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Figure 1: Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) (Neuralytix 2017)

Over the last two weeks, Neuralytix has engaged in an unexpected high number of conversations on composable infrastructure (CI). Perhaps the timing of last week’s Open Compute Summit 2017 at Santa Clara, CA had something to do with it, but it seems that all of a sudden the discussion of CI has become fashionable.

Neuralytix has not finalized a definition of CI, but in essence, what hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) aggregated (see Figure 1), CI disaggregates.

Instead of scaling through modular units that incorporate compute, network, and storage (in a server form factor), each of these three components are disaggregated. Each of these components plug into a fabric – it could be an Ethernet fabric, but more likely a more advanced fabric such as PCIe. Software Defined Datacenter (SDDC) software would then bring the requisite amount of each component together to form a virtual physical server on top of which a hypervisor could host multiple virtual machines (VMs) or containers (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Composable Infrastructure – Creating a Server (Neuralytix 2017)

In Figure 2, the virtual server consists of two CPUs, 4 memory DIMMs, two network connectors, three SDDs and 10 HDDs. The benefit of CI is that each server unit is not limited to a given node as in HCI. As such, all elements of a server can be scaled from the number and size of the CPU, to the amount of networking and the type and amount of storage available.

For now, Neuralytix expects that CI will be based around a PCIe fabric giving way to a new cottage industry for PCIe switches. A number of different vendors have already started down this route in varying degrees of sophistication:

  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced CI with its Synergy composable systems in December 2015;
  • Cisco also started talking about CI around the same time;
  • Dell EMC’s VxRack FLEX is a form of CI; and
  • CI specialist Liqid has launched a PCIe switch and its accompanying Liqid OS at Open Compute Summit 2017, which is one of the first open implementations of CI in the market today.

Neuralytix believes that by 2021, CI could make up around 5% of the datacenter market. One key consideration – CI will not subsume the HCI market. They serve different purposes. Perhaps the most important consideration is that the infrastructure/datacenter market is moving quickly towards software-driven/software-defined, and vendors and customers need to heed this movement, lest these changes leave them behind.

 

Neuralytix is expected to host an online summit on the topic of CI in June 2017.