Infrastructure Orchestration and Unified Computing are both terms referring to a technology whereby server CPU, I/O, storage connectivity, and network, are all able to be defined and configured in software. The advantage of using this approach allows IT operators to rapidly repurpose CPUs without the constraints of physically having to reconfigure each of the I/O components by hand – and without the requirement of a hypervisor. It massively reduces the quantity and expense of the physical I/O and networking components (because much of the I/O is consolidated) as well as the time required to configure them. In return, it offers an elegant, simple-to-manage approach to data center infrastructure administration.
From an architectural perspective, this approach is also referred to as a “compute fabric” or a “Processing Area Network” since the physical CPUs are made stateless because their physical addressing (of I/O, Network and Storage naming) is completely abstracted away. And, by abstracting the I/O, both data and storage connections can be converged, further simplifying the network infrastructure. What is left is a collection of raw, pooled CPUs that can be assigned on-demand, and whose logical configurations and network connections can be instantly defined.
Infrastructure Orchestration is very different from – but highly complementary to – hypervisor-based virtualization. Think of hypervisors as operating “above” the CPU, abstracting software (applications and O/S) from the CPU thereby giving the software portability. Think of Infrastructure Orchestration as operating “below” the CPU, abstracting network and storage connections, and thereby giving the CPU itself portability. Note that a major difference is that the Infrastructure Orchestration does not operate via a software “layer” the way that a hypervisor does.
The complementarity between Infrastructure Orchestration and virtualization is significant. Take an example such as a VM host failure, where the entire physical machine, network and storage configuration needs to be replicated on a new physical server. This can be accomplished with a spare “bare metal” server where a new host can be created on the fly, all the way down-do the same NIC configuration as the original server.
Now, expand this example to the scenario of an entire environment failure. Infrastructure orchestration can re-create the physical machine hosts as well as their networking, on an otherwise “cold” bare-metal and non-dedicated infrastructure at a different location.
Best of all, the properties of Infrastructure orchestration, such as the ability to provision a new server quickly, apply to both physical servers as well as to virtual servers. So this is an ideal technology to use when managing mixed physical and virtual environments, including “cloud computing” infrastructure.
Finally, Infrastructure Orchestration (unified computing) is a central technology to creating highly-reliable, dynamic data center. The technology is also core to a “Real Time Infrastructure”(as defined by Gartner Research) as well as to “Organic IT” (as defined by Forrester Research), both computing architectures that rapidly responds to changes in demand, to failures, and to unpredictable business demands.