Consolidation and convergence are popular themes in budget-strapped, space-strapped, and power and cooling-strapped data centers. Organizations hope that converged IT infrastructure will deliver a permanent step-function reduction in the cost of IT services, avoid or delay the requirement to build new data centers, and enable the company to live within energy consumption and cooling constraints. However, whether an IT organization is considering server, storage, or network consolidation, the consolidation typically requires a significant upfront investment, and early adopters will pay a price premium.
In that regard, the converged network delivered by FCoE is no different. As a result, many companies will delay decisions for a year or more until they determine that the pricing of FCoE justifies the upfront investment. Others will delay until the technology is determined to be sufficiently mature and until clear leaders emerge, since, despite the efforts of standards committees, mixed-vendor environments will almost certainly be more difficult to support, monitor, and maintain. As companies wait for prices to decline and leaders to emerge, however, it is imperative that they prepare themselves organizationally for converged networks.
Depending upon the size of the company and current organizational and reporting structures, converged networks may require changes in the budgeting process, change-management processes, management reporting structures, and chargeback systems. As an example, in most larger organizations, the storage administrator almost certainly has responsibility for the storage network infrastructure, requisitions additional FC switches and associated cables, and pays for the infrastructure out of a storage budget. The storage administrator most likely monitors and manages storage and storage-network performance and availability and has a charge-back or cost-allocation system for the storage capacity used by application owners. At the same time, the server or LAN administrator likely has responsibility for requisitioning the LAN infrastructure, including network adapters, LAN cabling, and Ethernet switches, owns the LAN budget, has a different application for monitoring LAN performance and health, and has a different chargeback system for allocating LAN costs to application owners.
In order for a company to gain the full benefit of FCoE, the departments, processes, and budgets must consolidate. And for the most effective and efficient implementation, the departmental, process, and budget consolidation should occur prior to the FCoE implementation. Because budgets are typically done on a calendar-year basis, and because these types of significant organizational changes are typically only done once a year, in concert with the budget cycle, the organizational changes required for FCoE could delay FCoE adoption by almost two years.
Action Item: CIOs looking to achieve the maximum efficiency and cost savings should consider converged FCoE networks. However, as a prerequisite, they should first focus on the organizational and budgetary imperatives necessary to achieve a positive return. The primary areas to consider are budget ownership, charge-back or cost-allocation systems, staff reporting structure, and change-control processes. Failure to address these issues proactively will result in reduced benefits of the FCoE investment and a delay in the return on the FCoE investment.