The Operations Benefits Case for Converged Infrastructure

By | December 19, 2011

Last week I met with a Service Provider to continue some discussions that we have been having about the adoption of VCE’s Vblock into the reference architecture for their managed Private Cloud service. I thought I’d write a quick post reflecting on the discussions as there were a couple of interesting points that were raised. No names I’m afraid as I need to respect a client confidentiality agreement.

For the skeptics, it’s worth stating that there are many service providers delivering services of this type today: Dedicated, (largely) virtualised infrastructures with elastic properties and self service management interfaces, delivered either on the customer’s premises or in a Service Provider data centre.

In common with most discussions with Service Providers about the use of Vblock as an infrastructure building block for solutions there was consensus that the benefits case for Vblock revolved around two key themes.
  1. A delivering a reduction in cycle time to provision new customer infrastructure, or to expand existing infrastructure
  2. Reducing the amount and variety of skilled resources required to provision infrastructure
It’s probably worth pointing out that the discussion I was had was with senior managers responsible for service provisioning, transformation and transition of customers’ existing services to the service provider and in-life support and operations of services, so they would naturally tend to call out benefits associated with these scope areas. I will probably come back to the Go-to-Market benefits case in later post, but for now I want to focus on how the Vblock proposition addresses these two benefit areas.

Firstly, let’s look at the reduction in solution deployment cycle time. It might not be immediately obvious unless you’ve worked within a Service Provider, but a significant amount of effort is expended in managing the design, purchasing, logistics, assembly, integration and testing of even a moderately sized network, storage and computing infrastructure. Service Providers can offload these activities to VCE if they chose to standardise on the Vblock platform. This can free up resources to work on other value adding activities.

Provisioning of physical resources within a Vblock is automated using EMC’s Unified Infrastructure Manager (UIM). This tool enables compute, storage and network resources to be provisioned via a simple web based interface, without the operator needing to have detailed knowledge of any of the underlying element management or command line interfaces that would be required to carry out these activities manually. This means that generalist or even design resources can directly provision physical resources within the Vblock and present these directly to VMware for subsequent provisioning of virtual resources, or to an operating system deployment tool, should they be required for a bare-metal OS installation.

Of course, these benefits apply equally in an Enterprise IT environment, the only difference is that in a Service Provider, the impact of sub-optimial approaches to infrastructure deployment and operations is magnified due to the sheer scale of the environments that exist there!

Update (22/Dec/11): Since writing this, I have been doing some reading around the subject and I came across a new piece of research from IDC entitled ‘Converged Infrastructure Survey 2011: Out of the Clouds, Down to Earth’, which you can find here (requires IDC subscription). Reading this, it’s very interesting to note that the top three reasons that enterprises cite for making a decision to adopt converged infrastructure are:

  • Improved availability
  • Simplified management
  • Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
You could draw a linkage between simplified management and lower TCO drivers in this list and the reduction in the type and amount of resources required to provision infrastructure, but the fact that Service Providers are focused on driving industrialisation of IT by reducing the cycle time to deliver new services further illustrates the subtle differences between the needs and priorities of Service Providers and those of Enterprise IT users.

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