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Enterprise-Class Support for Converged Environments

Converged solutions can help CIOs rapidly deliver IT services, maximize data center efficiency, and strengthen IT service quality, writes Doug Schmitt..What are the best practices for moving to a converged solution?

Doug Schmitt serves as Vice President and General Manager of Dell's Global Support & Deployment line of business. In this role, he leads an organization of over 40,000 direct and indirect team members delivering customer support, field deployment, operations and engineering readiness & capabilities in over 100 countries.

Doug-Schmitt-tnDOUG SCHMITT

Slow, inefficient and error-prone are often the words that businesses use to describe IT. That isn’t surprising considering that recent studies have found that just 29 percent of business users consider IT to be distributed, agile and flexible1; 75 percent of downtime is caused by human error2; and an overwhelming amount of IT budgets (72 percent) goes toward ongoing maintenance instead of innovation to drive positive business impact3.

CIOs face a wide range of issues in trying to support their environments, including; meeting demands for mobility (with Corporate-Owned, Choose-Your-Own, and Bring-Your-Own Device [BYOD] management strategies to consider), implementing new trends, managing individually supported products; keeping compatibility lined up among connected components (like ensuring firmware levels are compatible when doing updates), support agreements expiring at different intervals, knowing the right number to call for support of different types and different versions of equipment, and running on a mixture of legacy equipment and software. They do not typically have the budget, time, or expertise to solve all the issues that might arise in their environment.

The bad news – IT environments are only going to get more complex. And, with all of the IT variation, it gets even worse as data growth continues to increase (25 percent by 2015) and mobile devices continue to multiply.

The good news – converged solutions can help CIOs rapidly deliver IT services, maximize data center efficiency, and strengthen IT service quality. In fact, Gartner estimates, “By 2015, one-third of all servers will ship as managed resources integrated in a converged infrastructure.”4

Let’s dive into the basics of converged solutions--from ‘why’ to planning to support services.

Planning for Transformation

You should keep in mind the following principals as you transform your IT environment.

  • Open and Standard: Make sure you have an open and standard architecture that is flexible enough to handle both current and future demands.
  • Intuitive: Look for reference architectures and pre-integrated systems that will help you deploy and manage solutions faster and more efficiently, so that IT can focus on more strategic projects.
  • Automation: Automation is key to shifting from “keeping the lights on” to innovation. Without it, IT wastes valuable time focusing on repetitive and time consuming tasks. Look for a management approach that offers automation without compromising on quality and flexibility.
  • End-to-End: Look for end-to-end solutions and services paired with enterprise-class support that is not only easy to buy, deploy, and manage but that ensures the highest quality customer experience. Make sure that the vendor you choose is a trusted business partner that can not only help you implement, manage and monitor the technology but that can identify areas of opportunity.

Enterprise-Class Support

So, you have your converged solution - but how are you going to support it? Much like planning ahead for problems when buying insurance for a new house, you need to plan for the future needs of your converged solution and your business. Converged infrastructure requires a new level of enterprise-class support and expertise.

You should look for a seamless and comprehensive support solution that incorporates the four principles listed above. IDC recommends that businesses consider vendors with state-of-the-art offerings, deep domain expertise and the tools and automation to help address day-to-day operational issues.

What are the questions to ask ... see next page.

1InformationWeek, Oct. 2012
2Advisory Board Q&A, Jun. 2011
3Forrester Research, Apr. 2013
4Is the Concept of the 'Server' Obsolete, or in Need of Redefining? 29 March 2012

There are five questions you should ask yourself when evaluating potential business partners to develop and support your converged environment:

  • Will I have a single point of contact? – A leading frustration of IT managers is getting transferred between multiple support techs – all of whom specialize in just one part of the equation and have you spending your extended downtime on the phone. Identify a vendor with elite expert engineers who can troubleshoot all enterprise products, both hardware and software, for faster resolution or what IDC calls a lead service provider (LSP) approach. With the right support partner, potential issues will be identified and fixed before you even realize they exist.
  • Do they offer a vendor-agnostic approach across technology? – You are probably already operating in a multi-vendor environment with respect to hardware and software. You should identify a single, trusted partner that has a solution that is integrated between software and hardware and can support your entire data center holistically (including legacy systems) and maximize your existing investments.
  • Do they offer the latest online tools and automated processes? - A solid, converged infrastructure solution should have unified system management software that collapses multiple management consoles, simplifies infrastructure configuration, and drives automation and consistency. In addition, online support, including remote monitoring and automation tools, enhances your ability to address issues more quickly, identify potential problems, speed resolution, and collect key environmental data.
  • Do they offer a consistent global experience? - Regardless of your size, location, or language; you need a partner with global reach and experience that has an established infrastructure and scale. You benefit from their experience and ability to implement best in industry practices.
  • Will they help me anticipate and prepare for future IT needs? - Intelligence is not just about avoiding break fix incidents but planning for the future. If you are running near capacity, it is time for you to look at your budget and plan for expansion so that you won’t have to risk downtime or scramble when you reach capacity. You also need to plan for trends such as BYOD which create support challenges; businesses and their end users benefit from the CIO taking industry trends into consideration when planning. Choose a partner that knows your environment and can help you plan for future needs.

Return On Investment

The economic driver for converged infrastructure is flexibility as much as management simplicity or cost savings. Converged infrastructure offerings - especially those with built-in enterprise-class support - promise to enable IT to better meet business goals, ensuring operational agility, efficiency and quality of IT service delivery well into the future.

If your organization is evaluating converged systems, remember that converged offerings should have built-in best practices. They help eliminate the management of multiple vendors, disparate systems and service contracts. Choose an industry expert that will help you get ahead of issues and increase the efficiency of your existing hardware and software. All of which allows you to focus on your core business. At the end of the day, isn’t that what matters most?

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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