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.

Grow­ing de­mand

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

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