Converged Infrastructure Solutions Foretell the Future of Data Centers Large and Small

With many IT shops still performing their own integration work, virtualizion implementations take far too long to complete the infrastructure deployments (e.g., backup, compute, disaster recovery, high availability, networking, recovery, storage and more.) In many cases, deployments can take weeks or even months before they are fully complete. Enter converged infrastructure solutions.
Converged infrastructure solutions do more than simply deliver all of the hardware and software components necessary to host and run virtualization. They also dramatically reduce the time it takes for organizations to get their virtualized applications up and running.This combination of speed and ease in which these converged infrastructure solutions are deployed foretells how data centers both large and small will eventually expect their virtualization deployments to take place.
Converged infrastructures can be sized with anticipated workloads in mind, enabling organizations to be much more competitive – agile if you believe all of the vendor hype. In other words, organizations can accelerate application deployments, which in turn enables them to respond to the markets those applications serve with increased readiness and dexterity. Now deployments that once took weeks can realistically be done in days.
Virtualization and Management
Converged infrastructures require a hypervisor(s) to provide the benefits organizations and their customers need. When the current capabilities of hypervisors in a non-converged environment are applied in a feature-rich software and combined with purpose-built and tightly-integrated hardware, the end result is very powerful.
A converged infrastructure yields features such as:
 

  • Deduplication and compression of active data. These features offer the ability to provide storage efficiencies on data coming into the system. Virtual machines are inherently similar to each other and, because of that, the amount of space savings can be dramatic. Additionally, having these kinds of features can enable better overall performance to all the Virtual Machines in the infrastructure.
  • Multiple seamless migration paths into and out of the converged infrastructure. The ability to perform physical-to-virtual (P2V) migrations, virtual-to-virtual (V2V) migrations, and the ability to connect a non-converged infrastructure to a converged infrastructure through its entrance and exit points, are a critical feature set of many of the solutions found in DCIG’s forthcoming Buyer’s Guide on this topic.
  • Multiple OS and application support. Converged infrastructures offer the ability to support multiple operating systems across many virtual machines, as well as detailed support for applications hosted on those VMs.

From a management perspective, functionality should be made as simple as possible using tools with which the IT department or organization is familiar. If VMware is being used, all management functions should be done through the vCenter Client(s); similarly, if Hyper-V is used, Microsoft System Center becomes the preferred method for management functions; and so on. A number of vendors now add functionality so their solutions may be integrated into an existing hypervisor management framework. Using this approach organizations do not have to step out of their comfort zone to manage these solutions using the same standards that they have already adopted.
Business Continuity and Data Protection
From a business continuity point of view, the products reviewed take advantage of all or nearly all of the features of the hypervisors — features like HA (High Availability), DRS (Dynamic Resources Scheduler), vMotion, and others. These features enable the mobility, high availability, and resource controls that ensure the converged infrastructure solution remains stable and available.
Converged infrastructure providers implemented a slew of feature-rich software in the area of data protection to take advantage of the feature-sets that either were not available and/or were severely lacking from the hypervisor vendors.
Some of the data protection features that converged infrastructure solutions now deliver include:

  • Native backup and recovery tools. These tools provide native software that is not only integrated into the hypervisor itself, but also does not need to be purchased from a separate backup and recovery vendor. In many cases, organizations only want to perform backup and recovery functions inside the converged infrastructure, thus wasting separate hardware for backup and recovery functionality.
  • Deduplication and compression of backup data. These functions enable the deduplication and/or compression of backup streams to save valuable space inside the converged infrastructure.
  • VM and datastore level protection of data. The ability to protect VMs at a micro level using VM-level-based backup and recovery, and the ability to protect Virtual Machines at a macro level, thus protecting the entire datastore(s) and all VMs.

 

  • Application consistent backups. Protect a given application by performing an application-aware backup, and in doing so, having known and good recovery points for the application.

 

  • Native replication functionality and WAN optimization. Given that in many cases organizations want to replicate their VMs for both High Availability and Disaster Recovery, adding replication is key to offering this level of protection. Equally important is adding a layer of WAN optimization so the data reduction can be seen not only on the local storage but also over the WAN connections.

The research done indicates to DCIG that the challenges the converged infrastructure market could face will likely come from existing hypervisor vendors such as VMware, Microsoft and others that are beginning to provide their own native backup and replication software. Companies may ask if they can achieve the same benefit of converged infrastructures themselves if they buy the same hardware and some VM licenses. The challenge for converged infrastructure vendors going forward will be how to continue to set themselves apart from hypervisor vendors.
Yet the long term ramifications of these advancements in converged infrastructure solutions are undeniable. By getting packaged solutions that contain all of the components that organizations need to first setup their virtualization deployment and then expeditiously implement it is too attractive for data centers of all sides to resist. With today’s deployments being so complex and cumbersome to execute upon, as these solutions mature and become more battle-tested, expect more organizations to adopt this approach of using converged infrastructure solutions to host virtualized applications in their data center.

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