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Compustorage clusters: A new model for converged infrastructure

Understand the strengths and limitations of the new convergence

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IDC has been studying the converged infrastructure market for a while now and expects it to grow as businesses steadily demand simplification of their IT environments as a key focus area when making newer infrastructure acquisitions. A new breed of converged solutions known as "Compustorage" clusters (a term that the IDC Storage team coined last year) is beginning to beginning to carve out a piece of the converged infrastructure market.

With a focus on use cases like server and desktop virtualisation and Hadoop, suppliers with these solutions are demanding a new way to examine the future of converged infrastructure ... or at least their version of it.

We recently published our taxonomy for Storage and Big Data. In it, converged systems are referred to as systems in which the compute, storage and networking components are bundled together under a single management console. The taxonomy referenced a newer breed of solutions known as CompuStorage clusters:

  • Systems designed to combine compute and storage elements to form a single integrated solution.

  • These are different from discrete converged systems wherein the compute, storage and networking elements are separate but are governed using a single management suite.

  • They are variants of converged infrastructure solutions to minimise or eliminate movement of data to the compute layer and back

There is an additional characteristic that warrants to be mentioned - and that is the fact that most of these solutions are purpose built or in other words they are engineered to serve as an optimised platform for certain types of workloads. These workloads can range from server or desktop virtualisation (appliances) to Big Data (Hadoop). This is not to say that one cannot deploy them for general purpose workloads. However when businesses focus on solving their biggest pain points, they often focus on these workloads. And suppliers have been responding in kind.

So what are some of the common themes with these players?

  1. Software is the king: Whether the secret sauce is around software defined storage, networking and compute (what we know as virtualisation)
  2. Commodity hardware: Most of these solutions leverage off the shelf components. Being that they are most being offered by newer entrants, this strategy is focused on reducing time to market and engineering dollars on hardware platform integration.
  3. You buy compute, you get storage, you need storage, you also get compute: Because these systems are integrated some players cannot offer a-la-carte compute and storage configurations. This means that in many of these situations capacity and performance cannot be scaled independent of each other.
  4. A shared storage environment with a distributed compute environment connected using Ethernet or Fibre Channel networks may not be the right model for all types of workloads. Virtualisation in particular is one area of scrutiny

So who are some of the players in this space? Nutanix, Cleversafe, Compuverde, Scale Computing, Pivot3, Violin Memory are some of the players. Obviously this is not an all encompassing list so if you know companies that I omitted, please drop me a note. One could argue that VMware with its appliances offerings and SDDC strategy, and Microsoft with its Windows2012, SMB3.0 and Hyper-V offerings are contenders in this space. Fair game.

All these companies are focused on solving the same problem as the discretely converged players (sounds like an oxymoron!) are focused on solving. It is likely that one or more of them adopt the compustorage model via M&A or organically.

IDC plans to do a vendor landscape for this emerging market. We will explore some of the companies listed above and their potential to be disruptive...which in a lot of ways this market is all about. Disruption!

Posted by Ashish Nadkarni

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