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Get ready to hear the new codeword 'Composable Infrastructure'

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October 26, 2015

It looks like people in the IT community better need to get ready to see the keyword 'Composable Infrastructure' since it looks like some companies are getting ready to blast the industry with that term.

The good news is that while *it is* marketing jargon, behind the new term are some advances in server design that will hopefully improve server virtualization and private clouds.

The new keyword has its roots in server virtualization, which is of course an eminently sensible concept that anyone sensible uses whenever possible.

Intel and AMD both gave server virtualization a good jolt forward with their respective virtualization extensions that equipped their CPUs with the smarts to help multiple virtual machines to do their thing all at once.

Overall, servers have changed shape and components in the years since server virtualization was born. But today they're changing more profoundly.

Take for example the M-series of Cisco's UCS servers, which offer shared storage, networking, cooling and power to so-called cartridges that contain RAM and CPU.

Cisco's concept is that instead of having blade servers with dedicated resources, the M-series allows users to assemble components into servers with their preferred configurations, with less overhead than is required to operate virtual machines that span different boxes or touch a SAN for resources.

In a composable infrastructure world, APIs make it possible for code to whip up the servers it wants. That's important, because composable infrastructure is seen as a bridge between server virtualisation and the software-defined (SDN) data centre.

The reasoning is that infrastructure that allows itself to be configured gives software more to define, which is probably a good thing.

Cisco's Todd Brannon, director of product marketing for unified computing, calls the composable infrastructure approach “physicalisation”, because it's about defining a physical server rather than creating virtual servers.

And Cisco isn't alone in its ambitions. For its part, HP has also announced it plans to get into the composable ecosystem and will also use the “composable infrastructure” moniker.

But as you can readily expect, this isn't a closed loop-- Intel and IBM have also expressed similar ideas even if they're not sharing the jargon, at least not yet.

Other IT firms also think that the composable concept has some potential in embedded applications. Today a car contains many computers. A computer capable of being re-composed has the potential to reduce the bill of materials by assembling itself configurations most useful at the time they are required.

While on the road, resources are dedicated to staying there safely. When undergoing maintenance, the computer would re-compose itself to do diagnostics. Same outcomes, fewer parts. You get the idea.

Composable infrastructure looks like it is going to be real and the term has a decent chance of becoming popular, much like so many other technical terms of the IT industry. Time will tell, but for now at least, we'll be watching this closely.

Source: Cisco.

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