Expert Analysis

Converged Infrastructure and the Evolving Data Center

A question I’m often asked by IT Leaders appears to be less of a technology question and more of an operational one; “how will the deployment of VblockTM Systems in my data center affect my IT staff?” I’d suggest they’re both dependent upon the other; the right technology leads to a smoother operational transition.

Before looking at the technology I think it’s important to take a look back at where we’ve come from as historically as we’ve been making changes to keep up with the fast pace of the IT industry for years.

Sixteen years ago I was a UNIX Engineer working with DEC Alpha systems and direct attached storage (still my favorite and most missed flavor of UNIX!); we had rack upon rack of storage dedicated to a single system running a large database. That’s the way we did it until somebody talked to us about shared storage. Of course there were objections from the application owners; how can you guarantee performance? How can you guarantee security and availability? But shared storage was here to stay and to say it’s prevalent within the data center today would be an understatement.

About ten years ago we went through a similar transition with the advent of server virtualization. In the early days there was no vMotion and VM resources were limited; server virtualization was the exception rather than the rule. But as the technology matured we saw server consolidation becoming more of a reality. Once again we were asked; “how will you secure and guarantee the performance of my applications?” We could of course, the industry adjusted and today server virtualization is the rule with customers in all markets pushing for higher and higher consolidation ratios.

So why, you may well ask, am I rambling on nostalgically about the various technologies witnessed during my time in IT? Simple, my career followed a very similar path. A career that began with UNIX progressed to storage, followed by server virtualization and then converged infrastructure. Had I insisted on remaining a UNIX engineer working with direct attached storage my career options today would probably be limited.

We’re seeing something very similar today. The market has shifted and I’d argue converged infrastructure is here to stay; it’s the natural transition within the data center. With this transition skill sets are once again going to have to change or people will find their options becoming limited. Like the technology they’re going to have to adjust; it’s a natural transition for them too.

So nothing new – it’s a pattern we’ve seen happen time and time again and will continue to see throughout our careers. With the change, however, comes good news – now instead of asking; “how will the Vblock deployment affect my IT Staff” the IT Director can ask “how can we best refocus our time to meet the business needs of the company?”  Far too many in the data center must do more with fewer resources; they have accelerated timelines in which to deploy for a new project or initiative and don’t have the right skill sets in house. Vblock Systems allow them to take a look at their staff, analyze where there maybe shortfalls and reallocate them. It allows them to focus on their critical business applications rather than the underlying infrastructure that supports them.

It’s always good to hear this confirmed when speaking with our customers who’ve deployed Vblock in their data centers; with more resources dedicated to their critical business applications innovation has increased.  As a result they’ve become more competitive and are in many cases a step ahead of the competition.

I mentioned earlier that the right technology leads to a smoother operational transition. Let’s take that a little further.

In today’s data centers companies have personnel with strong skill sets around compute, storage and networking as individual components. What they don’t necessarily have is the ability to pull those components together rapidly, per best practice, for optimal application performance and availability. Vblock of course provides this value from a physical perspective; when integrated with the proper management strategy it performs it from both a physical and a logical one.

It sounds easy doesn’t it? Of course it’s not; if it’s not done right you’ll have staff who aren’t trained in the new solution, don’t have access or can’t manage the environment through the tools they do know, and unplanned downtime will be the result.

With that in mind, it’s the approach rather than the specific tool that becomes important. The ability to transition to a new operational model as the skill sets of your IT staff evolve too. The ability to use existing tool sets and transition to the new within your data center as requirements dictate rather than allowing the solution to force your hand. Now of course if you want to “flip the switch” it can be done, but if your concern is in how you integrate new technology within your data center, Vblock can accommodate that approach too.

There’s a lot more to be said about our approach but for the sake of brevity I’ll leave it there; suffice it to say more will follow in future posts and through VCE announcements. For now I’d like to say thanks for your time, thanks for reading, and please come back and visit this site again soon.

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