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Deploying Converged Infrastructure without Sacrificing Data Backups

Picture of Dale Shulmistra

Dale Shulmistra

Data Protection Specialist @ Invenio IT

Published

converged-infrastructure

Business growth is typically a cause for celebration and an indicator of impressive performance. However, for many modern businesses, the opportunity to expand comes with great challenges. Reducing the complexity and cost of sprawling IT infrastructures is an especially pressing concern. Converged infrastructure, also known as converged architecture, is a potential solution that deserves the attention of today’s business leaders.

By consolidating several IT components into a single integrated system, businesses can achieve greater simplicity, flexibility, and scalability. Before your business can evaluate whether converged infrastructure is the right path forward, it’s vital that you have a clear picture of what it is and how it compares to traditional IT architecture. Let’s dig into the details of converged infrastructure and how it can benefit your business.

The Driving Forces Behind Converged Architecture

To clearly understand the nature and purpose of converged infrastructure, we need to first address the unique challenges facing today’s IT teams. These obstacles have served as the primary motivators for the development and deployment of converged architecture systems.

Navigating Increasingly Complex Architecture

Large companies are faced with the difficult task of managing IT infrastructures that become more complex with each passing year. Even if your company itself is not experiencing rapid growth, chances are that your data is.

Enterprise businesses—larger companies with thousands of employees—create enormous amounts of data on a daily basis. When they have numerous locations throughout the country or even around the globe, these organizations require a complex infrastructure to store, process, and safely transmit all that data.

Despite this growth and the ever-present need for system improvements, IT departments tend to face limited budgets that put pressure on them to make do with what they have rather than invest in more innovative and efficient deployments. The result is often a cobbled-together infrastructure system that causes ongoing headaches and often creates more problems than it solves.

Integrating Disparate Components

Imagine telling a 5-year-old to build a toy house using 4 different kinds of blocks: Lego, Duplo, Lincoln Logs, and magnetic Picasso tiles.

Sure, it wouldn’t be impossible. And a creative child could probably build something truly magnificent with complex surfaces and intricate details. But the truth remains that it would be a whole lot easier and faster if she could use only one type of block rather than four.

On top of the complications of the initial construction, consider what happens when her big brother destroys part of the house and breaks some of the blocks. She’d have to do some serious reconfiguration to rebuild the missing sections with other blocks that weren’t designed to fit together.

A sprawling IT infrastructure isn’t much different from this scenario. It requires you to make all kinds of dissimilar things work together, regardless of their type, size, or vendor.

A skilled and highly trained IT architect can indeed design beautiful architecture out of those individual systems. They do it every day, and their infrastructures function at least somewhat effectively for their businesses. However, the fact that their systems work doesn’t mean that this is always the best way to go about designing them.

Costly, Time-Consuming, and Inefficient Processes

When you’re integrating all kinds of different servers, data storage systems, network devices, and other IT components, you’re bound to run into problems eventually, sometimes sooner rather than later.

For large businesses, managing all of these separate pieces can become overwhelming. When the building blocks don’t fit together, somebody has to force them to fit. Likewise, when equipment and software don’t natively work together, an employee has to manually integrate them. Those integrations can be extremely time-consuming for IT teams, and more time means more money spent.

For some companies, that kind of integrated architecture might actually make sense. It all depends on the business’s operations and infrastructure needs. But for many businesses, moving to a converged infrastructure is the most efficient and logical option.

Converged Architecture Explained

Converged infrastructure is a consolidated approach to IT infrastructure that deploys several infrastructure components in a single appliance from one vendor. It often includes:

  • Servers
  • Data storage devices
  • Network hardware
  • Management software

Converged infrastructure is designed to be a turnkey solution, eliminating the need to manually integrate and manage several individual systems provided by different vendors.

Instead, the components of a converged appliance are already integrated upon deployment. They’re also pre-configured and pre-tested, meaning that the infrastructure is ready to go without any additional setup. For an already overtaxed IT team, this saves precious time by eliminating the need to spend weeks on deployment or hire personnel to monitor and manage the infrastructure around the clock.

The Differences Between Converged and Conventional Architecture

Conventional is a misleading word in this context, because businesses can deploy their infrastructure in several different ways.

However, let’s focus specifically on enterprise businesses. The typical approach for these sizable companies is deploying a range of different computer, storage, networking, and virtualization resources within a data center.

It’s possible that each component was developed by a completely different technology provider. For example, the data storage server could be from IBM, but virtualization could be powered by a Cisco server. The job of IT personnel would thus be to make sure those components not only all work together but also scale together as business needs evolve.

Converged infrastructure is different from conventional infrastructure in that it packages those hardware components into a single unified product with a common physical enclosure. For many businesses, this is a significantly simpler and more elegant approach to infrastructure than piecing together various components.

Deploying Converged Infrastructure

Straightforward and simple deployment is one of the primary appeals of converged infrastructure, alleviating much of the stress placed on IT departments that often have too many other tasks on their plates. Some converged architecture vendors deliver their equipment tested and ready to use. All your business has to do is put it into place.

Other vendors assemble the equipment at your business site and provide you with a detailed guide describing how to configure it and get it up and running. In either case, your IT personnel won’t waste time and energy scrambling to find ways to integrate all of the elements of the system.

The Benefits of Converged Architecture

The benefits of converged infrastructure all boil down to saving time, money, and resources for your company. Let’s take a look at the most noteworthy advantages that many businesses experience when they shift to converged infrastructure systems.

Simplified Deployment and Management

Converged architecture simplifies your infrastructure, making it easier to deploy, manage, and maintain.

By converging several different components into a single package, you remove the complexity of manually integrating several different solutions. This has a series of positive results, including:

  • Faster deployment: The deployment of converged architecture takes far less time than a conventional system because it’s preconfigured and tested right out of the box.
  • Simplified management: Managing a converged architecture system is simpler and more streamlined because your IT team doesn’t need to learn the ins and outs of products from multiple vendors, allowing them to devote their time to other important tasks.
  • Easier maintenance: Rather than trying to take care of a series of discordant parts and components, your IT personnel will maintain unified solutions that are already configured to work together seamlessly.
  • Stronger support: If the system breaks down, you’ll find it much less complicated and time-consuming to get support because you only need to deal with a single vendor rather than several different ones, who may offer conflicting suggestions and guidance.

For many businesses, these factors alone are enough to invest in converged architecture, not to mention the additional advantages they typically enjoy.

Cost Savings

A simplified infrastructure can translate into significant savings for enterprise companies.

Easier deployments mean that less time and money are spent configuring and managing the components. By freeing up time for IT personnel, you’re effectively boosting productivity in other areas and maximizing department resources. Every minute saved on infrastructure maintenance translates to monetary savings for your business. On a larger scale, a reduced need for management will also mean a reduced need for future hiring, onboarding, and training, all of which cost valuable resources.

Some businesses are wary of converged infrastructures because they can require a larger upfront investment than traditional deployments. However, in most cases, the total cost of ownership tends to be significantly less expensive in the long run.

Infrastructure Efficiency

Combining several IT components into a single enclosure makes your infrastructure more efficient. It has a smaller footprint, which maximizes space in the data center, and generally uses less power.

Additionally, since the computer, networking, servers, storage, and virtualization solutions are all optimized to work together seamlessly, they also run more efficiently. As you’d expect, that increased efficiency usually results in vastly better performance.

Improved Performance

Converged infrastructures tend to offer better overall performance and resource utilization than traditional systems.

That’s because the components inside the appliance are intelligently designed to work in tandem. Optimization throughout the stack means that computing resources are used more efficiently. In turn, this brings greater speed and stability to nearly every process, whether it’s bulk data migration, virtualization, or application processing.

Faster performance for end users means they can do their jobs more efficiently, increasing productivity and providing an additional benefit to the organization’s bottom line.

Better Flexibility and Scalability

Let’s go back to that analogy of the girl with the toy blocks for a moment.

Your industrious 5-year-old has built a magnificent house using all four unrelated types of blocks. Suddenly, she realizes that there’s not enough space for all of her action figures. The house needs an addition.

Chances are good that she can’t simply add more blocks. She’ll need to tediously rebuild an entire section of the house to make sure the new addition is stable and structurally sound.

Scaling your IT infrastructure can be similarly frustrating, complex, time-consuming, and inefficient. Each new addition requires more work to make sure everything is properly configured to work together.

Converged platforms make it easier to scale up without new integrations or investments. They’re typically deployed at scale to fit current needs but can be scaled up as those needs grow and evolve over time.

Disadvantages of Converged Infrastructure

In comparison to the extensive benefits of using converged infrastructure, the downsides are fairly limited. However, it’s important for every business to look at the full scope of its infrastructure needs to determine which type of system is the best fit.

When you decide to invest in converged architecture, you commit yourself to working with only one vendor. While this may reduce the time you spend communicating with different parties, it can also lead to certain drawbacks, such as:

  • Fewer features and functionalities
  • Limited customization options
  • Challenges if the vendor goes out of business or experiences downtime
  • Less freedom to select specific hardware items
  • Lack of control over system patches or updates

These factors make it especially important to carefully consider which converged architecture vendor you select. Partnering with the right vendor can protect you from many problems down the line.

Examples of Converged Infrastructure

With all this in mind, you may be wondering what exactly a converged infrastructure looks like. Despite the internal differences, it’s basically indistinguishable from any other IT rack enclosure– filled with servers, networking, and other hardware.

Some examples of leading converged infrastructure platforms include:

  • IBM PureSystems
  • Oracle Exalogic
  • VersaStack
  • Cisco HyperFlex
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) ConvergedSystem
  • Infinio
  • Dell VxBlock System

Note that some systems are available directly through vendors, while others can only be purchased through channel partners.

Distinguishing Between Converged and Hyper-Converged Infrastructures

When evaluating converged offerings, you may also come across the term hyper-converged infrastructure. While they both take the approach of simplifying your architecture with a unified system, the actual deployments are a bit different.

The key difference between the two is that converged infrastructure is a completely unified appliance with each component branded by a single vendor, while hyper-converged is more software-centric. Hyper-converged infrastructure leverages white-box servers and generic hardware, along with more granular, software-defined services, such as data backup and deduplication. Converged infrastructure tends to provide easier management from a central location, while hyper-converged provides easier scalability and is better suited to organizations with multiple remote locations.

The Challenges of Data Backups and Converged Infrastructure

The global converged infrastructure market was valued at $9.03 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $52.46 billion by 2029. In other words, it’s growing fast as more CIOs seek ways to simplify their data-center architecture. However, if you’re among the business leaders considering a converged solution, you need to be sure that data backup and disaster recovery do not become an afterthought.

Some data backup solutions aren’t capable of handling the demands of a converged architecture system. At the same time, many of the best converged infrastructure platforms do not come with today’s best business continuity solutions.

Fortunately, there’s good news. When you choose quality data backup solutions, they can be easily integrated with converged systems, allowing you to maintain the simplicity and efficiency of converged architecture, while also ensuring iron-clad data protection.

Leading business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solutions are designed to integrate seamlessly with nearly any physical, virtual, and cloud infrastructure. When you research your options, look for a unified continuity appliance that offers, at a minimum, these key features:

  • Hybrid cloud backups that include on-site and cloud storage
  • Instant virtualization
  • Automatic backup verification
  • A high backup frequency, ideally of up to every five minutes

With the right data backup solution, you can be sure that your data is backed up around the clock and quickly recoverable if disaster strikes, no matter what your infrastructure looks like.

Learn More about Data Backups and Converged Infrastructure Systems

Converged infrastructure is an ideal solution for many businesses, especially those who are in the process of scaling up or who expect to experience significant growth in the future. However, it can present complications for businesses that mistakenly believe all of their needs are covered by their converged architecture alone and that an additional BC/DR solution is unnecessary.

The team of disaster recovery experts at Invenio IT knows what it takes to protect your data from all of the threats on the horizon, regardless of whether you use a conventional or converged infrastructure. If you want to learn more about converged infrastructure or discuss your data protection needs, contact the business continuity specialists at Invenio IT. Even better, explore how the best data solutions on the market effortlessly integrate with your converged or hyper-converged architecture by scheduling a free demo to see them in action.

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