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3 reasons to implement Composable Infrastructure

June 2016

By Brad Parks, Director of Go-to-Market Strategy and Enablement for Storage, HPE
The restoration of my 1910 Craftsman bungalow means it’s effectively being torn down and rebuilt. It also involves a scale model in my back yard of the Mariana Trench, a.k.a a new foundation. When the house was built, two bedrooms and a bathroom were the norm, and people wanted to separate the kitchen from the living area. Fast-forward 100 years: My family demands more space and a more open concept.

The house was designed for a particular workload, but a new reality is causing major architectural challenges. The result is a painful and expensive project that will take months to complete. Sound like any IT projects you’ve come across lately?
It’s not hard to see a parallel with the rather inflexible architecture of today’s data centers. But there’s a new kind of infrastructure that enables IT to adapt to ever-changing workloads quickly and without disruption. It’s called composable infrastructure, and it’s a huge leap forward for the data center – I’ll focus here mainly on the implications for storage.

The new data center: where flexibility meets unified control
The diversity of workloads in the data center is evolving to the point where “bi-modal IT” is becoming the norm: One environment is designed to manage traditional, run-the-business applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP). A second supports the new generation of “third-platform” apps (cloud-native, mobile, social, and Internet-of-Things) that create new user experiences and revenue opportunities.

Composable infrastructure is a new architectural approach that enables greater flexibility to meet the ever-changing demands of both traditional and emerging workloads. Physical, virtual, and containerized apps can be mapped instantly to the right resources — including the right class of storage — to meet any service level, capacity, or cost-point requirements. It’s the logical next step beyond hyperconvergence.

In your data center, different workloads have different storage needs. Some, like Hadoop or object storage, were built for direct attached storage (DAS). Others, like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), benefit from low-cost, software-defined storage (SDS). Mission-critical workloads, like ERP, might require extremely low-latency, highly resilient, Tier-1 flash storage. The average enterprise data center runs the gamut from DAS to SDS to flash, and traditionally this has required separate, siloed approaches; each application stack has its own set of resources and management tools.
Composable infrastructure gives you the ability to programmatically deploy the right set of compute, fabric, and storage resources for each workload as part of a single, consolidated management approach.

How composability generates simplicity
Think about turning on a lamp. You don’t have to think about whether the power was generated from wind, solar, or coal. You just want the lamp to work when you flip the switch.
For your application owners, and even more so for application developers, the unified API of a composable infrastructure is the equivalent of the wall outlet. You use the API to ask for the resources you need for your workload.

Behind the API is a software-defined intelligence layer that looks at your request and determines how to fulfill it. Using intelligent templates, storage administrators can define attributes like service levels, drive types, and data compaction technologies. When you “plug in” an application and ask for a gold, silver, or bronze quality of service, the resource pool delivers the right type of storage to meet the needs of your workload. When they’re no longer needed, the resources go back into the pool.

Picking the right general contractor
In the composable world, many vendors present a limited approach to storage because they don’t have all the pieces. Some push you towards a certain class of storage because that’s what they sell, but it won’t really meet all your needs.

Others might support more storage options, but require additional management layers, turning provisioning into a multi-step process with pre-provisioning that adds complexity. What you’re really looking for in a composable solution is the ability to automate everything in a single task — from requesting service to mapping the compute node to actually provisioning that capacity on a storage array — all through a single line of code and without any operator intervention. You need a solution where simplicity is engineered into the DNA, not bolted on after the fact.

For my house project, realizing a new vision meant looking beyond five layers of wallpaper, salmon-colored curtains, and a 30-year-old carpet. For your data center, it may mean architecting for simplicity across traditional and third-platform applications with the power of composable infrastructure.

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