The Converged Infrastructure Challenge
A Q&A with Mark Bowker
Mark Bowker is a Senior Analyst with ESG, where he focuses on all things related to virtualization and cloud computing. His other research areas include data center management, application workload deployment in next-generation data centers, and the external influences that drive the adoption of data center technologies.
StrataCloud: What will be the challenges and opportunities this year for companies embarking on IT infrastructure convergence?
Bowker: Converged Infrastructure (CI) or as we call it, integrated computing platforms, is something that our firm has been tracking for more than three years. It’s useful to compare this to the task of constructing a shed in your yard. The DIY strategy seems like a good idea but along the way it’s actually better to have a blueprint or reference architecture when you’re building something. This blueprint tells me where to cut the wood, the angle of the roof pitch and so on and then I can make a materials list. The true turnkey approach is what we are moving toward, and that’s the value proposition for CI. Integrated compute, storage and network tied to a management layer is all about taking away the complexity of infrastructure. Finally, manual processes like the routing and provisioning of servers can be automated. In our recent research, 33% of respondents have already deployed CI and another 44% are right on their heels with plans or interest in these types of solutions.
StrataCloud: It sounds like a no-brainer, but what are the barriers to converged infrastructure?
Bowker: One problem is getting over the belief that the IT department can do it better themselves. Using a blueprint is not something that IT is used to doing. Then, each silo is worried about doing this because they wonder what it means for their job. Does it devalue my role? It takes a while to get over these perspectives. From a technology standpoint, IT needs to understand how their other investments fit, such as security, backup, and so on. The good news is that many of these basic IT systems are maturing to integrate well with CI appliances and solutions.
StrataCloud: What supporting technologies will be critical for this space?
Bowker: IT organizations will want to plan for federated management. This includes consistent management tools that provide health and monitoring, firmware updates, and integration into existing management products. IT organizations will also want to consider connectivity to the cloud through a cloud gateway. Converged infrastructure deployments should be considered as part of a unified fabric between remote offices, central data centers, and public cloud consumption models. Consistent connectivity and managed across these environments are key to success.
StrataCloud: How can CIOs and CTOs be prepared in terms of hiring the right skill sets or retraining staff for the transition to software-defined infrastructure?
Bowker: I was speaking with a seasoned IT professional recently who was looking at cloud services and he told me that he was having trouble getting his team to get on board. He ended up with a new hire out of college, who wasn’t biased, and put that person in charge of the cloud strategy. The younger person was responsible for the day to day management and now his team is starting to walk a little faster in respect to the cloud. It’s important to educate people that it’s not about your job going away but embracing new ways to consume IT infrastructure. And people are getting time back. In the past it used to take a long time to make changes but now IT people can take care of updates and changes in the daytime hours, not nights and weekends. Sometimes people can even monitor these activities remotely on their smartphones. I’d say that if you have expertise in security, CI or cloud consumption, you can pick and choose your job today.
StrataCloud: How about the cloud IaaS marketplace? How do you see this evolving with entrenched players, new players and segmentation?
Bowker: I think we’ll see AWS, Azure and Google continuing to mature, lead and innovate. We’ll also see existing well-seated vendors like HP, Cisco, IBM, Dell and EMC putting together their solutions too, taking hardware with cloud and a management construct. The common theme with the second group is the hybrid cloud. This is more of a guided, prescriptive approach to consume cloud capacity as needed and retain internal assets that they own and can secure and maintain themselves. The hybrid cloud concept is comforting for IT execs because they can maintain their existing infrastructure and plans yet can still take advantage of the external cloud capacity. Hybrid is not just about on premise plus public cloud, but it’s also about adding visibility, monitoring and management and orchestration across both models.