HPE’s Synergy promises composable utopia, Dell thinks not

Hewlett Packard Enterprise rolled out its latest hardware and software offering this week, announcing HPE Synergy. But what is it, and why would you want it?

Composable infrastructure is the next evolution in converged systems. The latter takes a collection of storage, network, and compute resources and unites in a single box, enabling IT managers to configure them more easily using a software layer that manages the underlying resources.

However, converged systems are often still limited by their physical boxes, meaning that IT managers face a challenge if they need to change the balance of compute, storage and network resources.

Hyperconverged systems took things a step further, merging some of these resources more tightly together and making their management and configuration more flexible. You’ll sometimes find vendors clustering their hyper-converged devices together and sharing resources across different boxes.

HP’s composable systems concept embeds network, storage and compute in a hardware frame, and then dynamically configures it according to the required workload. The Synergy system will let IT managers encode workloads into templates to standardise the process. The firm reckons it can configure its infrastructure for a specific workload in just a few minutes, with no human interaction.

This makes it a good candidate for DevOps environments, for example, in which IT staff need to spin up boxes quickly and frequently for development, testing and operations purposes.

HPE has written about its vision for Synergy in the past, outlining its plans in a post on its community site here.

The benefits of HPE

One benefit of the system is that IT managers can dynamically allocate resources of different types as they’re required, calling on Synergy equipment that might be in other racks. The idea is to reduce overprovisioning by handling, say, rising demand for storage on the fly. In a converged environment, you might have to buy another converged box with extra storage capacity because you’ve maxed out the storage in your existing boxes, even though you’ve still got computing resources that you’re not using in that equipment.

HPE handles all of this using a software layer, and is working with partners to ensure their products can work programmatically with it. It has named Arista, Capgemini, Chef, Docker, Microsoft, Nvidia and VMware as partners here.

Whether or not it can deliver on its promises remains to be seen, and we won’t know until it ships in Q2 next year. It’s an ambitious technical goal, but it could carry some tangible business benefits if the firm can pull it off.

The firm has announced HPE Flexible Asset Return for Servers, available through its financing arm. It lets companies return a percentage of unused servers in a 12-month period, and is designed to bolster the idea of a flexible, ‘pay as you grow’ infrastructure with a ‘money back if you don’t grow that quickly’ component.

Grumbles from Dell

Not everyone is happy with the idea, though. Dell executives quickly struck back with a sniffy blog post, in which it highlighted some of the potential problems.

“Basically, the more inflexible, proprietary, and complicated something is, the less valuable it is to the marketplace,” said Robert Hormuth, Dell fellow in the firm’s office of the CTO, adding that most composable infrastructure offerings are driven by a single vendor.

The market won’t be able to test the mettle of the HPE Synergy offering until Q2, and won’t know how much the thing is going to cost, either. It remains to be seen whether HPE can gain traction with this concept and deliver on its promises.

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradburyhttp://www.wordherder.net
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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