Thursday, June 23, 2011

Designing Solutions on a Converged Infrastructure

I've been doing a lot of thinking (no answers today, just thoughts) about the solutions and applications running on top of converged infrastructure stacks.  Today, we have a few scenarios to consider that each require increasing levels of design complexity:
  1. A single tenant with a single application (one big VDI farm or maybe Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution) 
  2. A single tenant with multiple applications (a VDI farm as well as an SAP instance) 
  3. Multiple tenants running the same application (vCloud Director giving out IaaS resources)
  4. Multiple tenants running multiple applications (a service provider hosting vCloud Director as well as Cisco Unified Communications)
Single Tenant with a Single Application - This one is pretty easy to digest; the entire CI (converged infrastructure) can be tweaked and modified to support a single application.  This makes the technical folks happy because they get to play with the "nerd knobs" and do some tuning.  The downside is that unless the application is a really big application, the CI may not be fully utilized or you may have multiple CI's in the data center.  You've just taken the server sprawl problem of a few years ago (single application, single server) and made it worse.

Single Tenant with Multiple Applications - In this scenario we just need to make sure our applications "play well with others".  As long as the CI can support the design, you are just adding more "blocks" at the application level.  This design usually requires a certain level of interop testing to make sure one application doesn't starve the other for resources.

Multiple Tenants Running the Same Application - The classic example here is vCloud Director.  As many are finding out, defining a work area for multiple tenants while at the same time creating a secure environment can be challenging.  When hosting multiple customers or tenants, it's all about the isolation.

Multiple Tenants Running Multiple Applications - This is where the fun begins!  You now have to balance the isolation aspects of multiple tenants while also providing a level of service across all the applications, all in a secure and stable environment.  For CI's to really succeed, this is where our design focus as architects needs to be in the future.

A Note on Multiple Tenants: As brought up by Christian Reilly on a recent episode of the Cloudcast, where do you define Multi-Tenants?  Are you talking just at the hardware layer?  Can you share a database and host multiple instances (a very common practice) or do you need separate databases servers as well?  Things to think about...


Jim Hannan said...

Hi Aaron,

Full disclosure I work for HP. I enjoyed reading your blog. I find it gratifying that the rest of the industry has followed HP’s Converged Infrastructure strategy announced several years ago. The term Converged Infrastructure has now become an accepted term when describing integrated systems of compute, network and storage. I have seen it used by VCE, IBM, Dell and others, as well as analysts. However, I don’t see any vendor (or coalition) being able to put it all together the way HP has done. Everyone else is missing a key infrastructure piece, missing orchestration/heterogeneous management, worldwide services or financing.

That is why we are so excited about our portfolio of HP Converged Systems, see:

All of the scenarios you call out have an HP Converged System solution that can meet the need. For example, “Single Tenant with a Single Application” sounds a lot like HP AppSystems that are complete, pre-integrated solutions that are tuned and optimized to deliver maximum performance for a single application or suite of applications. “Single Tenant with Multiple Applications” customers can use our HP VirtualSystem for this. For “Multiple Tenants Running Single or Multiple Applications” our HP CloudSystem is a great choice. HP CloudSystem is a hybrid cloud with heterogeneous cloud management and automation, a unified business portal, and advanced application optimization.

HP has taken converged infrastructure to the next level. With our “System’ approach you do not need to tailor a solution to the use cases described. Customers can simply order a HP Converged System that that has been preconfigured, tuned and tested for each of these use cases based on our reference architectures and best practices. And you can upgrade from one use case to another as well.

The upshot of all of this is that while we see a lot of our competitors aligning behind converged infrastructure there is a lot more to creating a solution than just bundling modular building blocks of server-storage-network with a hypervisor running VMs. HP Converged Systems are fully integrated solutions from infrastructure to the cloud automation/heterogeneous datacenter management – All from HP.

Aaron Delp said...

Hey Jim - Thanks for reading! I admit, I waffled a bit before publishing your comment because it's a little too over the top marketing for me. But, you disclosed you work for HP and it is obvious you belong strongly in your solution and for that you have my full respect. Thanks again!