Data Center Strategy: Composability vs. Virtualization & Containerization

Posted on December 12, 2020 by rawee.k

Choosing between software-defined architectures? Here’s what data center administrators need to know to compare composable infrastructure vs. virtualization or container-based infrastructure. Questions? Drop us an email at

Based on continually changing business and IT needs, composable infrastructure is emerging as a category of infrastructure aimed at optimizing an organization’s IT resources to improve business agility and responsiveness. This focus on provisioning hardware into available compute, storage and networking resources, makes management significantly easier to automate processes with the flexibility to scale-out – just like public cloud services.

Composable infrastructure is the ability to connect compute, GPU, storage and networking into pools of resources that are provisioned through software APIs and network fabric, then deployed into bare-metal server nodes. In composable infrastructure environments, hardware resources can be composed into exact-sized system designs (including bare-metal) for each private cloud hosted application’s workload needs. This infrastructure architecture approach is similar to a public cloud where resource capacity is requested and provisioned from shared capacity – except composable infrastructure sits behind a corporate firewall on-premises in an organization’s data center.

Previously, we covered what is composable infrastructure and how organizations can benefit from composability. Next, let’s review how this approach is different from deploying virtualized data center environments.

Composability vs. Virtualization & Containerization

Fundamentally, virtualization and containerization is the opposite of composable infrastructure framework. Take the visual diagram of a glass of orange juice: In virtualization or containerization, orange juice is provisioned to give multiple users the appearance that several glasses of orange juice are available.

Based on requirements, each user has access to resources without the ability to exceed capacity, nor return underutilized resources during off-peak hours for other users. As a result, virtualization and containerization are great to share a single server and support many users with small enough needs, but not an optimal framework to maximize resource utilization.

Compare Composability vs. Virtualization

The root of composability is the opposite approach of virtualization/containerization: the individual components of a glass of orange juice that make up the whole – the orange juice, straw, slices of orange – are disaggregated into a virtual whole. In composability, a glass of orange juice is customized for each user’s unique requirements by taking individual components, such as the orange juice, 2 straws, 5 slices of orange.

The API management software orchestrates the provisioning of the resource pools by composing bare-metal environments – not virtual environments with a hypervisor layer. The hardware elements are separated – CPU’s, NVMe SSD’s, GPU’s, NIC’s and FPGA – and independently assigned into server nodes. Based on hosted application requirements, components can be scaled-up or down, as needs change.

Liqid Composable Infrastructure

While virtualization can handle the majority of applications in use today, the need for bare-metal or single host operations still exists. Hyperconverged relies heavily on virtualization and doesn’t typically lend itself to bare-metal applications. An architecture with a pool of available compute resources and the ability to assign specific workloads is much more conducive to this type of requirement.

Liqid composable infrastructure is hypervisor agnostic and optimized for VMWare’s VSAN, Dell VXRail, and other leading providers. The ability to create multiple servers on demand with composable software reduces the number of licenses required for virtualization deployments. Liqid composable software also ensures complete fault tolerance, instantly transferring data from failed compute nodes to other available disaggregated hardware.

Disaggregated pools of GPUs, FPGAs, CPUs, NVMe SSDs, and Intel Optane™ memory can now be added at will and utilized as shared resources in quantities that correspond to the needs of a given workload or task, while hypervisors such as VSAN can dictate resource allocation via Liqid APIs, extending the life of existing hardware and allowing IT organizations to grow infrastructure as required.

Choosing the Right Composable Infrastructure Solution

The ability to accelerate time-to-market for digital products, or improve service-levels and project delivery times, is a competitive advantage that’s necessary for any data-driven organization. A comprehensive software-defined composable infrastructure framework can providers data center admins the ability to configure, manage and scale out physical bare-metal server systems in seconds.

Setting up a Composability Proof of Concept

Hosted applications will drive future adoption of composable infrastructure, and proof of concepts (POC’s) are the best way to evaluate a composability investment against a virtualized or containerized environment. More often than not, the right solution for your data center is a mix of composability alongside a static architecture to experience the greatest platform flexibility, scalability, and unit economics.

IT decision makers should lay out rigorous performance, resiliency and scalability requirements. Additionally, knowledge of the hosted application requirements is necessary to ensure a POCs provide clear, decisive results. To objectively measure technology and operational benefits, it’s possible to start small and build out as you go. Most vendors composable infrastructure will happily help you set up a proof-of-concept solution to test out the design set-up that best meets your needs.

If you’d like to learn more about how to maximize your data center infrastructure by up to 90% while minimizing its footprint, give us a call at (888) 828-7646, email us at or book a time calendar to speak. We’ve helped organizations of all sizes deploy composable solutions for just about every IT budget.