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Composable infrastructure explained

Steve Hubert, Integrated Systems & Hybrid Cloud Leader, UK, Hewlett Packard Enterprise talked to CBR's Editor James Nunns about what exactly composable infrastructure is and how it can benefit your business. 

By James Nunns

What is composable infrastructure?

SH: Composable infrastructure is a software-defined solution that goes beyond simply converging or hyper converging hardware, compute and storage into a single integrated unit.  A composable system virtualises the entire IT infrastructure: it treats physical compute, storage and network devices as services, and manages all of IT via a single portal. This eliminates the need to configure hardware to support specific applications and allows the infrastructure to be managed by software command. Composable infrastructures create pools of resources that are automatically composed in near real time to meet compute needs.


How does composable infrastructure help DevOps teams?

SH: To provide DevOps groups the IT infrastructure required at the rate at which it is demanded, enterprise IT must increase its speed, agility, and flexibility to enable anytime composition and re‐composition of resources.

Composable infrastructure creates a more agile, cost-effective data centre. It helps to streamline DevOps, achieving smooth integration into operations, provisioning, configuration and orchestration tools. The single management interface, featuring fluid pools of resources, automatically composes and recomposes blocks of disaggregated IT services to effortlessly meet the ever-changing needs of developers and enables them to spin up instances on demand and eliminate costly service providers. Furthermore, developers can benefit from automation with the ability to stand up an in-house, bare-metal cloud infrastructure using templates via a unified API. This programmability means developers can schedule complete system repurposing to occur at specific times without human intervention.

HPE Synergy composable infrastructureHow does composable infrastructure compare to public cloud deployments?

SH: With composable infrastructure, implementing a private cloud becomes an effective option to deliver a public cloud experience in any datacentre. Coupled with a new generation of workload operations environments that provide for automated and orchestrated development and deployment of bare-metal, virtualised and cloud-native applications, composable infrastructure delivers a cloud like experience with all the necessary governance, security, availability and performance for any business workload.


On many measures composable infrastructure actually outperforms the public cloud:

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  • For compute and storage, the public cloud offers a subscription model where costs can be high, whereas composable infrastructure is flexible and ensures high resource utilization, but no overprovisioning and pay-as-you-grow consumption models.
  • Maintenance is in included in the costs of the public cloud, but composable infrastructure offers automated maintenance and frictionless updates.
  • Whereas app deployment is challenging and usually requires third party assistance in the public cloud, it is simple, automated and supported by a unified API on composable infrastructure that when deployed in conjunction with commonly used tools from HPE ecosystem partners such as Chef, Docker and Mesosphere can ensure adequate governance and within known and controllable parameters.
  • While monitoring and management is complex and costly in the public cloud, composable infrastructure offers a single, intelligent interface for all infrastructure and a single operating environment to host all workloads; bare-metal, virtualised or cloud-native.
  • With public cloud you are reliant on vendor capability and the terms of your SLA, but with composable infrastructure the flexible consumption model delivers capacity ahead of demand.
  • When it comes to securing proprietary and customer data, with the public cloud you get limited control over access to shared infrastructure. Composable infrastructure, on the other hand, offers full control and simplifies regulatory, security and compliance elements.



How does composable infrastructure differ from hyperconverged infrastructure?

SH: Composable Infrastructure embraces and extends key concepts and traits from the architectures that have come before it, including converged and hyperconverged systems.

In general, hyperconverged relies heavily on virtualization and doesn’t typically support bare metal applications or containers. Whereas the pool of available compute resources and the ability of composable infrastructure to assign specific workloads is much more conducive to bare metal applications. Bare metal and virtualized workloads are just two application foundations that need to be supported in the modern data center. So unlike hyperconverged infrastructure,  composable infrastructure can seamlessly handle physical, virtual, and container‐based workloads.


What are the business benefits of composable infrastructure?

SH: Composable infrastructure can turn the IT function into a driver of the business. IT must keep up and even lead if a business is to remain competitive. With all resources controlled virtually as software elements, practitioners gain control over their infrastructure and can actually accelerate business in ways that were not possible just a few years ago. Composable infrastructure also allows administrators to flex their resource use depending on the current demands of the business.

Modern businesses are all about speed of execution. By bringing into software those functions that used to be defined by hardware, composable infrastructure enables you to bring new solutions to market far more quickly than was possible before. On the application front, deployments can now take minutes or hours rather than days or weeks.

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