The Power of a Converged Platform, and How to Harness It

There are a lot of converged infrastructure options. But are they all the same? Find out where the right converged model can fit in your data center.

Bill Kleyman

April 25, 2014

3 Min Read
The Power of a Converged Platform, and How to Harness It
These servers are part of the Cisco UCS system, one of a growing number of converged infrastructure options. (Photo: Cisco)

The next five years will be a defining period for the modern data center, as it will have to adapt to a data-on-demand generation. Ccars, refrigerators and entire houses will be connecting to the cloud.

To support this level of high-density and multi-tenancy, the hardware (and software) model within the data center must evolve. We need better workload management, improved resource control, and an optimized end-user experience. In many cases, traditional server technologies just haven't been enough. There were issues with scalability, automation, and management – all factors that can severely slow down the business process.

So how can data centers and their environments support this boom in users? How can infrastructure evolve to create a more efficient compute model? The introduction of blade, chassis and converged infrastructure seemed to have really helped this challenge. We now have highly scalable, intelligent systems capable of dynamic resource utilization while optimizing the capabilities of your corporate cloud. But just like any great technology, lots of folks jumped on the bandwagon. We have a few different converged platforms out there, all capable of amazing things.

Let’s look at some examples and use-cases.

  • Traditional converged systems. There are many ways to look at a converged or unified compute system. Basically, these are critical puzzle pieces all operating on the same management plane. Technologies like Cisco UCS and their Integrated Systems, HP BladeSystem, and Dell’s Active System architecture are all capable of creating the foundations of the modern data center. These platforms incorporate network, storage, compute, and management into a powerful converged offering. These systems can then interconnect with other resources within a distributed data center model. For the most part, you can use these systems for a variety of use cases. This can range from workload/desktop delivery to application virtualization. The challenge is that these systems can get pretty big – and pretty expensive. So if you’re a small shop aiming at a more strategic converged solution, maybe you should consider the next model.

  • Strategic converged platforms. Strategic converged solutions are being implemented all over in data centers, branch offices, and even in the cloud. Platforms like Nutanix, Simplivity and Scale Computing each offer a unique way to deploy a small footprint with a lot of power. You can use these smaller platforms very strategically to displace larger converged systems and to fit a good use-case. Desktop delivery, for example would live very well on a Nutanix appliance. Couple this with Nutanix’s software-defined solution and you’ve got a very robust converged deployment.

  • Use-case specific converged systems. Scalability and the capability to process critical web-based workloads has become a necessary component for many modern enterprises. But not every converged platform is designed for that specific job. Ever hear of HP’s Moonshot platform? Here’s a chassis that shares power, cooling, management and fabric for 45 individually serviceable hot-plug server cartridges. What’s it perfect for? Running cloud-based applications capable of handling a large number of parallel, task-oriented workloads. You certainly wouldn’t want to put a large number of VDI users on this type of server environment. Although this system isn’t built for everything, when you use it with the right use-case it can be a powerful platform which can deliver breakthrough efficiency and scale.

Got the idea? Converged platforms are certainly not all created equal. In many cases, you absolutely need to understand your use case before you acquire a converged infrastructure. Remember, although these are certainly flexible units, getting the wrong architecture can be very detrimental for your business. With that in mind, converged platforms offer a powerful alternative to traditional server and compute models. The all-in-one methodology allows for rapid replication, dynamic scalability and some great resource controls.

The future of the cloud will directly revolve around your ability to deliver rich resource to a truly distributed user base. Converged systems offer you the ability to stretch your data center model into the cloud and beyond.

About the Author(s)

Bill Kleyman

Bill Kleyman has more than 15 years of experience in enterprise technology. He also enjoys writing, blogging, and educating colleagues about tech. His published and referenced work can be found on Data Center Knowledge, AFCOM, ITPro Today, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot, and more.

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