Radhika Krishnan is vice president of product marketing and alliances of Nimble Storage, a provider of flash-optimized hybrid storage solutions.
No man is an island, said the famous English poet John Donne, and no storage product is an island either. Storage infrastructure will soon move to primarily pre-validated hardware and software systems, known as reference architectures. Industry analyst firms, like Wikibon, have predicted that over half of the entire infrastructure consumed will move towards pre-validated reference architectures, rather than independently procured applications, servers, hypervisors, networking and storage products.
In fact, the industry is already seeing this transition. There are two ways for enterprises to create a converged infrastructure:
1. The first is through the use of a single large vendor such as HP, Dell and IBM. These companies have repositioned their portfolio of products as converged infrastructure, which appeals to customers because they’re able to deal with a single provider to get an integrated solution for storage, networking, and compute. However, the concern many enterprises are voicing is that, while these companies have their sweet spots – e.g., Dell for servers – it’s not in their heritage to offer best-of-breed technologies across an entire network architecture.
2. The other solution is for enterprise IT departments to purchase individual best-of-breed servers and software that best fit particular needs and incorporate them into a single system. While these best of breed offerings provide a better solution than the one vendor approach previously mentioned it is still not an ideal approach. The challenge in these instances is that customers often lack the time or expertise to integrate best-of-breed servers, hypervisors, networking and storage.
Instead, true reference architectures should address both problems delivering best-of-breed products while also relieving the customer from having to integrate best-of-breed products from multiple vendors.
Industry Outlook to Assure Competition
Preconfigured architectures from larger vendors are already appearing, but they don’t provide an ideal solution to all customers. In order to maintain a competitive market and keep the incumbents from dominating unchallenged, the market needs smaller vendors to start thinking about how to partner with other vendors, both large and small, to develop their own converged infrastructure. In fact, if they haven’t already started, they are already behind.
As with anything else, not all converged infrastructures are created equal. When choosing a pre-validated reference architecture there are three characteristics that an IT buyer should keep in mind when determining which is the best fit:
- First, the solution must be economically viable. Resistance to change is natural, and this is especially true in IT. It might sound obvious, but the solution must bring economic benefits for it to gain acceptance from the C-suite. This benefit can come from higher performance, lower CAPEX or OPEX, improved business continuity or operational simplicity to the company. More importantly, these benefits have to be provable.
- Second, the solution must be truly “best-of-breed.” Be cautious of buying pre-validated and pre-configured architectures. Don’t assume that, because you’ve heard of one vendor or a vendor has a good reputation, the entire architecture will be best-of-breed. You must become familiar with each technology in the architecture, but there’s no burden on you to integrate them! After all, the point of a pre-validated architecture is that the component pieces come pre-integrated. Still, your best protection is to research the individual vendors.
- Lastly, leverage the channel, either via value added resellers (VARs) or managed service providers (MSPs). This is important for support after implementation. Utilizing the channel will provide a single point of contact for any issues that may arise for any part of the solution providing more efficient support as needed.
As time goes on, converged infrastructure will continue to become more prevalent in the data center. If executed properly, it can provide many benefits for understaffed and overstressed IT departments.
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