We covered Hardware Convergence in a recent column, “What are Converged Infrastructures?”. Hardware Converged Infrastructures (HCI) are architectures based on independent name brand components that are pre-integrated and optimized to work together. Pure Storage has just announced a new converged infrastructure that promises to raise the HCI bar with an all-flash offering that brings new potential to virtual machine density.
Hardware Converged Infrastructures have different value points than other types of converged infrastructures. They promise to maintain consistent performance by having dedicated components for each specific converged layer (compute, network and storage) but they offer faster time to value, and the potential to realize more of that value, thanks to highly tuned pre-integration. There is also the promise of better operational support since the vendors making up the convergence have typically committed to a high level of interoperable support.
The Pure Storage CI
The Pure Storage converged infrastructure continues the trend that we are seeing in many hardware converged infrastructures where the server and network vendor is Cisco and the hypervisor vendor is VMware. The key differentiator for this converged infrastructure is Pure Storage’s all-flash array, and it is a significant one. The Pure Storage CI should offer some of the highest number of VMs per rack that we have seen thus far, while also offering consistently high performance to all of them.
All-Flash and Converged May Be a Perfect Match
One of the challenges facing an HCI is that it is patently obvious that the IT professional can go get the components of the system separately, potentially at a cheaper price, and integrate them on their own. As mentioned above, the value is in the pre-integration and potentially better support. But this may be understated in an all-flash environment.
The value in having a pre-integrated, and more importantly optimized for all-flash, converged infrastructure can provide substantial benefits. After all, nothing will push the network and the compute layers like flash will. Having that network tuned by flash pros may make the difference in the ability of the platform to support hundreds of more VMs versus a “roll-it-your-own” approach.
Most vendors offering a hardware converged infrastructure claim that about 20% or so of their sales come in the converged form. This is because, in general, converged infrastructures appeal to data centers that want to improve time to value over wringing every last nickel out of their IT expenditures.
But an all-flash converged architecture has an added benefit of being optimized for the performance potential that flash can deliver. Pure Storage says they went down the converged path because their customers and partners demanded it. My guess is that many of Pure’s customers already place a premium on time to value over wringing costs out of IT, or they would have likely bought a hybrid array instead. That leads me to believe that a higher percentage of Pure’s customers will likely opt for their converged solution so that they can get the assurance of an optimally tuned architecture.