It was a time where Converged meant passing on a single medium 2 protocols: Fiber and Ethernet and we called solution enabling such technologies “Converged infrastructures” because in essence you were “converging” two technologies onto a single “wire”.
Times have change my friends, and so is the word “converged”; while it still sees the protocols been or not, passed on the same medium, the “converged” architectures have now reached the “technologies” converged area, where, multiple technology providers are aggregated together through a solid model: the converged infrastructure model.
Do I believe this is the time where converged infrastructures are taking a lead over our data centers? Absolutely!
And why is that? Simply driven by the lack of time and resources to precisely and adequately respond to the more and more demanding businesses models themselves facing a shorter time to market.
When you think about it? Do our leaders have time to wait for 3-6 months before an acquisition starts to pay-off?
IT has been transforming at light speed in the past 5-7 years; from a “self aggregated” solution where IT has tried to glue together the best components of different manufacturers, the results often where and still are highly demanding in management and required specific talents focussed on operating a highly efficient engine.
There was time where technology leaders were individually taking a large piece of the IT market for what they did best by providing the best of the best technologies; IT’s job was to analyze the offer and integrate the best of the best components that eventually would be working efficiently together to enable organizations with a predictable outcome: stability and efficiency.
In reality the day to day was far different as technology providers were often creating challenges through standardized protocols at working together and in return it provided hectic IT models. So the true heroes were the ones operating the various aggregated solutions ensuring the bumps in technology alignment were minimized and absorbed, providing a consistent and predictable results to the business.
While we all love technology, this model often lacked consistency and opened organizations to a misalignment in resources and time to accomplish the tasks required, and so raised a model where professional services were coming to complement the gaps, which was not necessarily the healthier model, financially speaking, but the mot effective technology speaking.
Reference Architectures a.k.a Hybrid Infrastructures
In response to the challenges faced by organizations and the need for IT to go from a “Cost Center” to a business enabler, manufacturers had to rethink the model offered. Yes, HP and IBM had the “all in one” solution, where platforms, networking and storage could very dynamically support the most demanding datacenter operating systems requirements, and so came the expression “one-throat-to-choke” (http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/one-throat-to-choke). That was in essence something new, very compelling. No longer would you need to solely manage different vendors; “all in one” allowed organizations to focus on 1 solution provider, with 1 phone number… so they say.
Again here, the day to day was often not fragile, primarily because alignment in technologies was challenging to manage; it is the plain truth and we often lived it when a firmware update on a chassis enclosure was misaligning the interconnection with the underlying storage for example (if you never experienced that, you’re blessed).
Although efficient, such model was limiting the injection of technology leaders not necessarily having all components under one umbrella, but had an individual offering that was revolutionizing the IT model (think Cisco UCS and their 192GB of memory per host).
Very smart people took a step back and architected a new technology model that will lead the change and how technology will be enabling business with the best of the best: Reference architectures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reference_architecture)
The best description we can do of that is the strengths to align various “best of the best” technologies, not necessarily from one single vendor, while ensuring the supportability model of such technology was solely handled by one point of contact for multiple technology providers.
In essence this was a revealing model allowing technology acquisitions to produce at their peak while ensuring a healthy Opex model. In such field, vSPEX (https://community.emc.com/community/partner/vspex/content?filterID=contentstatus%5Bpublished%5D~category%5Bvspex-reference-architectures%5D) and FlexPod (http://www.netapp.com/us/solutions/flexpod/index.aspx) were and still are defining the rules of engagement when comes the time to effectively provide a reliable IT model, precisely aligning various technologies, the “best of the best”, and releasing IT from dedicating valuable time at keeping the lights on, while been able to reallocate this time to value driven projects increasing the overall profitability of a business.
I do believe this model unlocks a high potential, but the “story” needs to be enhanced with a true data management life cycle, that WILL need to be addressed separately, somehow altering the ROI of such model.
True Converged Infrastructures
And then comes the true Converged Infrastructures.
With a precise alignment between FC and non FC communication protocols, all aggregated “Best of the Best” technologies are positioned in the most advanced fashion to meet the most demanding requirement! Yes, you’re reading right. While I do believe that Hybrid infrastructures are unleashing a true technology potential, somewhere we’re still tributaries of a form of technology management, which it not necessary supporting the leaner operational expenditures plan.
Yes, far more elegant and that often would translate in a form of managed services, Hybrid infrastructures still are leaving room for improvement and external party unaware of internal and proprietary business trends.
VCE is the leader in that space, no doubts about that, as it provide a true converged technology solution through a customer build solution, that includes a throughout managed services aligned on business requirements. IBM PureSystem and HP Matrix would be following closely behind; I say closely behind although the true benefit of an underlying storage is more than just block based protocol but should include Tiering and File based protocols.
Across the board, in the Converged Infrastructures, the value prop is fairly simply:
Best-of-breed compute, network, and storage technologies Applies to individual Vendors (HP or IBM) or disruptive market leader such as VCE; ensuring that the latest technology is been adequately leveraged to streamline operations while achieving the Service Level Agreements that the business needs.
• Factory-integration and validation accelerates deployment, ensures interoperability, and delivers predictable performance..
• Integrated protection and mobility solutions enable backup, replication, workload balancing, seamless business continuity, and disaster recovery within and across data centers.
• Converged management dissolves the data center silos and improves IT productivity.
• Life cycle system assurance ensures system stability, performance, and compliance to reduce costs, and more importantly, business risk. In these models, it is important not to only ensure that components are interoperable on day one, but also validate patches and updates before installing them to lower risk and maximize uptime.
• Application optimization is mission critical. Looking at delivering maximum performance for business critical application? Market leading applications are tested and validated
• Comprehensive infrastructure support 1 single point of accountability for the entire infrastructure and data protection solution.
I still do believe there’s room for more converged solutions and frankly, in today’s world where OPex, CAPex are tightly surrounded by ROI and TCO, you need to think smartly about what will be your next step (-s). Either “do-it-yourself”, or “get help” (a.k.a Hybrid Infrastructures or Reference Architectures) or “they do it for you” (Converged Infrastructures), each models offers pros and cons but at least you have a choice.
Don’t think so much about the gears but what overall, a well oiled solution will enable you to do, how fast will be be doing it and how well integrated it will be with your applications and MORE IMPORTANTLY, how well this environment will be performing, how well the applications have been tested on such workload (predictable workload) and how well updates are aligned (and tested) among the various technologies.
Don’t get fooled by today’s messages: the applications will be driving tomorrow’s business and the underlying infrastructure should NOT be the focus of your decisions nor the focus of your efforts. Rely on something that makes you feel efficient and meets your requirements and challenges.
Hybrid infrastructures are a key element of enabling organizations reaching promptly a new state of IT by having an integrated strategy, predefined for you, of the “best of the best” in respected to individual contributors. It still remains under a model where “individual” contributors are performing at their best: you still need to manage it!
Converged Infrastructures, are not so far from Hybrid infrastructures and at the same time at light speeds from it. While the de facto is “best of the best” focussed on market leaders, it enables an automated strategy that scales and is preconfigured, pre-tested and pre-validated for the most demanding workloads.
What’s in it for you? Focus time and energy on applications enabling the LOBs to be more profitable, faster and reliable, stable and predictable.
Each one has a price… the price of peace…What defines it, is you
Have a wonderful weekend friends