Comparing Six Leading Converged Infrastructure Vendors' Product

IBM | June 01, 2020

  • Many enterprise hardware vendors continue to offer compelling converged infrastructure products, even though the technology has been largely forgotten.

  • Hype-converged infrastructure, disaggregated hyper converged infrastructure and composable infrastructure have received considerable attention for their innovative capabilities.

  • Both technologies bring together compute, storage and network resources that the vendor of the infrastructure certifies for use with one another.


Over the past year or so, technologies such as hyper-converged infrastructure, disaggregated hyper-converged infrastructure and composable infrastructure have received considerable attention for their innovative capabilities. But at the same time, many enterprise hardware vendors continue to offer compelling converged infrastructure products, even though the technology has been largely forgotten. Here, we examine the latest happenings from six established converged infrastructure vendors -- Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hitachi Vantara, IBM, NetApp and Pure Storage -- and address where it still makes the most sense to use CI technology. What's the difference between converged and hyper-converged infrastructure?


Before discussing the various converged infrastructure systems, let's briefly examine the difference between converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure. Both technologies bring together compute, storage and network resources that the vendor of the infrastructure certifies for use with one another. But a hyper-converged system is designed to function only as a cohesive unit. In contrast, a converged infrastructure is made up of off-the-shelf components that can be used individually, if needed. How is a converged infrastructure deployed? There are two ways to deploy a converged infrastructure. One option is to purchase a prebuilt system where the vendor provides compute, storage and networking hardware, along with a hypervisor and management software. Everything comes preconfigured, which simplifies setup.



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Converged infrastructure systems help reduce hardware deployment risks by providing a preconfigured software stack, which greatly reduces the risk of configuration errors.

~ Hewlett Packard Enterprise.


The other option is to build a converged infrastructure based on a reference architecture, which is essentially a list of hardware that the vendor that provides the architecture certifies for use in a CI configuration. Building a converged infrastructure system from a reference architecture is usually more complex than purchasing a prebuilt product. But the benefit of this approach is that it enables an organization to select the hardware that's best suited to its unique needs. In some cases, a reference architecture may even give an organization the opportunity to repurpose hardware it already owns. There are numerous advantages to deploying a converged infrastructure. First, it reduces the risks commonly associated with hardware deployment.

Organizations also commonly use converged infrastructure as a platform for hosting virtual desktops. Converged infrastructure platforms are also becoming popular for use with data analytics and machine learning workloads.


The vendor that provides the architecture certifies the components are compatible and configures the software stack. Deploying a converged infrastructure can also simplify the process of getting technical support. Because the vendor that provides the infrastructure tests and validates it for compatibility, it lessens the odds that vendor finger-pointing will become an issue. If an organization purchases a prebuilt converged infrastructure product, it may even receive a single point of contact for technical support, although this is more common with hyper-converged systems. Another benefit is that initial deployment and long-term scalability may be greatly simplified. If an organization orders a CI deployment as a package -- as opposed to using a reference architecture -- the package will include everything it needs to get the system up and running. The organization shouldn't encounter any surprises such as needing extra software licenses or an obscure cable that isn't included in the package.


When it's time to scale the deployment, an organization only needs to add storage or nodes. Similarly, it may be possible to replace aging components with newer components, which is an especially compelling benefit, since most hyper-converged systems don't allow individual components to be upgraded. Converged infrastructure systems are designed to be turnkey and made up of standardized components. But there's more to converged infrastructure than just the hardware. One of the most important features is the management and monitoring software, which has been specifically built for use with the converged system. This software typically automates various deployment and maintenance tasks and monitors system components for problems. In some cases, the management software can automatically remediate certain types of problems. In most cases, converged systems also include a hypervisor from VMware, Nutanix or Microsoft.


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