Converged Infrastructure: It’s More Popular Than You Think

It would appear that the promised benefits of Converged Infrastructure, including business agility, improved service, and cost management, are actually being delivered, according to a new survey from Zenoss. The 2013 State of Converged Infrastructure survey found that 30% of the participants have adopted CI – with 51% actively considering – and large enterprises are the highest adopters, although interest is strong with small companies as well, said Zenoss CMO Chris Smith.

Unlike VDI — virtual desktops — Converged Infrastructure is actually delivering on its promise, he said. “Converged Infrastructure is a means to an end. Technology-wise, it is virtualization, and in the end virtualization is delivering the benefits.”

Virtualization is key to Zenoss, which focuses on automating IT operations for what it calls modern datacenters. “A modern datacenter is a datacenter that is mostly virtualized and either involves components of public or private clouds,” said Smith. “The more virtualized a datacenter becomes, the more automated it becomes.”

Zenoss decided to conduct the survey because they were getting mixed signals and discrepancies from their customers. Smith said there was a lot of talk about adopting CI sometime in the future, but they were hearing from their customers that it was more about today than tomorrow. “Our thesis was that people probably embraced it a lot more than people realized.” In addition to the 30% that have deployed CI, the 51% actively considering it plan to make the jump no later than 2017.

One of the key findings, and a potential stumbling block, said Smith, is the differing expectations of senior management and IT. The number one business driver from C-level respondents was a tie between business agility and improved capacity utilization, while IT Operations staff were more likely to be seeking efficiency.

The degree of misalignment, strategically, between C-level and operational staff when it comes to why CI is being considered is 32%. The key takeaway here, said Zenoss, is get both sides aligned to prevent unpleasant surprises at project evaluation time.

HP may have beaten everybody else to adopting the category marketing phrase (“HP pioneered the concept of a converged infrastructure, and we were the first to deliver it,” said David Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager, Enterprise Group, HP), but it is not the only vendor to offer multiple IT components that can include servers, storage, networking and software in an integrated solution. Other vendors who made the CI supplier list included VCE Vblock. NetApp FlexPod, EMC VSPEX, Dell Active System, and Oracle. For the purposes of the survey, and as Zenoss believes, CI was defined as the combination of compute, network and storage, said Smith.

According to Forrester analyst Richard Fichera, the CI market is hot. With three dominant world-class system suppliers (HP, IBM and Cisco), and enough second-tier competition to avoid any chance of oligopolistic behavior competing for the fastest growing segment of the x86 market, it will remain intensely competitive and richly rewarding to customers for the foreseeable future.

Cisco, EMC and Oracle blazed hardware/infrastructure paths during 2012, and 2013 will continue the move towards appliances—with cloud looming as a threat, noted Evan Quinn, Senior Principal Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. Gartner reported that the market for integrated systems is growing strongly, with revenue increasing 53.7% year over year in 2Q12 (Market Share Analysis: Data Center Hardware Integrated Systems, 1Q11-2Q12, #G00239623) , but it accounted for only 3.5% of the data center hardware total in 2011 ($2.9 billion out of a total of $83 billion spent on server, storage and network datacenter hardware).

In addition to its various benefits, CI can deliver even more cost savings, by customers being a little more ruthless in negotiating data center convergence. Any data center manager could achieve 20% more off list price by paying attention to the procurement of FBI or converged infrastructure solutions, said Gartner analyst George Weiss. “We frequently see contract sizes in the $2 million to $3 million range when converged solutions are requested. Even 10% could offer the potential for $200,000 to $300,000 savings.”

From a tool perspective, the study found that among firms with Converged Infrastructure in place, 69% use multiple tools to monitor performance and availability of the services. However, when it comes to those considering CI, 28% don’t know what tool they’ll use, while 26% plan to use a tool supplied by their CI vendor and 25% plan to use multiple tools they already own.

“Converged Infrastructure requires converged management,” said Smith. “We have been preaching the gospel of converged management for years. We think the time has really come for this kind of approach from a management tool perspective.”


Author: Steve Wexler

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