Converged Systems – More than the sum of its parts

In the interests of full disclosure, I work for Hewlett-Packard, so my this is my semi-unbiased opinion, but I do spend my days talking about HP products, so I am not completely independent, but this has less to do with product, and more to do with concepts and standards.

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of vendors releasing converged systems, pods, blocks, and other types of systems which are essentially designed to simplify the ordering, provisioning, and support processes.  In my job I am fortunate enough to speak with many smart people, as I was discussing this trend with technical sales person, they asked me why would anyone buy a system this way when it would be cheaper to purchase the components and build it like we always have.  Why would anyone want to pay more to get one of these systems?

To get the answer we really need to determine what the motives are.  I posted previously about converged infrastructure, and I do tend to talk about the cloud, automation, and the need for a new, more efficient way of deploying infrastructure.  The best part about statistics is that they can always make your point for you, but having worked in IT for over 20 years in many roles, I believe it is safe to say IT typically spends anywhere from 70-80% of their time on operations.  That is just keeping the lights on.  To put that into terms of $$’s, that means if my IT budget, excluding salary, is $1m, I am spending $700k-800k on keeping the lights on.  That also means out of a 40 hour work week, yeah right, they are spending between 28-32 hours on support, and basic operational tasks, not making the business productive, implementing new projects, or planning for future.  This lack of time for innovation creates delays when new projects need to be done, and is counter productive.  To solve this, you either wait, hire more people, or bring in temporary help in the form of vendors or consultants to do some work for you.  If you do bring in the vendors though, or even a consultant, they will often stand up their components, but it is rare to find one who builds you out a solution and hands it to you ready to install your applications.

One of the values of a converged system, no matter who it comes from, is having a complete system.  I like the analogy of my computer.  I am pretty technical, and I love tinkering.  I used to love building Gaming PC’s.  I would spend months planning and designing, order the parts, and then spend hours painstakingly assembling the system.  Now I purchase the computer I want, and when it is too slow I purchase something faster.  I know when it arrives I will install apps, I might even put on a new operating system, but other than memory or hard drive upgrades, I typically don’t mess with the hardware.  It is just not worth the time, besides, with some of the newer systems, I can do much more using VMware workstation, or using Crouton on my Chromebook, so I can run virtual systems or different environments on a single system.  The concept behind the converged system is that unlike a reference architecture, you aren’t building from parts, but rather purchasing the whole system along with the services to stand it up.  Then, much like a shiny new computer, it is handed to you all ready to go, just add your applications.  For a majority of systems, the hypervisor is already in place,  with VMware still preferred by many.

There are many other benefits to explore, but the key is to remember, sometimes there are other considerations outside the cost of hardware, sometimes you have to consider what the opportunity cost of building your own systems can be.

Converged Systems – More than the sum of its parts

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