Software Composable Infrastructure

Software Composable Infrastructure Explained

You may have heard the term, “Infrastructure as Code”. That’s essentially what Software Composable Infrastructure is. It allows you to create the infrastructure you want by software command (either GUI or API). Let’s take a closer look.

To employ SCI, you start by disaggregating the components of a physical server into separate pools of resources. For example, rather than using standard servers with internal drives as the fundamental component of a scale-out infrastructure, you would use disk-lite servers (only enough disk to boot) to create a compute pool, and JBOD’s (Just a Bunch Of Disks) for a storage pool.

With SCI, you can attach any drive to any server, effectively “composing” servers and clusters that are optimized for the needs of a particular workload. If a workload needs additional compute or storage resources, its as easy as a few keyboard clicks to add more to the cluster. Once a workload is complete, these resources can be returned to the pool for use by other applications. This composition and re-composition happens under software control, which is fast and doesn’t require anyone to physically touch or re-configure any of the equipment. Resources are no longer trapped in separate silos.

Since the servers and drives are physically separated in a SCI architecture, there must be a way to physically connect them together. This comes in the form of an “adapter”, such as a SAS-to-Ethernet bridge. The adapter would connect to the JBODs via the SAS ports, and to the top-of-rack switch using Ethernet. Since the servers are also connected to the top-of-rack switch, you now have a fabric which can connect any drive to any server. If this fabric is sufficiently fast (e.g. 10GigE for the ToR switch), the performance will be identical to a bare metal server with Direct Attached Storage. Equally important, everything is indistinguishable from a standard server to the software running on it, so no changes are required to the application stack. Server composition would happen within a rack (using the adapter and ToR switch), while clusters can span multiple racks.

Implementing SCI doesn’t require a “fork-lift” upgrade where you have to replace your existing servers to take advantage of it. Rather, you simply start deploying new racks using the SCI architecture, and they work perfectly with your existing, standard servers. You can even combine standard servers and “composed” servers in the same cluster. As you upgrade your existing equipment as part of a lifecycle refresh, you would replace them with the disaggregated components.

Software Composable Infrastructure vs. Virtualization

How does Software Composable Infrastructure compare with “server virtualization”? Both SCI and server virtualization help IT optimize data center resource utilization, but they are very different in how they achieve that. One works from the top down, while the other from the bottom up.

Server virtualization lets you effectively “slice” a physical server into multiple virtual servers, or “virtual machines” (VM’s). This consolidation is great for applications that easily fit on a single server, or more accurately, on a fraction of a server. The benefit is that you can reduce the number of servers required to run these applications, and you get more value from each of the servers.

Software Composable Infrastructure, on the other hand, works by combining separate compute and storage resources into “physical” servers and clusters under software control. This allows you to optimize the servers or clusters for each workload, and adjust them quickly and easily as needed. The result is a much more efficient use of data center resources.

Another difference is that virtualization’s abstraction layer adds significant overheard, so a good amount of your processing power is used just for enabling virtualization, and not for your applications. With SCI, you are composing physical servers and clusters that provide bare metal performance for the workloads you run on them – no processing power is lost in the process.

Software Composable Infrastructure Significantly Reduces IT Costs

“Disaggregation” and “Composition” are Key to Cost Savings

Software Composable Infrastructure can have a significant impact on reducing data center costs, from initial deployments through day-to-day operations and lifecycle upgrades. Two key attributes of SCI provide the opportunity to reduce both capital and operating costs: 1) Disaggregation and 2) Software Composition.

Disaggregation of compute and storage resources gives you the ability to purchase and scale them separately. Software composition makes it quick and easy to combine them in any ratio, and adjust that ratio on-the-fly as needed. Together, these aspects of SCI can reduce costs in several ways:

Disk-lite servers and JBODs cost less than the same servers with internal disks. With SCI, you have the flexibility to purchase compute and storage resources from different vendors, giving you even more options. For example, additional savings can be realized by purchasing drives directly from the manufacturer instead of from the server vendor who marks up the price. In many cases, low cost 3.5” disk drives can be used instead of expensive 2.5” drives because the limitations on the number of drives that can fit in a server box are removed.

The concern that the compute-to-storage ratio is fixed for a given cluster can push administrators to over-provision processors. This could be a reasonable strategy if more and more jobs are added to a cluster as it matures, but it often results in clusters where the processors are running at low utilization levels. With DriveScale, you can configure compute and storage as needed without over-provisioning, and easily add resources later if necessary.

One of the biggest savings that comes from implementing DriveScale is the ability to upgrade compute and storage separately.  Upgrading the diskless servers without having to also replace the disk drives presents huge savings in money, time and effort.  Compute intensive applications will benefit from more frequent upgrades as new high-performance processor technologies become available. Upgrading disk drives can be postponed until the drives are nearing EOL, or as newer and higher capacity drives are needed.

If more compute power is needed, add more processors and spread the existing drives across them.  If more storage is needed, add more disks and attach them to exiting nodes.  DriveScale makes it easy to expand only the constrained resource without paying for other resources you don’t need.

In traditional scale-out architectures, once a cluster starts out with a particular disk-to-compute configuration, all additions to that cluster must conform to the same configuration. There can’t be 8 drives per node in half the cluster and 12 drives per node in the other half because the distribution of the workload among the servers would become chaotic and unpredictable. The only way to address an incorrect and wasteful configuration is to swap out the entire cluster. DriveScale lets you easily reconfigure the entire cluster at any time in response to changing requirements.

Multiple application clusters have traditionally been silo’ed in their own separate racks and underutilized resources were locked up in those silos. With DriveScale, you can quickly and easily make adjustments, moving resources between clusters so every workload operates at maximum efficiency. Silos are a thing of the past!

Diskless servers and JBODs take up about half the rack space of equivalent servers with internal drives.  Without the disks blocking the airflow, compute servers can be more tightly configured with up to 8 servers in a 2u box.  Since disk drives require little cooling, upwards of 100 3.5” drives can be accommodated in a 4u JBOD. Reduced rack and floor space also saves on cooling and power.

In traditional scale-out architectures, decommissioning a cluster has no assurance that a new cluster could use the configuration of the decommissioned nodes. With DriveScale, decommissioned clusters release their hardware components to pools of available resources that can easily be re-composed into completely new configurations as needed.

Since a DriveScale user can build many types of server nodes from one compute SKU and one JBOD SKU, the number of SKUs required to build out the various clusters in a data center can be drastically reduced, while still optimizing resources for each workload.  This makes ordering, sparing, managing and inventory tasks easier. Spare inventory levels can be much lower.

Software Composable Infrastructure Helps IT Respond Faster

Cloud-like Agility to Meet Any SLA

Software Composable Infrastructure brings the agility of a public cloud to your private data center. IT operators can respond faster than ever to changing business requirements, recover more quickly from failures and easily meet or exceed demanding SLAs.

Some of the ways SCI speeds IT operations include:

With DriveScale’s Software Composable Infrastructure, IT can respond in minutes to any change in application workloads. Need more storage? Simply add drives to the nodes in a cluster. Need more compute resources? Just add more processor nodes. No need to be next to the cluster or manually change the hardware. Everything can be done remotely under software control, whether using our simple GUI or leveraging our RESTful APIs from your scripts. “Buy more servers” is no longer the only reconfiguration tool!

When the application team comes asking for a new cluster, its no longer a matter of weeks to deploy. New clusters can be provisioned in minutes from existing pools of compute and storage resources – right from your keyboard. Using templates for various node or cluster configurations further speeds and simplifies the process.

DriveScale’s RESTful API lets administrators provision and reconfigure infrastructure from their own scripts and systems. Our template-driven approach to cluster composition and management means less time and fewer mistakes, thereby improving IT efficiency and reducing OpEx costs.

Maybe you guessed right configuring that new cluster, but over time it’s requirements will certainly change as more or less compute or storage resources are needed. Other workloads may vary from “hot” to “cold” based on business needs and priorities, or even the time of day or month. DriveScale lets you easily move resources between clusters so you can run your data center at maximum efficiency. No more silos!

If a server fails, software control can reassign the drives to other nodes in real time without affecting running applications. No need to accept a performance hit while the cluster makes new copies of the data on that server’s drives.

If a disk fails, you can immediately add a new drive to that node from wherever you are. You can then physically replace the failed drive when its convenient. Responding to failures no longer means you’ve lost control of your time.

When its time to replace your old servers with the latest technology processors, you don’t have to copy everything from the old drives to the new ones. Simply re-assign the drives from the old server nodes to the new nodes. You don’t just save on the cost of replacing perfectly good drives, you eliminate the downtime or performance hit spent copying the data.

With DriveScale, you no longer have to forecast, order and manage inventory of multiple server configurations. Everything is composed from a common pool of disk-lite server nodes and JBODs. Life can get easier.

With DriveScale, your IT team has more time to spend on new initiatives that move your business forward!

Software Composable Infrastructure – Deploy it with Confidence!

Integrates Quickly and Easily Into Your Environment

DriveScale’s Software Composable Infrastructure solution can be quickly and easily deployed in any scale-out data center infrastructure. Here’s why:

DriveScale’s Software Composable Infrastructure solution works with any modern workload, including all Hadoop distributions, NoSQL databases, container-based micro-services and scores of other scale-out systems. Absolutely no changes are required to your applications to take advantage of the agility and cost savings it offers your IT team.

You can continue to use any industry standard (COTS) servers and storage in the form of JBODs. DriveScale doesn’t sell servers or disk drives, so you don’t have to qualify another vendor. In fact, our architecture lets you source your servers and disk drives from different vendors, giving you even more flexibility and price leverage.

Implementing DriveScale doesn’t mean you have to replace your existing infrastructure. Simply start purchasing disk-lite servers and JBODs for your next rack. All “composed” nodes and clusters are fully compatible with your existing equipment, and you can even create clusters that incorporate both existing and newly composed nodes. As you upgrade your existing equipment over time, you can replace them with separate server and storage components to get more efficiency and agility in your data center.

DriveScale’s SCI architecture delivers equivalent performance to bare metal servers with direct attached storage. There’s no compromise in application performance to get the cost and flexibility advantages.

DriveScale’s SAS-to-Ethernet Adapter (DSA) connects the drives in the JBOD to the ToR (Top of Rack) Ethernet switch, which in turn connects to the servers. Four DSA cards are housed in a 1u DSA chassis. Each card is independent of the others and has two SAS and two 10Gbit Ethernet connections, along with redundant power supplies in the chassis.  With two DSAs and dual ToR Ethernet switches there is no single point of failure in the system.

DriveScale delivers enterprise-grade security features with full encryption of data stored on your drives and in flight. Your sensitive customer or personal information is safe and secure. We even included a “data shredding” feature that securely erases data from drives when they’re no longer needed, helping maintain privacy and data compliance.

With DriveScale, you can be saving money and operating with the agility of a cloud provider in no time!​