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Composable Disaggregated Infrastructure: What To Know

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on November 26, 2019

Innovations in software-defined infrastructure have had a major impact on the way IT departments provision and manage resources. As processing power and server density continues to increase, innovative IT engineers are developing exciting new ways to utilize them efficiently. One of the most versatile and promising examples of this innovation is composable disaggregated infrastructure, which could revolutionize the way organizations deploy their network applications.

Virtualization and Software-Defined Environments

To understand how this revolutionary new form of architecture works, it’s first important to know about virtualization technology that makes it possible in the first place. For many years, IT departments relied upon server hardware to host applications and manage data. This equipment incorporated the processing power, storage, and memory needed to run programs of all kinds, from mission-critical software to network configurations. This meant that an organization’s growth potential was constrained by the number of servers it could deploy at any given time.

Virtualization technology changed all of that. As servers became increasingly powerful, specialized software called hypervisors were developed to use portions of its resources and create virtual copies of a fully functioning server. Known as virtual machines, these software-defined copies functioned like independent servers, which allowed organizations to turn a handful of physical servers into several distinct virtual servers.

But while virtualization made it possible to abstract processing power and emulate hardware in software form, it still had to be constrained within the environment of a virtual machine. While that VM can be expanded with a bit of work, reconfiguring the software requires substantial time and careful attention to detail.

What is Composable Disaggregated Infrastructure and How Does it Work?

Further developments in virtualization technology have led to the development of more versatile, less centralized environments. Composable disaggregated infrastructure (CDI) starts with the same foundation as a virtual machine. It takes the collective processing power, storage, and memory of physical server equipment and abstracts it into a pool of computing resources. That’s the “disaggregated” aspect of CDI. Automation software then assembles those resources and provisions them dynamically as demanded by workloads, which is the “composable” part of CDI.

With a CDI system, network resources can be rapidly delivered to applications as they need them. If a processing-heavy application needs more computing power or experiences and unexpected spike in demand, automated protocols can connect it to a pool of resources drawn from multiple servers. When those resources are no longer needed, they are returned to the pool and made available to other programs in the network.

What are the Benefits of Composable Disaggregated Infrastructure?

The core advantages of CDI are flexibility and ease of use. Many organizations find themselves in a difficult situation where their computing needs may occasionally exceed their existing capacity, but only temporarily or in ways that are difficult to anticipate. In the past, expanding capacity required either the purchase and installation of new physical servers or the configuration of new virtual machines. With CDI, new application instances can be spun up quickly and existing applications expanded with minimal work. Even better, those computing resources can be used elsewhere once the immediate need for them has passed.

The “on-demand” nature of CDI makes it an ideal fit for organizations with dynamic development needs. It’s also appealing for companies that don’t want to make the investment in multiple physical servers and instead turn to a software-defined data center (SDDC) that allows them to provision computing and networking resources as needed.

Growth Projections of Composable Disaggregated Infrastructure

As a relatively new technology, CDI has yet to catch on with many organizations, but analysts expect it to become far more common over the next few years. The CDI market was valued at a little over $300 million in 2017, but an International Data Corporation (IDC) report estimates that the market will increase to $3.4 billion by 2022. That value represents a mere 4.1% of the anticipated global server market in 2023, which means there will be plenty of space for innovative vendors to expand their market share and establish themselves as major players in the CDI market.

Since CDI depends so heavily upon the processing power of high-density servers, data centers will likely reap the benefits as more companies turn to virtualization technology to get the most value out of their IT budgets. Managed service providers (MSPs) will have plenty of opportunities to deliver scalable, on-demand CDI solutions. In order to build that CDI infrastructure, however, they will need the power and cooling capabilities of state-of-the-art colocation data centers.

Virtualization technology has provided organizations with yet another option for building and deploying their network systems. As more of them turn to private and hybrid cloud deployments, CDI will become an increasingly appealing strategy that provides the flexibility to scale quickly and avoid the perils of underutilized resources. Thanks to CDI, overprovisioning may soon even become a thing of the past as networks will be able to rapidly distribute resources to applications that need them.

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