When looking at composable infrastructure it’s creating a new level of abstraction beyond virtualisation, providing further agility by building a platform that in the future will have the ability to disaggregate components that traditionally had to be joined. If DRAM, Storage-Class Memory and IO accelerators such as GPU or FPGA’s could be segmented and pooled on the fly, infrastructure becomes totally defined by the needs of the application, it’s a very interesting future state. With Gen-Z 1.0 having defined an interconnect specification that addresses connecting processors to memory, the goal is to allow the memory controllers and processors to be media-agnostic. The future is bright for composable! but let’s break down what this is.

 

Composable: Capable of being composed (as from multiple lesser elements)
I was recently reading online about a company making domestic house structures that are modular by design. By having them modular they provide much more options to create something more dynamic and unique to the individual customer. For example, modular buildings are those that can be built in stages. The same frame and design are shared as this will be the core or the glue that holds it all together, but additional modules can be added over time. Every building share’s the same core component’s but from here its fully customizable to what the customer wants in terms of room sizes, types of rooms, no of windows etc.

In simple terms if we were to relate infrastructure to this analogy, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure is like purchasing a house from plans that will be built to the specification as described (and potentially viewed in a showroom) in the brief. The owners can then build on additions or make changes as they need to. Composable infrastructure on the other hand is like the modular housing design where you have the flexibility to start with the shared core (chassis) and then have the flexibility to add or remove the lesser elements much more easily as desired. This is done in a dynamic way by grouping them into components.

The Dell PowerEdge MX Series is a powerful, modular system designed for data center density with internal components that include a chassis, two or four socket servers, storage sled’s and MX Ethernet, MX FC switches. Dell have designed this as composable “kinetic” infrastructure, but you might ask how will this support the new Gen-Z interconnects that may be coming in the future? Well Dell have very cleverly designed the MX with no mid-plane and by having this excluded the barriers to supporting new processor, storage or connectivity innovations are removed. Thus, it’s a very flexible infrastructure where technology upgrades can be performed without disrupting operations and without mid-plane upgrades. The MX disaggregates compute, storage and networking into shared pools that are on-demand for allocation and re-allocation. Resources that are typically found in servers are grouped together into common resource pools.  The pools are connected by one or more high-speed, high-bandwidth, low latency fabrics.  When an administrator needs a server for a specific application it draws the necessary resources from the resource pools and configures the scalable fabric to connect the resources together.

I think it’s fair to say that from the first half of the title of this blog the MX series ticks the “Composable Agility” box. I see the MX as starting to really accelerate the notion of a “living” infrastructure. One that is dynamic based on application requirements. The other half of the subject for this blog is about “Software Fluidity” this is where a living software defined datacentre leveraging composable infrastructure and full stack software lifecycle management is pretty much a match made in heaven!

VMware’s SDDC software including vSphere, vSAN, NSX and vRealize Suite is a powerful combination. A SDDC software stack work’s best when included in a regular upgrade cycle. The SDDC is living meaning updates are coming at a fast rate and the product enhancements are always too good not to upgrade. The drawback of this constant upgrade cycle is the background work checking software SDDC component interoperability, hardware compatibility and upgrade planning. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just have a software manager that automatically upgraded the environment based on VMware’s VVD designs and all firmware/driver requirements?

Well this is where Cloud Foundation (vCF) will do just that, by leveraging SDDC manager and lifecycle management it can sit as a software management layer on top of MX or VxRAIL to manage the full lifecycle of the environment.

By combining Cloud Foundation with Dell’s PowerEdge MX the software can “compose” the hardware within the MX through Dell OpenManage with full stack Cloud Foundation automation and lifecycle management. Cloud Foundation creates policy-based workload domains that have specific availability and performance attributes. This is then provided as a single consumable entity. You can see where Dell and VMware are headed with the bundling, if they can now talk to composable infrastructure via API’s then Cloud Foundation can compose and decompose workloads domains and policies based on requirements. Ultimately assigning the right resources to the right applications. The SDDC manager works as a single pane of glass combining software and hardware consumption for a fully “living” infrastructure.

It’s going to be very interesting watching Dell apply Gen-Z specification taking this to the next level of disaggregation. For now, the MX with Cloud Foundation will provide a fluid agile infrastructure that is future proofed for new technologies.

At Asystec we were the first Dell/VMware partner in Europe to deploy Cloud Foundation with many of our customers now reaping the benefits of the technology. Success of such projects requires knowledge, experience and expertise. We in Asystec pride ourselves on having the highest standards and skillsets.

 

Jonathan D’Arcy | Asystec Lead Systems Engineer

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Asystec were the first Dell/VMware partner in Europe to deploy Cloud Foundation with many of our customers now reaping the benefits of the technology. For more information or to talk to one of our experts contact us today.