The Difference Between Private Cloud and Converged Infrastructure

With all of the  hype around private clouds and manufacturer private cloud infrastructure stacks I thought I’d take some time  to differentiate between ‘private-cloud’ and ‘converged-infrastructure.’  For some background on Private Cloud see two of my previous posts: http://www.definethecloud.net/building-a-private-cloud and http://www.definethecloud.net/is-private-cloud-a-unicorn.

Private clouds typically consist of four architectural stages (I describe these here: http://www.definethecloud.net/smt-matrix-and-vblock-architectures-for-private-cloud):

To build a true private cloud hardware/platform consolidation is layered with virtualization, automation and orchestration (without which the ‘On-Demand Self Service requirement of NIST’s definition is not met.)  The end result is a IT model and infrastructure that moves at the pace of business.

Converged infrastructure on the other hand is a subset of this, typically consolidation and virtualization but could possibly include some automation.  With all major vendors selling some form of ‘Integrated stack’ marketed at Private Cloud I thought I’d take a look at where four of the most popular actually fall along the path.

 

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Starting from the bottom (as in bottom of the pyramid rather than bottom in quality, value, etc.)

FlexPod: FlexPod is an architecture designed using NetApp storage and Cisco compute and networking components.  The FlexPod architectures address various business and application needs but do not include automation/orchestration software.  The idea being that customers will have the flexibility to choose the level and type of automation/orchestration suite they require.

Vblock: Vblocks consist of EMC storage couple with VMware virtualization and Cisco Network/Compute.  Additionally VBlock incorporates EMC’s Unified Infrastructure Manager (UIM) which enables automation and single point of management for most of the infrastructure components. An orchestration suite would still be required for true private cloud.

Exalogic: Oracle’s stack offering is Exalogic which combines Oracle hardware with their middleware and software to provide a private cloud platform tailored toward Java environments.  The provisioning tools included offer the promise of private cloud ‘on-demand self-service.’

BladeSystem Matrix: Is built upon HP BladeSystem, storage, network and software components and is managed by HP’s Cloud Service Automation.  The automation and orchestration tools included in that software suite put HP’s offering in the private cloud arena.

Bottom Line:

Depending on the drivers, requirements, and individual environment all of these stacks can offer customers a platform from which to rapidly build cloud services.  The key is in deciding what you want and what is the best tool to get you there.  The best tool to get you there will be based on both ROI and business agility as cost is not the only reason for a migration to cloud.

For a deeper look at private cloud stacks check out my post at Networking Computing (http://www.networkcomputing.com/private-cloud/229900081.)

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  1. Joe, to me and so many seasoned data center architects with whom I have had this discussion, this Converged Infrastructure hysteria is just another IT industry flavor-of-the-week marketing farce.

    It is said that CI offers:

    More functionality with less hardware – how can that be so when every vendor is using the same switches they normally sell with the same port counts? Dedicating a pair of switches – or in the case of Flex POD – 2 FIs AND 2 Nexus 55xxs — leads to waste, not economy, because the majority of switch ports will go unused. There just isnt enough compute to require 48 or 64-ports of 10G! The same is true for storage: dedicated storage most likely overkill for the compute requirements in one rack (this will vary of course with the degree of virtualization and workload requirements)..

    More rapid deployments because everything is packaged in a self-contained unit – more nonsense. The server and virtualization folks will still be configuring and designing the compute roll out, the network team still has to configure the switches and the storage team still has to configure the arrays and test application performance and availability…just because you sold everything as a package, that doesnt make the technology easier to deploy or require fewer people.

    Is a building block for the cloud – how so when the storage is dedicated to a single cabinet? Even if your L2 domain spans the entire data center — or at least the width of a vDS or Vmware cluster — the VMs in one cabinet will only have visibility to the LUNs in THAT cabinet, so how do you perform a vmotion or DRS or FT across multiple cabinets without mutual access to the shared storage by both the source host and destination host? You may as well have a routed access layer at the ToR and be done with it!

    The list goes on…..

    In short, CI in and of itself offers very little in terms of streamlining processes or being more efficient or economical.

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