Data Center

Is Converged IT Infrastructure Moving Us Further Down the Prefab Path?

Converged Infrastructure (CI) means different things to different people.  But I bet most would agree that it’s fundamentally the collocation of compute, storage, and network resources (often into one or a small handful of cabinets) and managed as a single IT asset.  Whether simply defined on paper by a reference design or actually prefab’d by one of several turnkey vendors, these converged stacks are typically characterized by a high degree of virtualization and automated software management.  Virtualization allows for the pooling of compute, I/O, and storage resources.  Pre-engineered and tested logic gives rise to automation schemes that make the rapid configuration and allocation of these resources possible for wide varieties of workloads.  This automated flexibility lends itself well to self-service and “pay as you go” type models typical of private cloud infrastructures.

Converged Infrastructure

But what really catches my attention as a Schneider Electric guy is the pre-engineered and (often) prefabricated nature of these systems.  To me, this is what makes the concept of converged infrastructure so interesting.  Perhaps the most impactful of the benefits are the ability to provision, test, and deploy IT dramatically faster with a major reduction of time/resources needed to manage and maintain the infrastructure once operational.   These valuable benefits come directly from the fact that all the components and sub-systems are designed, tested, and supported together as a system by the vendors or system integrators.  And, these aren’t merely benefits claimed by vendors; they are increasingly proven and documented.[1][2]  Case studies like the ones cited show how CI is pushing the industry further down the path of standardization, modularity, and prefab construction.

 

While reading and talking to people about CI, I have been really struck by the clear parallels to the physical infrastructure industry of power, cooling, and rack systems.  Schneider Electric and APC have been offering pre-engineered, modular, and prefab solutions for years.  The touted benefits are virtually the same as those for CI:  faster deployment, easier configuration & maintenance, increased flexibility and efficiency, etc etc.  At a very simple level, CI is still just important IT gear that needs adequate power, cooling, space, and connectivity resources in a secure, reliable, and efficient manner….the same as traditional IT.  However, because CI solutions are to a large degree pre-engineered and documented, we can offer specific, pre-configured solutions that are faster and easier to get.    An example of such a solution can be seen here, which shows the Schneider Electric offer for the Cisco/NetApp FlexPod and FlexPod Express.  I think this is where physical infrastructure vendors like us can really shine and differentiate themselves.  CI is fundamentally about speed, efficiency, and agility….keeping IT aligned to the business.  It’s up to us to help make that happen by making our solutions easy to select, order, deploy, and maintain.  Prefab is one way to get there.

 

[1] IDC White Paper: Convergence with Vblock Systems: A Value Measurement, linked June, 2014

[2] IDC Expert ROI Achieving Organizational Transformation with HP CI Solutions, linked June, 2014


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