Following up on my previous post regarding hyperscale infrastructure, I feel I should point out that once the decision to go hyperscale has been made, it will most likely take place in a Greenfield hardware environment.
Unless you are already working with a state-of-the-art data facility, any attempt to convert complex, multiformat legacy environments will almost certainly lead to a morass of integration issues. The key benefit to hyperscale is that it is both large and flexible, allowing data executives to craft multiple disparate data architectures completely in software. This is why current hyperscale plants at Google and Facebook rely on bulk commodity hardware.
But as I mentioned last fall, the average enterprise does not have the clout to purchase tens of thousands of stripped down servers and switches at a time, and besides, all those components still need to be deployed, provisioned and integrated into the cluster, which takes time, effort and of course, money.
It is for this reason that many CIOs are starting to look at converged infrastructure (CI) as an answer to their cloud and hyperscale needs. British research firm Stratecast recently issued a report on CI and the private cloud and concluded that so-called “cloud-in-a-box” platforms can in fact deliver a pre-configured, plug-in cloud solution that enables rapid and extensive scalability. At the same time, integration and management overhead are reduced because the primary computing elements – the servers, storage and networking components – are already integrated. While it is true that most of the complexity in converged environments is pushed to the backplane, this is no longer the burden it once was now that new software-defined networking tools are entering the channel.
CI is commonly looked upon as a general purpose solution, but it can be tailored to specific applications like VDI as well. Citrix took a major leap into converged infrastructure earlier this month with the purchase of Sanbolic, a developer of software-defined storage technology. The company’s virtual storage solution has been folded into the Citrix WorkspacePod, which can be deployed on either the DataON clustering platform or HP’s Moonshot CI solution. The system provides for rapid workspace deployment that can scale into the terabytes while maintaining a small footprint along with low capital and operating costs. The system supports up to 675 users per box under a standard hypervisor configuration, or more than 2,000 with the Citrix XenApp architecture.
So while many cloud providers are looking at all-converged infrastructure for their scale-out operations, enterprises may still want to consider targeted deployments of CI, says Datacenter Knowledge’s Bill Kleyman. For one thing, CI eliminates the need for NAS, SAN and other hefty investments, so it only makes sense to leverage these platforms as long as possible. Platforms like Cisco’s UCS, in fact, offer some wiggle room in the make-up of the module, primarily on the networking side, which allows it to be connected directly to multiple legacy infrastructures. With a solid set of automation policies, workloads can be distributed to various assets based on data requirements, resource utilization/availability and other factors.
CI does provide the quickest and cheapest way to produce Web-scale infrastructure, and what is good for the public cloud will no doubt be good for the private. But no matter how you do it, costs will always scale in relation to infrastructure: The more you need, the more you have to pay for.
The trick is to ensure that the data, the processes you run in support of that data and the results you glean from it all justify the expense of your new scale-out architecture.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.