Moving Toward Converged Infrastructure

Arthur Cole

The top IT platform providers are feeling the pressure -- not from each other but from the cloud.

That's the only conclusion I can draw from the rapid introduction of so-called converged infrastructure systems. Cloud service providers are removing much of the complexity of building and maintaining IT services, so the natural response is to develop new platforms that can be up and running with the least amount of hassle for the enterprise.

Will it work? You bet, considering that both modern enterprises and the new breed of service providers are highly motivated to deliver more and better performance quickly and at low cost.

HP fired the latest shot in this battle with a new line of servers and products. The package includes the Superdome 2, featuring Itanium 9300 processors that tie large numbers of blade servers together under the company's Crossbar Fabric system. There's also a new eight-socket BladeSystem Matrix server and new Integrity blades that can be pooled using Intel's QuickPath Interconnect.

HP is also repositioning the Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) as the P6000, providing a centralized storage pool that can be managed and controlled from the same blade architecture that governs the overall Converged Infrastructure environment. In this way, the multiple layers of management that usually arise due to ad hoc data center deployments are streamlined into a single, overarching system.

Meanwhile at Interop, Cisco, Emulex and Ixia took the opportunity to demo their planned integrated system that combines network, storage and server elements into a converged architecture designed for heavy data loads. The system contains Cisco's Nexus 5010 Ethernet switch and C200 M1 unified computing environment, along with Emulex' OneConnect Converged Network Adapter (CNA) and Ixia's IxVM virtual switch and Fibre Channel load module. The goal is to provide not just a converged system, but one that can transition from 1 to 10 GbE and encapsulate IP, iSCSI and FCoE as well.

Dell is also looking to carve out some space, teaming up with Egenera to deliver a converged infrastructure based on its clustered server portfolio. The plan has Egenera providing its PAN Manager suite to link up to 48 Dell blades capable of supporting thousands of virtual machines and adding advanced availability and disaster recovery capabilities in the bargain. The system can be extended across three blade chassis and provides for multiple 10 GbE or 8 Gbps Fibre Channel links.

Clearly, there are numerous ways these infrastructure platforms can be compared and contrasted, so it will be rather difficult to gauge which one has the right stuff. That being said, they all represent a definitive movement away from the customized approach to IT deployment of the past toward a more integrated and more easily configurable future.

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