The Evaluator Group Composable Infrastructure Evaluation Guide is part of a series of Evaluation Guides designed to help evaluate technology alternatives. These guides are for IT professionals seeking a neutral, objective discussion of the design considerations behind new products, technologies and trends. Evaluator Group Evaluation Guides are not vendor-sponsored, but offered as part of a paid subscription. They are developed based on reviews of the technology options and strategic analyses of how they can best be used in today’s information storage environments.
This Evaluation Guide focuses on technology education, explaining what “composable” means, where this technology came from and what to expect as it matures. It should be noted that this is a look at an early-stage technology and as such, available products, approaches and even defining characteristics are somewhat fluid. Consequently, this guide does not include EvaluScale, the comparison tool that ranks characteristics of different products in a given technology category.
Evaluator Group defines Composable Infrastructure as a comprehensive, rack-scale compute environment that uses software-defined networking techniques to connect independent servers, storage and switch chassis or modules by PCIe or Ethernet. Designed for maximum efficiency and agility, it maps pooled, physical resources to create (or “compose”) bare-metal compute instances as needed, with a minimum of time and effort, often under programmatic control. It provides a dynamic compute environment for applications running on operating systems, VMs or containers that also supports rapid reconfiguration, or dissolution back to the component resources. Composable systems are deployed and maintained by core IT personnel.
There is an ongoing movement in IT to improve resource utilization, increase agility and control operational overhead, using the public cloud as a model, to some extent. IT also needs to keep up with the continuous and accelerating pace of applications development and deployment required by the modern enterprise. Mobile apps, the internet of things and the rise of DevOps processes are all adding to the rate of change in IT infrastructure. IT must simply move faster. Integrated Systems like Converged and Hyperconverged Infrastructures are a response to this need accommodate accelerating change.
Server virtualization was a big step as it disassociated the compute process from hardware by defining the server itself in software. Converged Infrastructures (CIs) provided a faster route to deployment by bundling servers, storage systems and networking components, usually with a hypervisor, and selling them as a turnkey, rack-level compute environment.
Hyperconverged Infrastructures (HCIs) clustered multiple server nodes via Ethernet, typically running software-defined storage (SDS) as a VM on each, to pool physical storage devices and provide a common management interface that simplified deployment and operation. HCIs provided more granular scaling, better agility and simple operation, but could not support the capacities that some large enterprises needed. They also were not particularly efficient at that scale as they added a software layer for storage virtualization (SDS) and a hypervisor (for most products).
Composable Infrastructure borrows from these Integrated Systems technologies to create a more flexible and efficient infrastructure for large enterprises and service providers. As workloads become more dynamic, infrastructures must become more dynamic as well. To this end, the composable architecture is designed for API-based software control.
Composable Infrastructure Evaluation Guide Contains: