Beyond flickering lights – what is composable infrastructure?
Dino Psoulis, HPE & Aruba Solutions Architect at Axiz, takes a pragmatic view of data centres: "On starting my employment at Axiz, my colleagues gave me a tour of our demo data centre. They asked what I thought, to which my response was: 'It's just flickering lights. It doesn't really interest me.'"
Noting the confused response to his comment, he added: "I am not interested in the flickering lights and the grand amount of equipment in the racks, but what those flickering lights can do to solve worldly problems, even those problems that may not yet exist."
This philosophy encapsulates how technology consumption has changed and underpins the definition of composable infrastructure. The concept is a response to the new demands made by the market on IT suppliers, especially teams that have to deliver critical services to their business users and customers in the most efficient, agile, automated and innovative way.
Technology sales used to be much more straightforward, at least for the seller. Offer powerful hardware that can cover the running of licensed business services, usually with enough headroom to create future-proofing. For buyers, though, this is a wasteful model as well as a massive upfront cost, and more technical to determine the cost of ownership.
But that has been flipped on its head, Psoulis explains: "Historically, the demand for technology was driven from the top down, OEMs to the market. Consumers could only use what was available from a technology point of view. Now it's driven from the bottom up, at a consumer level. The requirements of the consumer drive OEMs."
This shift places different challenges on the shoulders of businesses. Users and customers have come to expect simplicity, agility and availability. At the same time, new technologies have also increased competitiveness, innovation and flexibility. These amplify the need for infrastructure that can embody those values, particularly agility and scale.
Technology options have evolved to accommodate such changes, providing new solutions such as hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), containers and software-defined hardware. But those are just ingredients. What still lacks is a recipe for success in this more demanding and agile landscape.
Composable infrastructure articulates those values into such a philosophy.
All for one
"Composable infrastructure is not a replacement of previous or current technologies, like hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI). It changes the way we think in terms of using our infrastructure's resources. It encourages a more efficient way and enables the consumer to reconfigure workload resources, through a software-defined intelligence, to whatever resources they require at that particular time."
Composable infrastructure consists of three elements. The first combines technology resources – compute, storage and network – into resource pools that can allocate as demand changes. Software-defined intelligence manages these resources, while unified APIs establish the interactions for demand and supply – particularly by aggregating resource access to developers.
"Compute, storage and network resources consolidate into a single system. Now the resources can be provisioned as needed, depending on what different workloads are required by the consumer to achieve optimum performance. It's similar to public cloud, but composable infrastructure is an on-premises solution, which can also play a role in hybrid cloud solutions."
Composable infrastructure may sound arcane and technical. But it's something business decision-makers should learn more about. It represents the next stage in IT efficiency and business performance, and presents both opex and capex opportunities. For Psoulis, who wants to see the real value behind those flickering lights, this philosophy ticks all the right boxes: "Composable infrastructure is an exciting new step in the journey to software-defined infrastructure. It allows enterprises to scale quickly and easily to overcome any hurdle."