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What is a composable infrastructure and what are its key benefits?

As composable systems are a key pillar of business composability, let's take a look at what is a composable infrastructure, what are its key benefits and how does it work.
Nikola Gemes

Nikola Gemes

Jan 26, 2023
What is a Composable Infrastructure and What are its Key Benefits?

As composable systems are a key pillar of business composability, let's take a look at what is a composable infrastructure, what are its key benefits and how does it work.

#What is a composable infrastructure?

Composable infrastructure is an approach to data center architecture where computing, storage, and networking resources are decoupled from the underlying hardware. In the past, it was common to use a monolithic architecture, where applications run on one machine.

Composable systems are a key pillar of business composability. A composable architecture treats every application as a separate API-controlled component. This allows applications to be distributed to meet the demands of real-time computing, storage, and networking, without disturbing other apps that are already running.

#Composable vs. hyper-converged vs. converged infrastructures

As businesses are creating and managing more data than ever, IT infrastructures are evolving to meet their needs. The two most popular configurations are composable and hyper-converged infrastructure. Let’s compare these two and mention the other two configurations still in use.

Converged infrastructure (CI)

In this type, computing, networking, visualization tools, servers, and storage are converged in a data center. This model was developed to reduce the complexity of a traditional infrastructure:

Dedicated networking equipment, Ethernet switches, and scale-up commute systems were replaced by pre-configured building blocks.

Since all products reside on a single piece of hardware, converged infrastructure significantly reduced issues with incompatibility, as well as logistics costs.

Still, even if it effectively enables a plug-and-play experience, converged infrastructure can be inefficient unless the appliances are sized to the actual workload.

Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)

HCI is a software-defined IT system where all the elements of a traditional hardware-defined IT environment are unified and virtualized.

With virtual servers, software-defined storage, and networking, HCI can use small bricks, CPU units, and storage in a large cluster governed by a single hypervisor.

Hyper-converged infrastructures require less hardware, making them suitable for small and large enterprises.

However, hyper-converged systems have their drawbacks. There are problems with support, software incompatibilities, and vendor lock-ins. Vendors might even impose additional nodes on businesses that wish to scale up, ending in them spending more on expensive equipment and resources.

Composable infrastructure

In composable infrastructures, computing, storage, and network devices are treated as different pools of resources. Users can request these pools as needed, depending on workload performance requirements.

Composable infrastructure is designed to give businesses the same flexibility, freedom, and benefits as a cloud computing provider — requesting and provisioning resources from a shared capacity.

As a result, with composable architectures, teams have the opportunity to choose specialized tools that are optimal for their specific use case. This way, they can build the workflows with the precise functionality they need without paying more.

#Key benefits of a composable infrastructure

  • Optimal software performance: One workload can demand a lot of CPU power while another could be heavy on the memory side. In both cases, users can reconfigure resources to compose the exact-sized infrastructure for the workload at hand.
  • Agility: Composable infrastructure significantly increases the agility of your operations. By employing a composable system, you can instantly adopt innovative applications as well as align your actions with overarching business goals.
  • Cost effective: Long/term costs and ROI are still difficult to quantify, but composable infrastructure brings value to businesses by increasing the efficiency of infrastructure operations. By leveraging fluid pools of dynamic resources, businesses can increase productivity and control. This way, you not only avoid paying for overprovisioning or unused resources.
  • Unified data, not in silos anymore: By provisioning your storage from a unified data center, you effectively eliminate silos that slow down your operations.
  • Faster deployment: Composable infrastructure is the gateway to a more nimble environment where resources can be accessed quickly and used with greater accuracy. A composable system allows you to allocate the exact computing, storage, and memory resources needed for the situation at hand.
  • Ease of use: In composable systems, on the other hand, all IT essentials are managed from a single location. Compute, storage, and networking can be provisioned on demand and returned to the resource pool once you’re done with them. No more complicated infrastructures, the implementation of which outweigh the benefits.

#How does a composable infrastructure work?

Composable infrastructure abstracts enterprise resources and pools them so they can be managed by a single API. For example, when IT needs new software, the API automatically creates the required infrastructure using the resource pool. Otherwise, IT would have to build and configure the physical infrastructure to support the new software. At the same time, when that software is no longer needed, those resources become available for further use. According to a Gartner report, composability can make enterprises more resilient and sustainable.

#Key composable infrastructure terminology

Bare metal: A hard disk without any software layer or OS. Legacy business applications and systems often operate on traditional, single-tenant servers because of migration costs, performance concerns, and legal requirements.

Container: Lightweight runtime environments that contain files, variables, and libraries needed for apps to run while keeping them portable. Containers use their host’s OS.

Fluid resource pool: Compute, storage, and networking resources become fluid when decoupled from underlying physical infrastructure.

Hypervisor: Software, firmware, or hardware that acts as a virtual machine monitor. Abstracts resources from hardware and creates virtual machines to run apps and OSs.

Infrastructure as a code: In composable infrastructure, computing resources are provisioned with code, so IT doesn’t need to physically configure hardware to meet the needs of new or updated apps.

IT silo: A tech stack that is running on dedicated infrastructure that can’t be easily changed or managed.

Mission-critical apps: Legacy business applications that are so central to business operations that any outages severely disrupt expected performance. They often run on dedicated servers.

Software-defined intelligence: A common software layer that serves as a configurable and programmable abstraction layer for all resources in the data center.

Stateless infrastructure: Every application that runs on a cloud or physical infrastructure as a part of the composable infrastructure model is stateless — controlled by software and can be moved at will.

#Wrapping up

Composable infrastructure is at the core of business composability. It’s a system where teams can add, manage and remove individual apps as building blocks to develop the tech stack that best suits their real-time needs.

Hygraph is a Gartner-recognized digital experience composition (DXC) solution that helps businesses be more resilient and adaptable to change by separating the backend from the frontend.

Using Hygraph, teams can remove old and add individual functionalities or frontends without disturbing other workflows.

Blog Author

Nikola Gemes

Nikola Gemes

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