Converged infrastructure packages multiple information technology (IT) components into a single, optimized computing solution. Components of a converged infrastructure solution include servers, data storage devices, networking equipment and software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration.
Converged infrastructure is used by IT organizations to centralize the management of IT resources, consolidate systems, increase resource utilization rates, and lower costs. These objectives are enabled by the creation of pools of computers, storage and networking resources that can be shared by multiple applications and managed in a collective manner using policy driven processes.
IT vendors and industry analysts use various terms to describe the concept of a converged infrastructure. These include converged system, unified computing, fabric-based computing, and dynamic infrastructure.
The evolution of data centers
Historically, to keep pace with the growth of business applications and the terabytes of data they generate, IT resources were deployed in a silo-like fashion. One set of resources has been devoted to one particular computing technology, business application or line of business. These resources support a single set of assumptions and cannot be optimized or reconfigured to support varying usage loads.
The proliferation of IT sprawl in data centers has contributed to rising operations costs, reducing productivity, and stifling agility and flexibility. Maintenance and operations can consume two-thirds of an organization’s technology budget, according to a 2009  InformationWeek survey of executives in 500 companies with annual revenue over $250 million. That leaves just a third of the budget for new IT initiatives. This ratio prevents IT from supporting new business initiatives or responding to real application demands.
A converged infrastructure addresses the problem of siloed architectures and IT sprawl by pooling and sharing IT resources. Rather than dedicating a set of resources to a particular computing technology, application or line of business, converged infrastructures creates a pool of virtualized server, storage and networking capacity that is shared by multiple applications and lines of business.
Benefits of converged infrastructure
Converged infrastructure provides both technical and business efficiencies, according to industry researchers and observers. These gains stem in part from the pre-integration of technology components, the pooling of IT resources and the automation of IT processes.
Writing in CIO magazine, Forrester Research analyst Robert Whiteley noted that converged infrastructures, combining server, storage, and networks into a single framework, help to transform the economics [of] running the datacenter thus accelerating the transition to IP storage to help build infrastructures that are "cloud-ready". The combination of storage and compute into a single entity is known as converged storage.
Decreased complexity, through the use of pre-integrated hardware with virtualization and automation management tools, is another important value proposition for converged infrastructure as noted in an IDC study.
In April 2012, the open source analyst firm Wikibon released the first market forecast for Converged Infrastructure, with a projected $402B total available market (TAM) by 2017 of which, nearly 2/3rds of the infrastructure that supports enterprise applications will be packaged in some type of converged solution by 2017.
InformationWeek highlighted the promise of two long-term advantages of a unified data center infrastructure:
- Lower costs as the result of both:
- lower capital expenses resulting from higher utilization, less cabling, and fewer network connections
- lower operating costs resulting from reduced labor via automated data center management and a consolidating storage and network management infrastructure teams
- Increased IT agility by:
Data centers on the world are reaching limits in power, cooling and space. At the same time, capital constraints are requiring organizations to rethink data center strategy. Converged infrastructure offers a solution to these challenges.
Converged infrastructure and cloud computing
Converged infrastructure can serve as an enabling platform for private and public cloud computing services, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings.
Several characteristics make converged infrastructure well suited to cloud deployments. These include the ability to pool IT resources, to automate resource provisioning and to scale up and down capacity quickly to meet the needs of dynamic computing workloads.
- InformationWeek Reports ::Research: 2009 InformationWeek 500 Report. Analytics.informationweek.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
- Mani, Rahul Neel with Donatelli, Dave. "Converged Infrastructure Means Endless Possibilities," InfoSec Island, August 5, 2010
- Whiteley, Robert. Forrester Research."Your Next IT Budget: 6 Ways to Support Business Growth," CIO Magazine, July 21, 2010
- Davis, Jessica. "Pivot3 Offers Converged Storage Platform to Data Protection Market," ChannelInsider, September 30, 2010. 
- Broderick, Katherine and Scaramella, Jed. "Considering All of IT: Converged Infrastructure Survey Findings," IDC, June 2010
- Converged Infrastructure Takes the Market by Storm - Wikibon
- Crump, George. "Why 'Unified' Is The Hot New Idea For Data Centers," InformationWeek, March 14, 2009
- Uptime Institute."Many data centers running out of space this year or next," May 23, 2011.