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Cisco’s composable infrastructure? That’s not a knife. This is a knife.


By Paul Miller, VP of Marketing, HP Converged Datacenter Infrastructure

knife.jpgRemember Crocodile Dundee? “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.” Funny how nobody seems to remember what happened in those movies, but we all remember that line, probably because it was drilled into us by the trailers.

What brought to mind the crocodile hunter was Cisco’s recent over-reach on composable infrastructure. It’s a limited view of a very powerful idea. HPE is driving to a bigger vision: a composable infrastructure that’s built on fluid pools of compute, storage and fast flexible fabric, disaggregated so they can be quickly composed and then easily returned to the pool to be re-composed in a software template to fit the specific needs of an application or workload that will run on it. (See Composing the Infrastructure of the Future). The resource pools are integrated with a software-defined intelligence layer accessible through a Unified API, enabling physical infrastructure to be treated as code. It’s a broad, far-reaching vision that we believe will shape the future of the data center, and that provides IT with a clear journey to a software defined future. (Learn more about HPE Composable Infrastructure here.)

Like a group of other vendors, Cisco has taken notice of HPE and is using the term “composable infrastructure” to put a new label on their 6-year old UCS architecture. And while the M-series does have elements of Composability, it no more resembles a true composable infrastructure than a boy-scout penknife resembles a knife fit for a crocodile hunter.

If you want to know the difference between a knife and a “real” knife, here’s my take:

A knife is: Composable infrastructure that comes with an open, industry-standard API that allows me to access infrastructure. Composable infrastructure that fits the need for ALL workloads, including databases, mission critical, SAN, etc., is an architectural design consisting of a fully disaggregated converged infrastructure of compute, storage, fabric and operating environment that has extremely high bandwidth and enables composition at the speed of cloud. A composable infrastructure that has the capacity to be configured and reconfigured to meet the precise requirements of ALL workloads that are run on it … not just some.

Not a knife: A “composable server” … at best, that’s what the Cisco M-series is. It only addresses a part of the infrastructure by pooling (sharing) just the chassis I/O (two NICs) and limited local storage (4 SSDs) across chassis compute nodes. Using Cisco’s own words, they show that it is applicable to just specific “Cloud scale, Grid, electronic design automation (EDA), online gaming, and genomic applications”1

A knife: A modern programmable interface and a thriving ecosystem. It all starts with the API. The HPE Composable infrastructure API, native in HPE OneView, is an open RESTful API using JSON2, the standard preferred by the vast majority of web-based developers and used in applications such as Twitter and Facebook. Compared to XML, JSON is much more lightweight and developer-friendly.3

Our HPE Composable Infrastructure partner program provides a set of tools and resources that enable ISVs and developers to build interoperability between HPE OneView and other software for programmatic access to infrastructure. At the recent Discover event in June we announced that the HPE Composable Infrastructure Partner Ecosystem Program was open to all HPE Alliance One members. The program will provide ISV’s and developers with programmable control of infrastructure to enable faster new services and application delivery. Partners including Chef Software, Docker, Puppet Labs, and Ansible are already onboard and are a part of this program providing value to customers.

Not a knife: Cisco UCS Manager uses an XML API4.  Reports are that leading cloud scale environments are moving away from XML to JSON, which they have found to be more user friendly.5 While Cisco touts “The Cisco UCS Manager Ecosystem,” it’s not at all clear at this point what that means.

In contrast, HPE can point to real milestones that show how we are leading with Composable Infrastructure:

  • Docker Machine plugin for HPE Composable Infrastructure. Customers can automate the provisioning of physical infrastructure on-demand, from private bare metal cloud using templates from HPE OneView, enabling customers to treat infrastructure as code. The Docker Machine Driver for HPE OneView, used to deploy Docker onto bare metal HPE servers, is available today. 

  • Chef Provisioning Driver for HPE OneView. Organizations can order physical infrastructure on-demand from their private bare metal cloud using templates – or “recipes” – from HPE OneView to bring unprecedented levels of agility to their data center. The HPE OneView-Chef solution is available today.

  • HPE Composable Infrastructure partner Arista has used HPE OneView’s open REST APIs and open standard AMQP message bus to build interoperability between their top-of-rack switch and the HPE Converged Architecture 700 system.

Composable infrastructure is coming to IT. And as you can tell, there will be differences. As in our “This is a Knife” analogy, some knives are going to be dull … and some are going to be sharp. It will be an exciting journey, and one that changes how the data center operates. Keep a discerning eye on what you are reading, and most importantly, don’t limit your vision of what you need composable infrastructure to do for you. If you buy into a limited definition of what composable infrastructure is, you could be limiting what you get out of it.


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2. HPE OneView Architectural Advantages 

3. 7 ways HP OneView delivers the perfect API for converged infrastructure management. 


5. The hunt for the perfect API
New v2 API: What’s Not There Is Just As Important As What Is


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