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Just how hot is the converged infrastructure space?
Research firm IDC estimates that total worldwide spending on converged infrastructure will hit $17.8 billion in 2016, up from $4.6 billion in 2012. Converged infrastructure will account for 12.8 percent of total storage, server, networking and software spending by 2016, up from only 3.9 percent in 2012, IDC estimates.
With the momentum in hyperdrive, how can solution providers make the most of the opportunity? CRN looks at the bets Cisco Systems, Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NetApp, Oracle and VCE have placed on the market, delving into where their respective channel partners are seeing the most growth today and into the future.
Converged infrastructure refers to the tying together of server, storage, networking, virtualization and sometimes other resources into an integrated solution that is managed as a whole rather than through separate management systems.
For customers, converged infrastructure has shifted the conversation away from the actual components in the data center to a focus on reducing infrastructure complexity, said Jeffrey Flowers, technical consultant at eGroup, a Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based solution provider.
"These conversations have shifted to one that optimizes the infrastructure and creates a much more simple-to-manage, simple-to-scale-up, and simple-to-scale-out architecture and platform," Flowers said.
Less equipment means less cost and fewer maintenance contracts, Flowers said. "Fewer moving parts and fewer steps equals fewer administrators to manage the platform," he said. "Streamlining the administrative and operational costs for customers allows those extra administrators to focus their attention on adding additional value to the business with other IT initiatives that simply fell to the wayside before."
Pre-Configured Solutions: Much Faster, Less Risky
Solution providers who for years designed solutions that combined server, storage, networking and virtualization technology have found pre-configured solutions a faster and less risky way to solve data center issues.
Consider, for instance, the specific converged infrastructures developed by vendors to meet customer requirements for a certain number of virtual servers or virtual desktops, said Dennis Mueller, vice president of innovation and emerging technologies at CMT, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based solution provider.
Implementing a converged infrastructure takes away much of the risk of designing such a solution from scratch, Mueller said.
"We can ask customers their requirements and quickly tell them, ‘Here is what you need,' " he said."And, 'If your needs grow beyond that, it's easy.' "
Regardless of how many vendors are involved in defining a converged infrastructure, the result typically has two advantages over traditional offerings developed by solution providers who configure them on their own.
First, once deployed, the storage, server, networking or other resources of the converged infrastructure solution are managed through a single console via orchestration software provided by one of the vendors or by a third party.
Second, solution providers who deploy a converged infrastructure have a single support contact even if the solution consists of hardware and software from multiple vendors.
Support and management are what converged infrastructures are all about, Mueller said.
"If you follow the converged infrastructure architecture, go with a ‘blessed' configuration, you get one phone number for support," he said. "I was an IT person before. I hated having three vendors pointing their fingers everywhere. With converged infrastructures, they all have skin in the game."
The reference architecture is the standard baseline of what works for most customers, said Dave Butler, president of Enterprise Computing Solutions, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based solution provider.
"For any company, I'm going to take servers, storage, networking and software and use them to provision a solution to take capacity out and better manage billing and software licensing," he said. "These are all complex processes. With a reference architecture, I can have a good place to start. Can I take out my HP storage and replace it with NetApp? Yes, I can. But I lose some configuration capability."