Virtualization and Cloud Computing ushered in an era of “as a service” capabilities that dramatically reduced the time and effort to deliver IT solutions. These on-demand services provide value in many areas, but at the same time come with some constraints. You get what you pay for, and often not much more in terms of flexibility and support. And in most cases you, the consumer, bear the burden of making it all work together.
Virtualization enabled the consolidation, or convergence of what was once many discrete physical devices into more tightly integrated solutions. Add in advancements in networking connectivity and bandwidth and we now have fully integrated Converged Infrastructure (CI) systems. CI takes most of the guesswork out of selecting a solution to meet your specific business and application performance requirements. These systems are engineered from the ground up, so the consumer does not incur many of the upfront design and development costs normally associated with systems deployment. And many CI solutions are tuned for and often come prepackaged with a specific application suite, providing a convenient and predictable cost model for adjusting capacity as your business “flexes.”
Another key feature of CI solutions is that they are pre-validated and pre-tested to ensure not only the integrity of the system components, but also interoperability with other systems. This can be a huge expense when implementing new systems in terms of designing for intra-system performance and providing well-defined integration points that can be easily monitored and measured.
One of the challenges with traditional “loosely-coupled” infrastructure and many cloud solutions is operations monitoring and management. Along with integrated hardware and software, CI solutions provide converged management specifically designed to provide not only traditional element management and control, but also service configuration and management for associated application suites. This can significantly reduce traditional operational costs and enables a much more streamlined and effective “Dev/Ops” model.
With Cloud Computing we’ve learned a very important lesson – if something goes wrong you’re often on your own when it comes to determining where the problem lies, and you’re pretty much at the mercy of the cloud provider if the problem is outside your realm of responsibility and control. Complementing the upfront engineering and integration, CI solutions offer ongoing support capabilities that are designed and equipped to address a full range of services including traditional break/fix, problem determination and resolution, training, planning and design.
“Aren’t Converged Infrastructure solutions really expensive?” you ask. If you compare them to “white boxes” stacked in racks, then yes, they are sometimes more expensive on a per unit basis. But you have to examine the full life cycle cost of the business function or application you are enabling. Add in all the upfront costs plus the day-to-day operational and capacity planning and management costs for traditional systems and you will find that for many applications CI solutions are the right choice. And don’t forget things like technology refresh for both hardware and software – these can be expensive and disruptive. So the next time you’re thinking about moving an application to the cloud, consider the “all in” costs. A Converged Infrastructure solution might be a better choice.