consideration is cloud enablement. How well does your converged infrastructure system (your software driven private cloud) integrate with public cloud (forming your own hybrid cloud)? Do you still retain simplified management? Can you use the same tools? Can you easily migrate back and forth should you need to?