Converged Infrastructure: More Than Just Cookie-Cutter IT

Converged infrastructure (CI) is one of the hottest topics in IT today. With an emphasis on simplicity and ease of deployment, CI solutions have become an extremely popular method of rapidly standing up a private cloud, VDI or other solution. In fact, IDC forecasts that converged systems will grow at an astounding 32 percent clip level between 2012 and 2017. When you consider that the same survey shows the non-converged market for servers, storage and networking contracting slightly, you can understand why CI has become such an intense focus area.

What is Converged Infrastructure and Why Should You Care?

Converged infrastructure, as the name implies, is the integration of compute, storage, networking and management into a single system that supports a solution, such as VDI or Microsoft Exchange. Since CI solutions are built on industry-standard components with common management software, the solutions are relatively easy to integrate into existing data centers, with skills that admins have already mastered. 

Because CI solutions are so easily deployed, they save customers time and money. Customers do not have to undertake the extensive testing that would be required for a roll-your-own solution, ensuring that the basic elements work together. Staff time can then be reallocated to some other aspect of the project. So it’s easy to see why more customers and service providers are utilizing CI solutions. IBM estimates that by 2017, 65 percent of enterprise applications will be deployed on CI systems.

Different Types of Converged Infrastructure Solutions

There are basically two types of CI solutions, fixed configurations and reference architectures. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Fixed Configuration – These are appliances that are generally integrated to the specifications of a single vendor, prior to shipping to the channel. Examples of these types of configurations are Lenovo Converged Infrastructure Solutions, VBlock solutions from VCE, or PureApp and PureData from IBM. In some cases, the software stack is tuned directly to the hardware, making changes to the configurations difficult. Many of the fixed-configuration infrastructure solutions are single-vendor offerings. To use a non-IT metaphor, think of chocolate-chip cookies. These would be the equivalent of bakery made cookies. They are the ultimate convenience, because everything is done for you. All you need to do is eat them. The drawbacks are that they are expensive, and you really cannot change any of the ingredients if you desire. 
  • Reference Architectures – Reference architectures are a set of instructions on how to construct a solution with specified components. Examples include EMC VSPEX or NetApp FlexPod, among others. Reference architectures are generally “meet-in-the-channel” solutions, where a business partner uses their expertise to integrate the components. The downside for reference architectures is that they can take longer to deploy because the integration work is done after manufacturing, and the variances from the base configuration need to be tested.

Reference architectures are very much like the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. You can follow the instructions to the letter and end up with hot, homemade cookies. But you can also vary the ingredients based on your own specific tastes, like adding nuts, or using less sugar or butter. A little more work is required on your part to satisfy your cookie craving less expensively.

Converged Platforms – The Lenovo Advantage

Whichever route you take, fixed configuration or reference architecture, (and you may find reasons to do both), you’ll want a flexible, reliable hardware platform as the foundation. In addition to our Lenovo converged infrastructure offering, Lenovo has partnered with EMC to offer VSPEX solutions for private cloud, VDI and most recently, MS Exchange. The solutions are scaled based on size, (for example the number of VMs or VDI instances), so all the customer has to do is pick the size. These solutions are available on Flex System, System x and ThinkServer rack systems.   

Visit our converged infrastructure web site for more information on Lenovo solutions.