Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From Converged Infrastructure To Disaggregated Datacenter

Recently the (hyper)converged infrastructure model has been picking up steam. Converged infrastructure refers to the tying together of server, storage, networking, virtualization and sometimes other resources into an integrated solution that is managed as a whole rather than through separate management systems.

Smaller to medium sized companies, or those seeking a simpler IT environment, are interested for scalability and easier management. Leading systems vendors are making their move and start to offer their own solution or acquire a company that delivers it which keeps adding to the momentum. Vmware also released its own solution with the EVO:Rail at the latest VMWorld14.

Moreover the next evolution of the data center is already appearing and will directly threaten to a certain extent the converged infrastructure solution : dis-aggregated infrastructure. This solution tries to go a step futher than the simple aggregation. It tries to provide a finer granularity of resource management by pooling the various element in pools ( memory - compute - io - storage) that can be freely composed without being affected by the limitation of traditional server architecture. In a certain way you will be able to compose the right server for the right services - VM - Docker- whatever the buzz of the moment..
Solutions are already profiling at the horizon. On Intel side we have the Rack Scale Architecture solution(RSA). RSA a “rack fabric,” using optical interconnects that allows for a much greater level of dis-aggregation and much greater modularity. The ultimate goal of RSA is completely modularized servers with pooled CPUs, pooled RAM, pooled I/O, and pooled storage. We also have FusionCloud-Sphere-Cube from Huawei. This solution is slightly less advance on the Hardware front however it is a generation or two ahead of the Intel one as it offer a fully integrated software and hardware product solution while Intel is still at the proof of concept stage. But let see what the future reserve, Intel is in for the long haul.

These solutions tend to focus on the hyperscale part of the datacenter spectrum as it requires a significant upfront investment to profit from what the technology has to offer. One of the consequence is that we will see the Converged and Hyper converged solution taking the low to mid sections of the market while the dis-aggregated datacenter approach will initially tap into the mid-high layer of the market. This will further fragment the market and intensify the competition as well as consolidation within the vendor ecosystem. 

Software will be key to the success of such architecture,  currently most cloud system architecture are not well sized or designed to handle fine grained resources management. We are orchestrating operation at a minute timescale and server granularity today. However, we will be managing individual Core, GB of RAM , IO device, Networks at second or even smaller timescale tomorrow and current architecture are not tailored to handle such rapid update rate. 
Last but not least, it will become increasingly more difficult for single solution vendor ( storage - network , etc..) to stay relevant with the rise of such model and they will be forced to go the OEM route or be absorbed if they want to survive. 
As the resources get commodities the hardware becomes a utility and the margin diminish making it difficult for specialized vendor to survive ( look at Cisco and their UCS push).