Converged Infrastructure and Blade Arrays Herald a new storage era

Changing business requirements, the emergence of cloud computing, as well as the need to reduce budgets, improve automation and follow strict ‘green’ policies sparked the birth of virtualization.

June 20, 2013

Changing business requirements, the emergence of cloud computing, as well as the need to reduce budgets, improve automation and follow strict ‘green’ policies sparked the birth of virtualization. This innovation addressed many reoccurring problems that businesses faced by increasing flexibility and resiliency of the compute infrastructure and improving management efficiency of the server administrator. Early adopters typically built their virtual infrastructure using the traditional approach of selecting individual platforms on a best-in-class basis and managing the infrastructure using existing system management tools, which were optimised for those individual platforms and for physical environments.

In recent years, a new paradigm for an x86 virtual computing infrastructure called converged infrastructure has gained traction. An ideal converged infrastructure is an integrated system of compute, storage and networking that is managed holistically through a single software tool, and provides pools of virtualized resources to run applications, virtual desktop infrastructure and private clouds. Customers are seeking to deploy enterprise data centre grade capabilities within a single chassis with the goal of maximising density and simplicity of deployment and maintenance.

Organisations opting for converged infrastructure typically want to run a mix of workloads within a single solution so they are continually evolving their IT infrastructure to adjust to ever changing business requirements. One thing that convergence should not mean is a compromise on quality or flexibility, and businesses considering a move to converged infrastructure should spend time identifying which solutions offer seamless management and the best components for storage, compute and networking. Looking specifically at the role that storage is playing in converged environments, solutions like storage blade arrays can offer the solution that IT managers have been longing for: with storage blade arrays as part of a converged infrastructure solution, enterprises can keep pace with data growth while reducing the complexity and time needed to effectively manage their storage and overall IT environment through a single pane of glass.

There are a number of key advantages that storage blade arrays offer, ranging from the inclusion of the latest virtualization technologies to IT lifecycle benefits. Virtualization technologies can help automate routine tasks, and significantly reduce the need for user intervention. Blades can be added when and as needed, or be replaced with newer versions without the need to change the chassis or surrounding infrastructure. Other lifecycle benefits include the ability to upgrade storage with new feature software as needed, to match drive types with applications added to the chassis, or to add capacity to accommodate growth.

Enterprise-class storage blades have the ability to integrate data protection features, such as snapshotting, cloning and replication capabilities. In addition, they can automatically tier storage and realign workloads and storage resources as conditions change over time, helping serve convergence by broadening the mix of applications that can be supported within each blade chassis. This permits companies to back-up data onsite rather than having to pay for a secondary site to host a replica of the primary data centre.

Convergence is a tool that IT can leverage to deliver a broader business outcome of enabling a more agile and efficient data centre. By converging compute, switching and storage resources into a dense, self-contained form factor, blade arrays offer a range of capabilities, from basic disk arrays to highly automated, virtualized systems that can be customised to address specific applications and environments. Blade arrays also can help organisations reduce operating costs through more efficient use of switching resources, simplified cabling and consolidated management by leveraging chassis backplanes.

As well as key cost benefits, blade arrays also provide organisations with the ability to converge their compute, switching and storage resources into one self-contained and easily manageable system, thereby efficiently using physical space in the data centre. This means that organisations can tailor the system to meet their specific demands, making it as basic or as highly automated and virtualized as they need. By consolidating all this functionality into one centralised form factor, data centre administrators have a much more holistic view of the IT environment, making it much simpler to manage.

Dell’s EqualLogic PS-M4110 Blade Arrays provide enterprise-class features of traditional EqualLogic arrays inside a Dell PowerEdge M1000e blade chassis, enabling customers to run an entire data centre within a single compact blade enclosure that streamlines IT management and operations. These blade arrays are highly virtualized, while providing automated load balancing to provide optimised performance at a reduced cost. They are designed to support virtualized and converged environments for small and medium sized organisations and can support business growth by providing the architecture and support to help them scale appropriately both inside and outside the chassis. Additionally, tying in Dell Force10 blade networking, customers also benefit from a compact, shared footprint that reduces the need for excessive licenses, space, cable configuration, power and cooling costs.

Through convergence, enterprise-class storage blade arrays can offer the improved manageability and productivity typically associated with advanced external storage, accelerating the journey to IT transformation. As blade architecture continues to support and compliment the benefits of converged environments; we envisage increasing adoption on storage blade arrays to continue.

Dell’s approach to converged infrastructure promises improve data centre efficiency, strengthen IT service quality and helps IT organisations more rapidly respond to business needs. While not necessarily the answer for every organisation, many companies are already reaping the benefits of convergence.