Wikibon has been tracking the converged infrastructure market very closely and has forecasted that by 2017 two-thirds of data center infrastructure hardware, software, and services budgets will be spent on some form of converged solution. While virtualization is a primary tool to create this wave of new architectures, the important result is the enablement of the underlying applications. Converged infrastructure providers are creating the documentation and services to enable support of many applications on the new building blocks for the data center.
The Next Practices of Converged Solutions
While best practices for placing applications on infrastructure were established many years ago, the abstraction of virtualization based the relationship on the VM level has created a new generation reference architecture. This flexibly-designed and fully tested solution including storage, networking, compute, and management, started with the FlexPod joint solution launched by Cisco and NetApp in 2010. Unlike Oracle’s “red stack” or other pre-configured offerings, the FlexPod architecture can be built in pieces that lead up to the proper architecture. Over the last year, a number of other solutions have entered the market that look to fit the “converged and flexible” tags including EMC VSPEX, IBM PureSystems and various updates from HP and Dell.
As these solutions start to move from early adopter to mainstream, I would reference a quote from Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, when asked about virtualization on the CUBE at Hadoop Summit this week, “After crossing the chasm, companies need to have use case domain expertise to succeed”. Not all VMs are created equal, and applications have widely varying requirements that must be well understood if infrastructure is to be sized and utilized efficiently.
Closing the Gap in Applications on Virtualization
Virtualization has had a ripple effect on infrastructure, causing changes in the design of servers, storage, and networks. Hardware providers have done a good job at re-integrating the layers of the stack with hypervisors over the last decade, and now application awareness is the next objective. In heterogeneous data centers, customers spend months validating the application software stack on a configuration before rolling it into production. One of the promises of converged architectures is that they can speed up the deployment at a customer site, since the application stack is part of the solution architecture. In addition to the architecture of the solution, the distribution channel is critical for successful deployment of convergence. Here is the state of the solutions and channel strategies for the new class of flexible architectures:
- FlexPods from Cisco and NetApp: 20 “Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs)” include VMware, Citrix, Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, Red Hat, and more. They have more than 1,050 customers in 33 countries. FlexPod is sold solely through the channel and leverages both the Cisco and NetApp strong channel relationships.
- IBM PureSystems: A major focus of the recent launch is “built in expertise”, especially with the PureApplication (PaaS) offering. IBM has lined up a large partner ecosystem and GA of the product is expected in July 31, 2012. IBM’s channel strategy is Blue on Blue - all IBM branding with opportunities for value-added dealers and resellers to make incremental margin by selling integration.
- EMC VSPEX: This was announced in April 2012 with five configurations (two VDI and three Private Cloud). Partners are Intel, Microsoft, Citrix, VMware, Cisco, Brocade. VSPEX is a 100% channel program with branding opportunities for the distribution partners.
- HP: HP has a broad portfolio of converged infrastructure ranging from the P4800 (LeftHand storage + server), through the CloudSystem, VirtualSystem, and AppSystem families. HP has Cloud Maps for architecting solutions with HP partners. As discussed in this video with Dave Donatelli, HP breaks out revenue for servers, storage, and networking, but did not share metrics on any of the integrated systems. HP's Service One program includes options for HP and distribution branding and an increased commitment to all services through the channel (details in this video).
- Dell vStart: Dell's offerings include “Application Recipes” (as discussed in this video with Ben Tao of Dell), initially only for Microsoft Sharepoint and soon expanding to the rest of the Microsoft suite and beyond. Dell sells about 70% of vStart through the channel.
Action Item: CIOs should look at converged infrastructure to help the speed and agility of IT consumption. Convergence solutions span a spectrum of offerings in the marketplace; finding a match for your application portfolio is critical. Companies should be examining equipment refresh cycles to move towards convergence adoption rather than asynchronous upgrades of individual silos.