Building a data center infrastructure is a complex process requiring expertise in multiple fields. Finding storage, networking and server hardware, and software for your infrastructure is a battle in and of itself. Many large enterprises will have the resources to configure a data center from scratch, but for small to medium size enterprises converged infrastructure solutions are a great option.
Converged infrastructure is as close to a data center Swiss Army knife as you will find. Solutions combine server, networking and storage into a single, unified package, with vendors usually offering a management software solution as well, which can be packaged with the converged infrastructure product itself or as a separate purchase.
Choosing to go with a converged infrastructure solution for your data center means putting all of your eggs into one basket, so to speak. As such, finding the best option for your enterprise can be a stressful process. Here is an alphabetical list of several converged infrastructure vendors we think are worth looking at as you begin your search.
Dell Active System
Dell’s converged infrastructure offering is the Active System line of products. These range from the entry level Active System 50 to the Active System 1000, which is aimed at larger deployments and has fibre channel storage capabilities. The Active System 800 rack unit can also support cloud deployments, but is better suited for ones used for virtual desktop and other moderate workload applications. All units come packaged with Dell’s management software, the Active System Manager, which includes support for either VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V.
Hitachi Unified Compute Platform
The Unified Compute Platform family of products from Hitachi offers six different lines that are distinguished by supported database or virtualization solutions; these include SAP HANA, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle Database, VMware vSphere and the Unified Compute Platform Select for Microsoft Private Cloud. The vSphere option is the only one to include the support software with the initial purchase, Microsoft software must be purchased separately. For a full list of specs you can head here.
HP splits its ConvergedSystem products into five categories based on use: Big Data, cloud, virtualization, virtual desktop and SAP HANA. Both the cloud and Big Data options are based on HP architecture, HP Cloud OS and HP Vertica Analytics respectively. Virtualized desktop units support Citrix XenDesktop, VMware View and Microsoft Server 2012 solutions. HP’s converged infrastructure offerings are good for larger operations looking to mix and match converged solutions as ConvergedSystem products can be fitted into existing infrastructures as well as be utilized together to create a semi-converged network.
IBM Flex System
IBM offers a highly customizable converged infrastructure solution with its Flex System products. Businesses choose almost every aspect of the hardware: compute nodes, storage configurations, networking setups, etc. Compute node options include both x86 and POWER architectures, in addition to varying levels of computing power. For networking, options include fibre channel, InfiniBand, Ethernet as well as IBM Flex System Fabric.
NetApp’s FlexPod converged infrastructure solutions consist of FlexPod Express, FlexPod Select and FlexPod Datacenter and utilize Cisco Unified Computing System servers. Express is the entry-level solution for smaller operations looking to take advantage of a simplified infrastructure or consolidate resources, but don’t require high-end storage or workload capabilities. FlexPod DataCenter steps into medium-size enterprise territory with support for VMware, Microsoft, Oracle, Citrix and SAP apps. FlexPod Select is capable of handling larger, analytics-based workloads and has recently added unit running on a Hadoop-based platform.
Oracle Virtual Compute Appliance
Oracle’s X4-2 rack is a good option for a fully software-defined experience without having to purchase separate software, although it is compatible with certain third-party solutions. The X4-2 runs an x86 architecture and uses QDR InfiniBand connections as well as 10GbE on the management switch. The unit includes 292GB of flash cache for good read/write performance as well. In the end, Oracle’s converged infrastructure offering is at its best when working with other Oracle solutions.
The Vblock System units range from the 100 entry-level model to the 700 model capable of handling sizable cloud deployments. The Vblock System 200 is where a small to midsize enterprise would want to start, offering basic scalability and virtualization capabilities. The most powerful unit, the Vblock 720, is designed for medium to large-scale businesses wanting to run more than one kind of workload on a single converged infrastructure unit. All Vblock System products come with VCE Vision Intelligent Operations software which can directly integrate with other VMware management software.