Converged infrastructure is a pre-packaged bundle of systems, including servers, storage, networking, and management software. Companies usually purchase these systems from one company, instead of buying the hardware and software components separately from different suppliers. Converged infrastructure systems are typically pre-configured and pre-tested, making them easier and faster to deploy when building out a data center.
A converged infrastructure is typically comprised of components from a single vendor.
This has the following advantages:
Greater compatibility: Helps minimize or even eliminate hardware and software compatibility issues.
Cost savings: Converged infrastructure saves money on data center provisioning, deployment, and management. Although currently many converged systems still require separate management tools for compute, networking and storage even if they come from the same manufacturer, IT teams are starting to configure and manage all the system resources through a single management interface.
Simplification: Streamlines data center management because it eliminates the need for IT to have expertise in products from multiple vendors.
Potential downsides to converged infrastructure include:
Vendor reliance: Converged infrastructure locks a company into a single vendor, which can result in fewer features and functionality, and limited customization options.
Increased complexity: Adding components to a converged architecture after installation can be complicated and expensive.
Where converged infrastructure is hardware-based and specializes in packaged hardware and software from a single vendor, hyperconverged infrastructure collapses compute and storage resources into highly virtualized, industry-standard x86 servers, with unified management.
Converged infrastructure can take advantage of existing hardware. With a converged architecture, servers, storage, networking, and management remain independent of each other. That way, individual components can be used for specific and separate purposes, plus servers and storage can be scaled independently.
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) involves more abstraction and offers more flexibility than converged infrastructure, since its components are software-defined. An HCI system’s virtualized compute and storage resources also make it easier and faster to scale compared to converged infrastructure. Hyperconverged infrastructure allows you to easily scale up by adding or replacing drives in existing servers, or scale out by adding nodes to a cluster. This usually means that even if you only need additional storage, the new node will also come with compute. Nodes can be added one at a time for incremental growth, whereas storage arrays often require a new controller or shelf of drives, which is a much larger single spend.
Both converged and hyperconverged systems can lower the data center footprint, simplify management, and increase infrastructure efficiency. Companies usually choose one versus the other based on variables like the size of the environment, desired amount of control over the environment, cost, existing infrastructure, and future IT goals and vision.
Converged infrastructure can be deployed and hosted on-premises, with system administration on a single web server. Converged infrastructure simplifies the traditional deployment process by offering pre-configured settings on hardware devices. It sometimes includes firewall appliances with their own proprietary network management software.
There are pre-configured converged infrastructure solutions designed for different use cases, including data centers, remote desktops, and web servers. These sector-specific packages typically include routers, cables, and networking equipment to run a corporate WAN at scale.
With a converged infrastructure solution, companies buy packaged hardware and software solutions from a vendor or consultancy. In a cloud model, companies do not purchase hardware—instead, they purchase based on a subscription-based or consumption-based pricing model for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), which runs on the cloud service provider’s hardware. Businesses can either pay up front (subscription-based), or for what they use (consumption-based), with the potential to scale up or down according to demand. Cloud solutions can be provisioned with software or contracted under a managed approach.
Converged architecture refers to the components, design, and configuration of a converged infrastructure. The term “converged architecture” is sometimes used interchangeably with “converged infrastructure.”