The Road to Convergence

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1 A UBM TECHWEB WHITE PAPER SEPTEMBER 2012 The Road to Convergence Six keys to getting there with the most confidence and the least risk. Brought to you by

2 The Road to Convergence Six keys to getting there with the most confidence and the least risk. 2 Why Convergence? IT organizations are being asked to fulfill constantly changing business demands, even though their budgets remain seriously constrained. This mission is made more difficult by the fact that most IT organizations still manage server, storage and network resources as separate silos and different subsets of resources (virtual machines running different hypervisors, disk arrays from different vendors, and so on) as silos within those silos. IT organizations also typically depend on a variety of manual processes to provision applications and respond to changes in business demand. These manual processes further impede the ability of IT to respond quickly to the shifting needs of the business. Infrastructure convergence greatly enhances IT s ability to accomplish its mission by: Consolidating the provisioning and administration of siloed virtual and physical assets with a single management interface Merging heterogeneous infrastructure into an efficient, intelligent architecture that eliminates the cost, delays and potential errors associated with manual provisioning and administration Enabling simplified, holistic and automated management of compute, network and storage infrastructure IT organizations that move toward this kind of converged infrastructure can achieve a variety of critically important advantages, including: More agile response to the business. With convergence, IT can quickly provision new applications and services to address the increasingly dynamic demands of the business. The IT environment can also automatically respond when an uptick in workload demand starts to create a performance bottleneck whether that bottleneck is in CPU cycles, server memory, storage I/O or network throughput. Significantly improved efficiency. As an enabler of consolidation, convergence picks up where virtualization left off improving resource utilization, minimizing reliance on manual oneoff management tasks, and driving down wasteful consumption of power, cooling and physical data center space. This enhanced consolidation of IT infrastructure enables better management across domains, streamlines IT operations and provides the platform for private clouds. Increased operational resiliency. Convergence enables better cross-domain administration that can be augmented by automation and analytics, empowering IT to respond more quickly to relentlessly changing business needs. By enabling IT to quickly, adaptively and even predictively move workloads to other available infrastructure resources, convergence also makes it much easier to maintain required service levels in the event of a device, rack or local data center failure. Greater ability to innovate. In nonconverged environments, IT organizations have to devote 85 percent or more of their resources to

3 3 maintaining service levels for existing services. By dramatically reducing the time and effort required to keep the lights on, convergence frees IT resources for more innovative technology projects that can have a major positive impact on business performance and competitive differentiation. Most IT organizations need to adopt convergence as a flexible, evolutionary process that allows them to leverage existing infrastructure investments while migrating to a more agile future state. Faster, easier assimilation of future technologies. IT organizations that adopt a sufficiently open approach to convergence can more readily take advantage of new server, storage, networking and software technologies as they become available incorporating those technologies into their existing environments without having to either prematurely retire still-useful resources or create yet another management silo. For these reasons and others, IT organizations across all industries are embracing infrastructure convergence as a long-term strategic imperative. Convergence Concerns Although enterprise IT strategists can agree that convergence is the right path for the data center, they may have legitimate concerns about how to get from here to there. These concerns include: Forklift infrastructure overhauls. Few IT organizations are in a position to undertake largescale replacements of their existing data center infrastructure. The capital cost and operational disruption of such overhauls are simply untenable, given current budget constraints and pressures to keep services up and running nonstop. Most IT organizations, therefore, need to adopt convergence as a flexible, evolutionary process that allows them to continue leveraging their existing infrastructure investments while migrating to a more efficient and agile future state. IT skills. IT organizations are particularly constrained when it comes to people. The last thing they need is to force their staffs to ramp up on an entirely new set of tools and technologies for running the data center. That s why it s important for IT to be able to initiate its move toward convergence while still using familiar management applications. Additional technology silos. Ironically, the introduction of a new generation of data center resources can potentially create an entirely new technology silo especially if it has certain proprietary attributes and/or cannot be easily managed in conjunction with previous generations of compute, storage and network resources. IT strategists therefore have to be careful about choosing any approach that doesn t integrate well with their current environment. Vendor lock-in. IT organizations cannot afford to buy into any technology that will lock them into a single vendor s products for an indefinite length of time. In addition to shutting them out of potentially worthwhile technology innovations from other vendors, such a lock-in will make it more difficult for them to negotiate prices, licensing terms and access to value-added services. An inflexible road map. To reap the rewards associated with any strategic move toward a new architecture, some reasonable level of commitment is almost always necessary. At the same time, IT strategists need to avoid committing to an excessively restrictive road map that won t let them change direction if and when an even more compelling migration opportunity emerges. The technologies they implement on the path to convergence should allow for that freedom of choice. Insufficient ROI. With everything else on their plates, IT organizations cannot devote their time and effort to initiatives that don t pay off in substantive ways. If they re going to engage in an extended migration toward a new kind of data center, they need to have a high level of confidence that the trip will be worth it. This means that they have to start seeing quantifiable results early and also believe that they can keep their strategy tightly aligned to their company s specific goals and requirements over time. And, they should avoid any converged infrastructure model that rigidly requires a change of specific resources in the near term, since those higher fixed costs will erode ROI. The bottom line is that while IT strategists are very motivated to move toward a more holistic and automated way of mapping workloads to available infrastructure capacity they also have to mitigate the risks associated with any major change in the way they architect and manage their data centers. Six Keys to Confident Convergence So how can IT organizations best transition their

4 MAKING THE FIRST MOVE One great way to get your journey to convergence jump-started is with Dell s Efficient Architecture Workshop. This half-day workshop can be held at Dell or at your location and includes: An assessment of your current state and future goals An open discussion of how new technologies map to your requirements A proposal for next steps, including suggestions for a staged implementation Dell has the expertise, services and solutions to help you start your convergence journey in the right direction. Regardless of how much or how little Dell equipment your infrastructure uses, Dell can help you design and execute a convergence road map that s appropriate for your needs and budget. With Dell s assistance, you can get better, clearer answers to your most pressing questions about architecture, workload provisioning, automation, governance and an orderly, safe evolution to the kind of hybrid cloud environment your company needs to successfully compete in a world where IT is more important than ever but budgets just aren t growing accordingly. As a result, you ll be better equipped to make well-informed decisions about where to focus your energies and efforts in the near term to achieve your longer-term goals with the greater speed and confidence. 4 data centers from inefficient and inadequately responsive silos of compute, storage and network capacity to a more efficient and adaptive infrastructure that is simpler and easier to manage? How can they best pursue the benefits of convergence while mitigating the risks of data center transformation? While every company s path to convergence will be different, safe and successful transformations are likely to be characterized by six key attributes: 1. Open, flexible architecture. IT strategists should avoid proprietary architectures that don t readily interoperate with all standards-compliant server, storage and network resources. Open architectures ensure that new resources and tools introduced into the environment can work with existing ones. Truly open architectures also allow IT organizations to take advantage of open source solutions such as Hadoop and OpenStack. 2. Server blades. Blades are destined to play an important role in the long-term evolution of any converged data center fabric. Only blades Open architectures ensure that new resources and tools can work with existing ones and also allow IT organizations to take advantage of open source solutions such as Hadoop and OpenStack. provide modular, high-density computing power in a form factor that can be tightly yet flexibly bound via an integrated backplane to storage and network capacity. This doesn t mean that rack-based servers won t also play a role in convergence. But data center environments with a strong blade component will be much more efficient, adaptable and manageable. 3. Virtualization awareness. The fluid adaptability of any future infrastructure will be fundamentally contingent upon virtualization including some combination of server, storage, networking, desktop and/or application virtualization where and when appropriate. A smart, safe convergence road map will take this broad movement toward virtualization into account and include plans for consolidated management of multiple virtualization technologies. 4. Value-driven server innovation. Many converged infrastructure solutions on the market today promise transformation via radical innovation, mostly surrounding one specific domain of the infrastructure. When adopting convergence as a process, IT organizations can take advantage of specific innovations in virtualization, management and consolidation in each domain over time, or all at once in a customized solution. Furthermore, continued innovation in the power and efficiency of systems platforms remains central to any successful long-term data center architecture strategy. IT strategists must

5 therefore ensure that their route to convergence safeguards their ability to leverage future advances in server technology including new chipsets from Intel and AMD, reductions in power and cooling requirements, etc. 5. Strong partner ecosystem. In some cases, it might make sense to implement an endto-end convergence solution from a single vendor. In others, it might make sense to bring together best-in-class components from multiple vendors. IT strategists can mitigate their risk and accelerate their progress toward their data center goals by working with a vendor that offers both a complete convergence solutions portfolio and a strong partner ecosystem that allows for more choices today and in the future. 6. Proven supply chain. In addition to delivering excellence and driving synergies across server, network and storage domains, a winning convergence model must also offer world-class supply chains that ensure continuous product availability and the earliest possible access to leading-edge technologies including advanced processors, evolving bandwidth gains and breakthroughs in storage density and I/O. Businesses requirements will continue to change and require quick IT response, but commensurate increases in budgets and staffing are unlikely to follow. Every IT organization should therefore start taking steps toward convergence now. By keeping the five principles in mind, IT strategists can initiate their convergence journey with confidence reaping concrete returns in the short term while keeping their options open for the long term. They can also avoid what may be the greatest risk of all: remaining complacent as conventional data center models become increasingly obsolete. 5 ABOUT DELL Dell offers convergence solutions deliver better organizational results because they uniquely improve efficiency and agility by bringing together key IT elements: compute, storage, networking & management. They enable a simpler IT operational model that collapses and automates critical administrative tasks to enable customers to: Rapidly respond to dynamic business demands with template-based infrastructure provisioning & modular infrastructure Maximize data center efficiency with automated management of pre-validated infrastructure platforms supported by a single vendor Empower greater IT success with repeatable deployment, integration, and management models For more information click here UBM TechWeb, a division of UBM LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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