Vendors Help Partners Put The Pieces In Place

In addition to products, vendors are providing sales and technical training to identify opportunities, tools to help properly design and set up data centers, and design and integration assistance in the field.

IBM, Armonk, N.Y., is promoting its eServer BladeCenter architecture to reduce data center complexity, lower maintenance costs and increase the flexibility of networks. In early June, IBM added a new storage blade based on a Fibre Channel switch from Brocade Communications that is aimed at easing maintenance and improving security.

IBM's blades combine servers, storage and networking infrastructure to help in the integration and maintenance of data centers, and the design allows units to be easily replaced if there is a problem, said Tim Dougherty, director of IBM eServer Blade Server offerings. The vendor also offers assistance in projects involving the migration of servers between operating systems and the porting of applications onto new architectures.

"IBM has been great at providing us access to their people," said Rick Kearney, president and CEO of Tallahassee, Fla.-based solution provider Mainline. "Not all of your legacy code can transfer right over to Linux, but IBM has teams that do analysis of how big the problem is, and it offers automated tools and live bodies to size the elephant."

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IBM tools can map all devices within a company's infrastructure, significantly aiding the job of assessing and consolidating company resources. The vendor's xSeries Rack Configurator also helps in data center planning by designing rack configurations customized for the ideal cooling, power and placement of items.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems is also offering products and tools to help in data center consolidations. The vendor provides assistance moving legacy applications from mainframe environments to more modern platforms. It also is pushing products such as its UltraSPARC four-way servers to speed data center operations and its Solaris operating system for robust network security, said Chris Kruell, director of marketing for Sun's Scalable Systems Group.

West Kingston, R.I.-based American Power Conversion--which worked with the CRN Test Center and solution provider Align Communications in the lab makeover--aims to ease the process of data center redesign with its InfraStruXure products, which combine power, cooling and environment management into server rack designs. APC's InfraStruXure line is divided into three configurations: Type A is designed for small networks ranging from one to 10 racks, Type B supports 10 to 100 racks while Type C supports installations of 100 racks or greater. For each configuration, a variety of components are available, including UPSes, cooling devices, environmental monitoring units, data partitions, KVMs (keyboard-video-mouse) and management software.

"APC is top-notch," said Tom Weber, project manager at New York-based Align. "They have great procurement and fulfillment experience, and their product is the perfect fit for any 20-cabinet-or-less data center. This makes it easy for the solution provider to recommend a product, because it is so versatile."

APC's InfraStruXure BuildOut Tool walks solution providers step-by-step through the process of designing a particular solution. The tool provides a complete design proposal and detailed floor layout indicating the optimal location of all necessary components, based on a data center's physical layout.

Meanwhile, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems in April launched its Business Ready Data Center initiative, which provides products, tools and deployment assistance. The initiative includes products for every stage of a data center design, such as Catalyst Intelligent Switches for data center networking, storage devices such as the MDS 9500 product family, application optimization software, security technology and business-continuity products.

In early June, Cisco launched a firewall virtualization product that allows a single firewall to protect numerous environments, which is ideal for distributed data centers. Cisco is also developing joint data center solutions with its OEM partners, such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

"Because of the way that data centers have been deployed--each one separately--each one has its own issues," said Jonathan Gilad, program manager of Cisco Enterprise Solutions Marketing. "In a large customer, you can have 6,000 application environments, and each needs to be backed up separately, security needs to be taken care of, you have to worry about continuity, patching, etc. That's where a [consolidated] architectural approach to data centers comes in."

Cisco sells its Business Ready Data Center solutions directly through its OEM partners only and turns to solution providers for fulfillment. However, it plans to offer solution providers the opportunity to completely sell and integrate its data center solutions later this year and will offer integration assistance, training and other support, Gilad said.

Smaller vendors are also getting into the game. Huntsville, Ala.-based Avocent, a vendor of KVM switching and data center solutions, is promoting its KVM-over-IP products and related remote administration software for data center redesigns. KVM-over-IP products from Avocent and others allow administrators to remotely monitor or access network infrastructures.

"We had a large customer who had to redesign how they administered their data centers. They needed the ability for people in one data center to touch and fix servers in a remote office and in remote data centers. That's only possible across IP," said CC Fridlin, Avocent digital product manager. "This customer moved from 30 servers per administrator to 100, greatly improving their efficiency."

SHARON LINSENBACH contributed to this story.