Converged Infrastructure info is sweeping the web because it solves key challenges faced by IT organizations today. IT teams in an age of cloud expectations are under pressure to speed deployment and improve performance while reducing costs. By buying applications, servers, networking and storage together as pre-integrated or validated solutions rather than as individual components, they can meet all three of these requirements and keep IT assets within the datacenter.
In case the idea of ‘Converged Infrastructure’ doesn’t seem entirely new to you, it isn’t. It’s not a new industry as much as a re-casting of component-based sales to integrated system sales. According to a recent report by Gartner, it’s a 3.5% slice of the total IT infrastructure business, but one growing at over 50% annually, hitting $83 billion this year.
NetApp in top tier
In this first analysis by this same firm, they took a very academic look at the market, parsing it in terms of Integrated Infrastructure Systems, Integrated Workload Systems, and Integrated Reference Architecture Systems drawing fine lines between specifically where the equipment is assembled and how much software was included in the original bundle vs. added later. The typical end customer experience, though, is they receive a shrink-wrapped pallet on their loading dock, regardless of whether the converged stack was assembled by a specialized VAR or the equipment manufacturer… and ultimately the system will be used to run some application workload or workloads.
So the most useful way to look at this space is in total, where all the variants are just flavors of the same offering, i.e. Converged Infrastructure. With this view, the top three players are VCE with VBLOCK, Oracle with Exalogic and their ‘cloud in a box’ offerings, and FlexPod – the partnership between Cisco and NetApp. All three are in a statistical tie for leadership with about 20% of the market each. Of course it’s a formative space and these numbers shouldn’t be considered gospel, but if one vendor is telling you they have “57% of the market”, yet have only 600 customers or almost just a quarter of the 2,100 FlexPod customers, you’ve got to wonder about what you’re hearing from that vendor.
Top 3 Reasons to Move to Converged Infrastructure
A recent study by IDC, “Converged Systems: State of the Market and Future Outlook 2012: Market Analysis” provided a comparable view of this new market space, with the top reasons motivating customers to adopt Converged Infrastructure vs. the traditional component-based, do it yourself approach:
1. Time to service – IT needs to respond more quickly to new business requests and reduce the time to provision new infrastructure. CIOs and IT execs need more agility, esp. as they are being tasked to adopt “3rd Platform” (mobile, social, cloud, big data) technologies to meet Line of Business objectives.
2. Cost efficiency – Typical Converged Infrastructure deals are not being seen as cheaper in terms of upfront capital investment, but they are delivering overall reduced cost of ownership. One part of this is the initial expense of installation. This process typically takes 6 months to a year of planning, RFPs, procurement, deployment, configuration, testing and eventual cut-over. Firms buying Converged Infrastructure instead get a short cut to deployment in weeks, not months, and without a lot of specialized professional services. In addition, these new virtualized platforms enable workload consolidation and reduced space and heating/cooling costs. And the new management and automation tools available with these solutions are reducing ongoing administration cost.
3. Operations improvements – “Simplicity” is a term often cited by customers, a driver that includes the benefits of consolidated vendors, streamlined support (i.e. one throat to choke), and benefits from pre-validated interop like reduced problems, increased performance and overall increased uptime.
FlexPod has risen to be a top example of Converged Infrastructure, with more customers moving to it every day. The unique appeal of the FlexPod is how it can deliver these benefits of Converged Infrastructure while still being Flexible. It starts with the combination of best of breed components from VMware, Netapp, Cisco, along with a pre-validated design that still accommodates flexibility in scale and configuration. This equates to many deployment options while reducing risk. A helpful perspective is captured in a well-done partner write-up, here.
If you’re fortunate enough to be walking the rainy streets of London as well as the climate-controlled aisles of the Cisco Live show happening there this week, you are probably seeing first-hand the outcome of the growing NetApp-Cisco partnership. Recent news covers the deeper integration across FlexPod at the platform level enabling seamless orchestration using products such as Cloupia, Microsoft System Center, Citrix CloudPlatform and others.
Specific stories are also breaking about new FlexPod customers like NextiraOne, a leading European integrator of private Cloud Solutions, which has launched dedicated Cloud and Disaster Recovery Suites in the UK built on FlexPod. I know from personal experience that service providers (and what we used to call ASPs) have traditionally faced a difficult choice of paying a premium for perceived higher cost ‘brand name’ infrastructure vs. using white label and open source. But because solutions like FlexPod have changed the overall cost/quality curve, these SPs can now go with the quality components they know will deliver the uptime and performance needed to meet SLAs, while still reducing total cost of computing.
Check this out – there’s a Cisco Live virtual site accompanying the London show, with access to sessions – we have 11 on FlexPod at this show! Here’s the link. Cheers!