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How does composable infrastructure fit in the data center?

A programmable infrastructure offers data center admins even greater flexibility, lower costs and faster modification than converged and hyper-converged infrastructures.

Composable infrastructure can help organizations make better use of hardware resources and streamline DevOps efforts,...

which can lead to cost savings. But composable infrastructure is not a fully mature technology; relatively few vendors offer it.

Composable infrastructure logically pools hardware resources, such as processors, memory, storage and network fabric, and treats each one as a service that IT administrators can provision on demand and tailor to specific workloads. It can help bridge the gap between legacy systems and modern applications.

In addition, IT teams can scale the hardware up in increments that suit their needs without over-provisioning resources to account for anticipated workloads. The flexibility of composable infrastructure and the openness of the API that defines how the resource pools work together make it possible to integrate continuous delivery mechanisms. This helps make DevOps teams more agile and efficient.

Two keys to making an infrastructure with disaggregated hardware resources function properly are intelligent software and a management API. The intelligent software is what organizes the hardware resources into the logical pools needed when IT admins compose new virtual systems on the fly. The software uses the API layer to communicate with all of the disaggregated resources in a composable infrastructure architecture. The API layer means a variety of hardware resource types can be used to feed into the logical resource pools.

Much of the technology that supports composable infrastructure is already available and well-tested, such as software-defined networking and software-defined storage. Where things get a bit tricky is around aggregating compute resources -- processor and memory -- into modular, connected pools. To achieve this, the software and API must be able to establish interconnections beyond the limits of the server's motherboard, a science still in its infancy.

One approach to the interconnection problem is Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA). Vendors use RDMA to connect the processor module with the memory pool through a back-end fabric, such as Converged Ethernet.

Next Steps

A discussion on the pluses and minuses of composable infrastructure

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This was last published in November 2017

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