CIOs around the globe are increasingly turning to converged infrastructure – fully integrated systems with compute, storage and network – for simplicity, agility and speed. The latest Gartner research forecasts spending on these systems to increase at 19% year-on-year, to reach $20.4b by 2019, representing nearly a quarter (22.6%) of data centre investments by that time.
Clearly there’s a huge trend in this market, but one of the things that’s interesting about the transition taking place are the key trigger points causing people to transform their data centers with converged infrastructure now. After all, the shift to converged infrastructure represents a significant change for organisations, who will move from having completely separate and siloed network, storage, and compute resource teams to now being able to centrally manage all of these technologies in one system and free up resources to drive business innovation.
Here are the top six catalysts I’ve heard when discussing today’s business challenges with IT leaders. Each of these alone is often reason enough to justify a pilot or wider-scale deployment of converged infrastructure, and with many CIOs we see several of these challenges landing simultaneously.
Catalyst 1: I need to cut the cost of managing IT, and increase my ability to scale: This is probably the most common, business-centric catalyst for converged infrastructure deployment I hear from IT leaders today. Many IT teams spend up to 80% of their time simply running the core ‘operational’ functions; delivering IT services, updating and patching one type of infrastructure or another. With data needs rising 40-50% per year, automating and simplifying this element is key to unlocking a new wave of productivity for enterprises who are bracing for even more digitisation into the future.
Catalyst 2: I need to support the DevOps team trying to support the "Information Generation": There are challenges on two fronts here: the applications needed by digitally native staff brought up on Facebook and mobile apps, and the ultimate consumers of your businesses’ products and services that require real-time responsiveness to demands issued over any and every communications channel. It’s harder for businesses, and IT teams, to keep up, than ever before.
To address this, application developers are making a shift to an agile mode of operations, building, and killing off or scaling up apps on a weekly basis depending on how successful they are at addressing specific business needs in their test phases. This means IT, used to months-long deployment cycles, needs to up its game. The automation and simplicity brought by converged and hyper-converged infrastructure goes a long way to enabling this, depending on the type of application in question, as a lot of the manual process about allocating computer/storage/network resource to applications will have to be handled automatically.
Catalyst 3: I need infrastructure on which I can do small-scale test and dev work on before I scale-up: Related to #2 above, another key criteria for infrastructure upgrade is that it scales up nimbly. Converged Infrastructure investments don’t all start out as fully built-out blocks with dozens of nodes and hundreds of terabytes of storage available; often projects begin with a humble 4U deployment, and, when an application completes its test phase, it can be switched into "production mode" on the same infrastructure. This allows it to scale up seamlessly as the IT team slots more nodes into the block. Not having to move an application between a "test and dev" environment to a "production" environment can shave weeks off application roll-out and make IT teams that much more able to fulfil the dynamic needs of the business.
Catalyst 4: I need to support a new type of application/service that requires particular scale: the most common example of this we see to date is the move to ‘virtual desktop’ infrastructure (VDI). One that delivers mobility and speed to enterprises working to meet the needs of the Information Generation, without sacrificing security. Now, the performance and scale requirements of VDI are so high that organisations can’t stand to be losing time and resources to operational management, or it ceases to be cost-viable. Converged infrastructure, for many, is key to eliminating the overhead needed to make VDI not only viable, but extremely effective at supporting new models for employee productivity.
Catalyst 5: I need to reduce risk in my operational infrastructure by moving services into the cloud: Cloud computing, thanks to its multi-tenancy and scale, is increasingly touted as the choice when building out new infrastructure from a risk-mitigation perspective. Public cloud services, however, tend to introduce complexity around the control elements CIOs might need in determining service levels for new applications. For example, around high availability, back-up snapshots, archiving etc., not to mention data protection, which adds a layer of complexity and cost that can make it prohibitive to go down the public cloud route. Converged Infrastructure, including new elastic-cloud converged systems, can provide a pretty broad platform on which to build a hybrid cloud, giving CIOs complete control of the risk profile of any given application or data set.
Catalyst 6: I need to upgrade an application and end-of-life some existing infrastructure: More common in mid-market businesses where it’s possible to synchronise software and hardware refresh, converged infrastructure is often deployed at the same point as a major application upgrade is due. For example, when an organisation making a major upgrade to its sales automation, ERP or customer management platform. If the ‘disruption’ of a software upgrade is due, even if the underpinning infrastructure is merely close to end-of-life, many organisations will lump the two challenges into a single project. The perfect catalyst for convergence.
I’m sure CIOs will have found other ‘perfect’ moments for deploying converged infrastructure, and indeed the majority, faced with a growing digital universe of data to manage, see no other route as viable. I’d be interested in your thoughts on other ‘catalysts’ that are leading CIOs to drive convergence programmes of their own.