Integrated infrastructure is the new game changer
Given the tremendous benefits, vendors are seeing excellent traction for their integrated infrastructure portfolio across green field and brown field deployment scenarios
T oday’s data centers are dynamic and CIOs are continuously battling to offer greater flexibility, better management, simplicity and cost savings. These are essentially the four factors that have prompted vendors to come up with integrated infrastructure solutions (also referred to as unified infrastructure, converged infrastructure and engineered systems), which consolidate storage, networking and compute resources on a single unified platform. An integrated data center infrastructure promises to be a game changer and is increasingly being touted as the future of data centers primarily because it lowers costs on account of higher utilization, fewer network connections and less labor. It also enhances manageability by enabling enterprises to maintain one infrastructure team as opposed to separate ones for storage and network management.
The concept is catching on fast with enterprise customers—an IDC study highlights that the overall spending on integrated infrastructure will grow at a CAGR of 54.7 percent from $2.0 billion in 2011 to $17.8 billion in 2016.
Industry experts say customers generally prefer a validated, tightly integrated stack of best-of-breed components that are optimized to work with each other, backed by a joint support model from the vendors offering each component. “In this scenario, enterprises can opt out of the converged stack—if it has outlived its purpose, or for some reason hasn’t lived up to its promise. A handful of application areas may lend themselves to vendor lock-in; however that is usually because the enterprise is already locked-in by one or more of the technology components of the integrated stack,” says Santosh D’ Souza, Director, Systems Engineering, NetApp.
Gauging the heightened interest from enterprise customers and the huge market opportunity, every major vendor is pursuing the integrated infrastructure strategy. Storage giant NetApp approaches the integrated infrastructure space by collaborating with Cisco to offer FlexPod, a converged stack of compute, storage and networking elements. “While the stack is unified for a given requirement, each element in the stack can scale independent of the others while the overall stack remains a valid and supported converged platform. We work closely with various hypervisor, infrastructure and business application partners to create reference architectures for rapid deployment and optimal performance at scale,” says D’Souza.
FlexPod is primarily based on NetApp Clustered Data ONTAP storage platform, a software-defined
“While Flexpod is unified, we also work with hypervisor, infrastructure and application partners to create reference architectures for rapid deployment” SANTOSH D’SOUZA Director, Systems Engineering, NetApp India
storage system with secure data multi-tenancy, policybased resource allocation, workflow automation and deep application integration. NetApp claims FlexPod has witnessed an enthusiastic reception from enterprises all over the world.
HP first introduced its strategy of converged infrastructure solutions in 2009 as a blue print for the data center of the future. HP claims that its solution allows companies to optimally configure their infrastructure systems and manage them as unified IT assets, helping to overcome IT sprawl and meet growing business demands.
“By implementing an HP converged infrastructure solution, organizations are able to shift their IT spend away from operations and double enterprise resources to drive competitive advantage; accelerate ROI by increasing utilization; reduce energy costs; speed up time to provision new services or applications; and accelerate their path to the cloud whenever ready,” says Faisal Paul, Director, Enterprise Group, Marketing & Solution Alliances, HP India.
For Oracle, unified infrastructure falls in line with its overall strategy of hardware and software engineered to work together. This is something Oracle has been working on for quite some time now. Post the acquisition of Sun, Oracle has made the story extremely attractive for customers who are looking to deploy engineered systems, which allow companies to focus more on improvising their business rather than operational costs.
Oracle has launched a smaller version of Exadata called 1/8th rack, its flagship engineered system targeting small and medium customers. Oracle sees a positive trend towards adoption of engineered systems. Globally, Oracle has witnessed triple digit growth for its engineered systems, which according to the company is a clear reflection of customer adoption of Oracle’s systems in the market place. Oracle has customers across different industries like telecom, IT-ITeS, and financial services.
Although a late entrant in the space, Dell too is seeing strong traction for its integrated infrastructure portfolio which consists of VRTX and Active Infrastructure. “Midsized companies prefer PowerEdge VRTX for its unified infrastructure solutions and hassle-free or simplified management environment. Large organizations benefit from targeted workloads and remote branch office management. Thus, there are multiple segments that we can cater to with converged infrastructure based on their need,” says S Sridhar, Director and General Manager,
“By using a converged infrastructure solution, organizations can shift their IT spend away from operations and double enterprise resources” FAISAL PAUL Director, Marketing & Solution Alliances, HP
Enterprise Solutions Group, Dell India.
Last year, Dell acquired Gale Technologies, a leading provider of infrastructure automation software. The addition of Gale Technologies is said to help accelerate the momentum of Dell’s converged infrastructure family, Active Infrastructure, and extend development of additional integrated enterprise solutions. “Gale Technologies integrates well with our Active Infrastructure family, and provides an intuitive, flexible and comprehensive foundation for application, virtual desktop infrastructure and private cloud deployments for our customers,” Marius Haas, President, Dell Enterprise Solutions Group, said during the acquisition announcement.
IBM entered the unified infrastructure fray in 2012 with PureSystems, which is a rack system containing IBM Power-based or Intel x86-based blade servers. It also contains storage, networking, and choice of Windows, Linux, or Unix operating system.
“IBM PureFlex System offerings can help simplify your IT experience if you want a highly integrated system for infrastructure consolidation or cloud implementation. If you are looking to build your own system or upgrade an existing blade server installation, you can take advantage of an IBM Flex System, a buildto-order solution designed to help you go beyond blade servers,” says Kashish Karnik, Product Manager, IBM Flex and PureFlex Systems.
Cisco has partnered with Intel, VMware and EMC to target the space. Few years back, the companies came out with a technology called UCS, which changed the economics of a data center by unifying compute, storage, network, virtualization and management within a single platform. UCS, according to Cisco, brought operational simplicity and business agility, which became very critical in an environment where customers are deploying IT as a service as well as for cloud computing.
“The adoption has been fantastic,” says Ashok Shenoy, Regional Manager, Cloud and Data Center Sales, Cisco India & Saarc. “I think in the short four years that UCS has been launched, we have more than doubled our business in terms of units, as well as revenues. The blade infrastructure that UCS has is probably best suited for all kinds of data centers and consolidated environments. It is exactly what customers asked for in the last 3 years after the slowdown.”
Some of Cisco’s customers in India include John Keells Holdings, Brandix Lanka, KPIT Cummins, Netmagic, Geometric, Essar, HCL and Wipro.
“Roll out of new projects gives customers the choice of deploying application services on a converged infrastructure instead of buying disparate systems” S SRIDHAR Director, Enterprise Solutions Group, Dell India
Deployment and future
The deployment scenario for most vendors has been a combination of green field and brown field projects. “For the manufacturing segment, it has largely been legacy and consolidation of existing, say large SAP systems etc. But in large service providers and banks, green field data centers have come up. So, whenever there are green field investments, it becomes an easy option and most of the green field data centers have taken Cisco because we are already working with them on the network and this was just an extension of what we were doing anyways. But in the existing legacy system, it really depends on whether the applications were certified by Microsoft or Linux. And if they were, then UCS is a definite option,” says Shenoy.
Sridhar of Dell agrees that both situations are eminently possible when deploying integrated infrastructure in the customer environment. “The
“In four years, we have more than doubled our UCS business in terms of units and revenues. Our blade infrastructure is best suited for DCs and consolidated environments” ASHOK SHENOY RM, Cloud & Data Center Sales, Cisco
roll-out of new projects gives customers the choice of deploying application services on a converged infrastructure instead of buying disparate systems. Ageing infrastructure, which is power and space hungry, while being devoid of the latest technologies and performance can be definitely replaced with the more contemporary converged infrastructure.”
The future of integrated infrastructure is bright as it offers simplified operations, reduced risk and an accelerated return on investment. But at the same time, you can’t lock customers in. The systems will have to be built around open standards that offer customers the flexibility to opt out of the converged stack, whenever they want. Customer is the king and vendors must build their converged strategy around this thought