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Converged Infrastructures Enable The Private Cloud

There is nothing technologically ground breaking about a converged infrastructure. It is, very simply put, an elegant solution that contains all the compute resources you need, from servers, storage and network connected by orchestration software that allows you to manage the entire stack from a centralized console. This reduces the need for rack, stack, inter-component configuration (e.g configuring servers to connect to network and storage etc..) and reduces cabling. If you need to grow your infrastructure, you add another rack of converged infrastructure that is then added to the pool of hardware resources available in your cloud.

No longer are physical resources siloed to applications; rather, all physical resources are part of a larger pool that is aggregated on an as-needed basis to satisfy workloads.

Acquisition
Converged infrastructures change the way we acquire equipment for our datacenter. It simplifies this acquisition. Typically, building a datacenter requires that you acquire each component independently. You purchase your servers from one manufacturer, your network equipment from another, your storage from a third and all other miscellaneous components from a fourth. These components arrive separately and require that you put them all together physically and logically.

Converged infrastructures simplify the acquisition process -- you no longer think of the components from a physical perspective but from a load perspective. You have set requirements, for example; you dictate the need for a specific number of virtual machines that carry a certain storage IOPS level, etc. ...

You are then presented with different options from which to choose from. The beauty here is that you can easily acquire more converged infrastructures and expand if you need to. Once you have made your selection, your rack arrives prepopulated with all the necessary components and is ready to be powered on and connected to your private cloud.

It is extremely difficult to ignore converged infrastructures when building your datacenter or refreshing it. The automation levels that it carries and brings to the table are the key enablers of the private cloud.

Deployment
Once the acquisition process is complete, we are now faced with the deployment challenge. Let's examine some of the things we deal with today when deploying resources in our datacenter. As I said, we acquire hardware from multiple different vendors, which prompts us to run tests to ensure software and hardware compatibility. These can sometimes lead us to update, upgrade or reinstall software, firmware and in some instances replace hardware for incompatibility reasons.

How many times have you had to ask the manufacturer to write special code that enables compatibility with other hardware or software components? How many times have you purchased a storage area network only to learn from the manufacturer that you cannot install it yourself, otherwise you void the warranty? So now you require outside engineers that can do the initial deployment. This process can take weeks and months to accomplish, all at the expense of the business.

Compare this to a stacked solution, it is shipped pre-tested, preconfigured and ready to be racked and stacked. Power it up, connect it to your network and "voila" the perfect turnkey solution, up and running in a matter of hours as opposed to weeks and months. All the components that are part of it are verified against a compatibility matrix with the virtualization platform you have selected.

Provisioning
After deployment comes provisioning. Today, provisioning is a manual or, at best, a semi-automated process. Typically, requests to provision virtual machines and/or storage get queued at the virtual infrastructure admin or storage admin, and require multiple layers of approvals before they can be implemented. These are almost bureaucratic delays caused by the fact that our IT department is functionally divided the same way our acquisition strategy is. Storage, network and server teams are typical teams at any organization. Requests will typically cross these layers before they are completed.

A Converged IT Dept. is a Better IT Dept.
A converged infrastructure completely automates the provisioning process down to a few mouse clicks by allowing the orchestration software that came with your infrastructure to dynamically allocate the resources you requested. This process automatically leads to the collapse of these layered teams within the IT department under a single banner of "datacenter administrator." This forces cross-training and blends the teams. An ambitious endeavor very few organizations have been able to achieve -- today, technology forces the change.

This level of automation and IT department consolidation directly affects the OpEx expenditures of organizations. It forces a more efficient use of IT resources by breaking down isolated team functions.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 02/08/2011 at 12:49 PM


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