“What surviving companies do is get market transitions right. Our competitors from 20 years ago? None of them exist. We …were lucky to emerge from every transition stronger than ever.” John Chambers, Cisco
Chambers may have moved upstairs to chairman, but his company has identified yet another IT shift, to composable infrastructure, said Cisco’s Todd Brannon, Director of Product Marketing, Unified Computing. Conceptually, we see this as another transition, he stated. “We like to say… we’re wrapping code around the infrastructure rather than sheet metal.”
The transition to CI – not to be confused with the other CI, converged infrastructure – started around 18 months ago, he said, to a much more distributed environment, i.e. microservers and containers. “What we recognized is customers are looking for much more granular control of their infrastructures.”
According to the company, its Composable Infrastructure software-defined infrastructure (SDI) solution lets you treat infrastructure as code, disaggregating compute resources so they can be programmed and automatically managed more efficiently. There are currently two offerings: UCS M-Series Modular Servers; and, UCS C3260 Rack Server.
“IT is shifting to a new model.” Everything we’re doing is transparent., it’s all being done in a software-defined way at the element level, said Brannon. “Basically, infrastructure as code.”
IDC’s Jed Scaramella, Research Director, Enterprise Servers and Datacenters, said composable infrastructure applies a software design element to hardware infrastructure. It disaggregates hardware components, server, storage, and networking I/O, effectively breaking down the boundaries of the server systems. ‘IT needs distributed computing environments that scale quickly and seamlessly yet are still economical’, he noted in a recent report on composable infrastructure, on behalf of Cisco.
‘There’s a demand for systems that can speed up time to market and increase business agility and efficiency. For the IT organization, the goal is to become a service provider to the business.’
The primary benefit is the ability to compose and decompose single sets or blocks of compute, storage, and networking components for a particular application, he said. It provides a common platform that is flexible for different applications, making it possible to configure components to optimize application performance — whether compute intensive, data intensive, or balanced. ‘The infrastructure can achieve the best ratio of compute to I/O to storage — regardless of physical server configuration.’
Back in June HP released its Composable Infrastructure API, to support a new class of infrastructure that will be “composable”, built to fit the specific needs of an application or workload that will run on it. HP stated that organizations must transition from applications that fundamentally “run” the business, to applications that are designed to “be” the business, and that this new class of infrastructure will be “Composable” They are built on ‘fluid pools of compute, storage and fast flexible fabric, disaggregated so they can be quickly composed, decomposed back into the pool and then re-composed in a software template to fit the specific needs of an application or workload that will run on it.
“Composable infrastructure is definitely a technology enabler,” said Brannon. Two market segments focusing on CI today are customers looking for more efficient scale out, i.e. commercial high-performance computing, and those requiring very high functioning automation, i.e. mobile gaming where programmability is key.
It’s still early days for CI, he said. “Mainstream IT is watching it today.”
Cisco’s strategy is to give customers the right tools, and different customers have different needs, so its strategy is to support them all, but with a common infrastructure. “Ultimately we’re putting composable out there as another set of capabilities.”