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HPE's Synergy is a new type of 'composable' infrastructure

James Niccolai | Dec. 2, 2015
Hewlett Packard Enterprise says the new hardware configures itself automatically

The idea of a composable infrastructure isn't new, said Gartner analyst Paul Delory, noting that Cisco uses the term to describe its UCS M Series servers. But HPE appears closest to delivering on its potential, he said -- with the caveat that Synergy is still months from release. "I think what they've done is innovative," he said.

HPE is aiming the product initially at large enterprises that want the flexibility of a cloud infrastructure but don't want to move applications in the cloud, perhaps for security or compliance reasons. It's eyeing big companies in areas like finance, healthcare and insurance as good candidates. 

Synergy is the next step in the evolution of converged systems, in which customers buy a preconfigured, virtualized infrastructure. But converged systems are limited by the physical hardware in the box, says Paul Durzan, HPE vice president for Infrastructure Management and Orchestration Software.

“When you buy your resources, you’re buying a physical boundary. So if you run out of storage but not compute, you have to buy another box,” he said. Synergy solves the problem of stranded resources, Durzan says, because unlike converged systems, there are no fixed ratios of storage to compute; with Synergy, all capacity can be used, even if that means tapping storage modules two racks over.

The systems can still be virtualized, and HPE says it's working with VMware, Microsoft, Puppet, Ansible and Chef to provide access to the Synergy API through their virtualization and automation tools.

"With Chef, for instance, you take these configuration templates and you essentially serve it up as a library into Chef," Durzan said.

Synergy could enable companies to streamline purchase processes, Fichera said, because they'll no longer need to order new hardware against specific application or capacity requirements; Synergy provides them greater flexibility to configure systems after they're installed.

It's a stepping stone on the way to a more fully composable system, which might allow individual processors and memory chips to be programatically assembled. That capability is limited today by Intel's Xeon server processors, but when high-speed silicon photonic interconnects become a reality, servers may eventually become disaggregated down to the individual chip level, said IDC analyst Jed Scaramella.

Customers are interested in the concept of composable systems, he said, though many don't know the name. He thinks Synergy will appeal initially to blade server customers, of which HPE has a lot. "Then they can go after Cisco and UCS," he said.

"There will be some education barriers," Fichera said, "but this is not a technology that people need to be convinced is good for them."

 

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