HP Composable Infrastructure: Bringing Resource Automation To The App Layer

HP CTO Martin Fink

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday unveiled a new platform for bringing IT resource orchestration and automation to legacy applications as a way to provide cloud-like flexibility.

The company's new Composable Infrastructure platform will provide a new API that allows applications to interface directly with converged infrastructure solutions, said Jeff Carlat, director of converged systems product management at Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP.

That API will let the applications automatically access, deploy and then release compute, storage and networking resources -- without human intervention, Carlat told CRN. Currently, applications running on converged infrastructure solutions like HP's ConvergedSystem can do so via an administrator or some other tool, he said.

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The HP Composable Infrastructure API works with configuration management and orchestration tools to abstract the compute, storage and fabric resources of a converged infrastructure solution to provide those resources based on an application's performance, cost and security requirements, Carlat said.

"At the core is an open, extendable API that sees all the resources, integrates with Puppet and Chef, and with more traditional stacks like VMware and Microsoft System Center," he said. "It also integrates upwards to the applications to provide the compute, storage and fabric resources."

Rob Strechay, director of product management and marketing for HP storage software, said Composable Infrastructure is standardized on REST-based APIs for quick access to the resources, letting those resources be deployed and redeployed from a converged infrastructure as if they were in a cloud.

"Composable Infrastructure is for more than working with cloud apps," Strechay told CRN. "But the cloud has changed the mode of how people want to operate. So we want to bring that flexibility to traditional apps."

HP OneView infrastructure management software provides the management interface for Composable Infrastructure, he said.

Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for converged data center infrastructure in HP's Enterprise Group, told CRN that Composable Infrastructure is needed to bridge the gap between traditional and modern business applications.

"The upgrade cycle for traditional applications is maybe twice a year," Miller said. "It's stable. But in the new style of business, customers need upgrades not twice a year but every two weeks, or every month. This requires a new model for developing apps."

Customers cannot be expected to support two IT staffs to support legacy and modern applications, Miller said. "Composable Infrastructure lets them work with both."

The HP Composable Infrastructure will be brought to market in multiple phases.

In the first phase, the company is working with Davos tool partners like Ansible, Chef, Puppet and Docker to develop the API to work with both traditional and new applications, Miller said. "The applications won't all of a sudden be compatible with the API," he said. "This is a journey."

In the second phase, HP will focus on adding automation via HP OneView. The third phase will focus on continuous delivery. "We're not claiming we're done with composability," he said.

Miller declined to provide information on the timing for the three phases.

HP Chief Technology Officer Martin Fink officially introduced customers and partners to Composable Infrastructure during his keynote presentation at this week's HP Discover conference, and said new application development has to be treated more like a symphony than a concrete building.

Infrastructures today are built to be rigid and dependable in the same way that buildings are built, Fink said. However, he said, modern applications need resources to be moved quickly while maintaining security, which, in his analogy, would be like taking a jackhammer to the walls in the building.

A symphony, on the other hand, has a few components like instruments and tempos, all of which are important and which can change, Fink said. "Whether you change the instrument or the tempo, you wind up with something completely different," he said.

Fink said Composable Infrastructure can be thought of as infrastructure as code, and combines software-defined management, converged infrastructure and hyper-converged infrastructure. "HP is the only company that can do this," he said.

HP Composable Infrastructure will help move the orchestration of resources from hardware, which doesn't know what it needs to provide until the resources are demanded by the application, to the application itself, said Rich Baldwin, chief information officer and chief strategy officer at Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based solution provider and longtime HP channel partner.

"Bigger companies will appreciate it," Baldwin told CRN. "I have clients who predict on a month-to-month basis what compute and storage resources they need. They know they have X number of transactions per hour. With Composable Infrastructure, the apps will be able to tell the infrastructure they need X amount of compute and X amount of software."

This will result in a big gain in flexibility, Baldwin said.

"If the amount of resources needed is greater than the amount of resources on the floor, customers can order more resources in advance, or tie to the cloud," he said. "People today don't find out they can't meet SLAs until it's too late."

Chris Case, president of Sequel Data Systems, an Austin, Texas-based solution provider and longtime HP channel partner, said Composable Infrastructure is the next step in data center evolution.

The big challenge, Case told CRN, is that a large percentage of customers are not yet able to take advantage of Composable Infrastructure.

"The number of customers deploying automated deployment and provisioning tools is still relatively small," he said. "Converged infrastructures from a variety of suppliers is gaining market momentum. But even my bigger customers are only just now starting to look at automation and orchestration of the data center."