Convergence Taking Over the Data Center

Arthur Cole

Enterprises may have embraced cloud computing as a means to handle increasing data loads, but closer to home the name of the game continues to be streamlined, converged infrastructure.

How far this movement will go and how radically it will remake the data center remains to be seen. Convergence can take place on many levels, ranging from simple network or server consolidation to integrated compute clusters or even prefabbed, containerized data centers. One thing is certain, the days of discrete islands of hardware are quickly coming to an end.

Dell is the latest to broach the converged infrastructure movement. Earlier this month the company unveiled a new compute cluster built around its PowerEdge server and Force10 40 Gbps switch, as well as a new version of the EqualLogic storage blade. The entire kit is housed in a single blade chassis and is controlled by a single management software stack, making it easy for enterprises to deploy and configure in accordance with the rapid scalability needs of virtual and cloud environments.

The release comes on the heels of converged architectures from other top vendors, setting up what is likely to be the next major battleground among the old-guard data center infrastructure providers. Cisco, for example, has teamed up with Fusion-io to bring the ioMemory Flash acceleration platform to the Unified Computing System (UCS) B-series blade portfolio. The combo brings a Flash memory tier to the existing UCS converged platform, allowing enterprises to increase data and application throughput without the expense of additional capacity.

Meanwhile, HP is looking to tie converged architecture to its nascent cloud offerings, tying the two together through an integrated software management stack. The CloudSystem platform is designed as a single management pane that crosses public, private and hybrid infrastructure, enabling things like instant access to HP Cloud Services, Amazon and other platforms as enterprises seek to foster cloud bursting and related applications. At the same time, the company is accelerating its StoreOnce converged backup storage platform to 100 TB per hour, with recovery rising to 40 TB per hour, and is adding the Data Protector 7 software that features Autonomy's Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) designed to produce greater insight into unstructured data.

These latest developments are a nod to the fact that convergence may streamline infrastructure but it does little to improve data handling and coordination. This becomes even more difficult as enterprises seek to integrate converged platforms from multiple vendors, which is inevitable considering the long-standing resistance to single-vendor environments. Companies like Cloupia are looking to fill this need with integrated management stacks that span vendor platforms as well as physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures. The company's Unified Infrastructure Controller, for example, provides management and automation of virtual servers and desktops, physical devices and public clouds from a single interface, while the CloudIgnite platform automates deployment and configuration functions across mixed converged infrastructure.

Converged infrastructure fits nicely with the ethos of the modern business climate: "Do more with less." Not only does it provide an advanced data environment at less cost than traditional infrastructure, but it provides for rapid and efficient scalability and a more modular footprint that helps free up floor space in the data center.

Legacy environments will still function in the coming cloud era and beyond, but increasingly, new deployments are conforming to the converged model.

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