Research firm IDC divides the converged systems market into four segments: integrated infrastructure, certified reference systems, integrated platforms and hyper-converged systems. Integrated infrastructure and certified reference systems are pre-integrated systems containing server hardware, storage systems, networking equipment and systems management software. Integrated platforms add pre-integrated software and customized system engineering to support particular functions.
Hyper-converged systems are different. While the compute, software and networking components of integrated infrastructure are vendor-certified to work together, they can be “disassembled” into their individual parts. Hyper-converged systems, on the other hand, collapse all of that functionality into a single, highly virtualized solution. A key characteristic of hyper-converged systems is their ability to provide all compute and storage functions through the same server-based resources.
Then there’s FlexPod SF.
FlexPod SF is the new integrated infrastructure solution from Cisco and NetApp. It combines Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) B-Series servers and Cisco Nexus switching with all-flash, scale-out, block storage based upon the NetApp SolidFire platform. Cisco UCS delivers the compute performance needed to support today’s data-intensive workloads, while SolidFire overcomes the “noisy neighbor” issues that often plague highly virtualized environments. Together, they make it possible to reliably run hundreds of applications on a single platform with guaranteed SLAs.
Technically, FlexPod SF is not a hyper-converged infrastructure solution because storage services are not delivered through a hypervisor. However, the solution leverages the SolidFire Element OS to enable fine-grained performance control and non-disruptive expansion. SolidFire’s software-defined architecture automates every aspect of provisioning, management and reporting, reducing operational overhead and accelerating time-to-market.
With SolidFire guaranteed QoS, you can independently set quality of service at minimum, maximum, or burst levels across the entire infrastructure to provide the precise storage capacity and performance that each workload needs. The Element OS also offers cluster-wide de-duplication, two-layer compression, granular thin provisioning, snapshots, remote replication and integrated Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) backup.
The scale-out architecture of FlexPod SF helps to reduce initial capital expenditures and align IT expenses with business growth. Compute and storage resources can be scaled independently to maintain controlled performance with cloud-like operating costs. FlexPod SF also offers cost savings through infrastructure consolidation, automation and rapid application delivery. In fact, the FlexPod family of solutions has been proven to reduce infrastructure costs by up to 46 percent.
FlexPod SF can be managed through a VMware vCenter plug-in, Microsoft PowerShell and VMware vRealize Suite, as well as other management platforms through an open API. It is ideal for DevOps environments, hosting containers and web-native applications, and consolidating traditional applications on a single, high-performance infrastructure. Cisco Validated Designs and NetApp Verified Architectures reduce deployment time and risk, and make it possible to standardize the data center environment.
Is it converged or hyper-converged? In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. FlexPod SF builds upon the benefits of both technologies to create a highly flexible infrastructure to support today’s dynamic data center workloads.