Converged infrastructure appears to be all the rage these days, to judge by the number of enterprise vendors now offering these carefully crafted systems that integrate compute, storage and networking into a single offering. However, we now have a number of hyperconverged platforms to muddy the waters, all vying to be the platform of choice for the data centre.
Converged infrastructure has been around for several years, but its popularity seems to have grown as ever-shrinking IT teams have struggled to manage the complexities of modern infrastructure, and to keep the lights on while adapting IT to the demands of cloud computing and the more agile delivery of applications and services.
"IT infrastructures continue to evolve into more complex systems, and IT leaders are under increasing pressure to deliver services to users more quickly. Traditional IT would take long development cycles from the time of new or modified application requirements to meet new market consumption needs that could result in months of delay," said Gartner distinguished analyst George Weiss.
"Converged systems are able to provision and deploy applications much more quickly, from months to days, while greater levels of automation and integration simplify the operations and require less labour and time in operating the systems."
Converged infrastructure promises to simplify the procurement, provisioning and managing of IT, but organisations could simply be tying themselves even deeper into a particular vendor's solutions. If you buy everything tightly integrated from one supplier, what happens if you decide that you want to switch supplier, or want capabilities your current supplier does not support?
Converged infrastructure is a somewhat nebulous IT industry term, rather like cloud or Internet of Things. It typically refers to server, storage and network hardware that is pre-integrated and configured to work optimally together. This is often delivered in the form of a data centre rack pre-populated with all the hardware components already cabled up, as with the VBlock appliances from EMC subsidiary VCE.
Another purpose of converged infrastructure has been to break apart the silos that have characterised traditional IT architectures. Instead of having separate server clusters for each distinct enterprise application, each with its own dedicated storage area network, converged infrastructure aims to deliver a single pool of resources that can be carved up and allocated as each application requires.
This no doubt sounds very much like cloud computing, and in fact one of the major reasons for deploying converged infrastructure in the enterprise data centre has been to support virtualisation and private infrastructure-as-a-service cloud deployments.
A further reason for the growing number of converged infrastructure deployments is that infrastructure has become much more complex in recent years, and IT departments have often struggled to build private clouds from scratch by integrating discrete servers, storage and network hardware. From this perspective, it may be more cost effective for the IT department to buy a rack of ready-configured hardware and simply plug it into the data centre.
Perhaps for this reason, spending on converged infrastructure is expected to rise. A recent study by 451 Research found that 60 per cent of enterprises plan to increase spending on servers this year, and 79 per cent plan to spend more on converged infrastructure.
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