Back in the noughties I made the conscious decision as a Storage guy to immerse myself into what was being termed server virtualization and understanding the product offerings of a relatively new company named VMware. To this day I remember the incredulous looks and responses I received from my Storage counterparts, who were convinced that the VMware fad was nothing more than a system admin tool. Indeed the organizations that were early adopters of VMware ended up assigning the virtualization responsibility to the system admins team; at no point was there ever a thought that a dedicated virtualization team could or should be established. Fast forward to 2014 and virtualization teams are the norm and Storage administrators are constantly being hard pressed to have a better understanding of VMware as they provision and manage virtualized environments. Such a culture change was unthinkable 10 years ago, yet here we are again with the emergence of another silo, the Converged Infrastructure team.
This culture change became incredibly apparent at last years VMworld. Having attended every VMworld for the last four years, there was no escaping the significant change in the vendors, the products and the folks that were now in attendance. Gone were the numerous stalls of third party VMware management and monitoring tools and their vendors, almost resigned to the fact that vCenter Operations Manager had now monopolized that market. Gone too were all the VM labs that focused on the server virtualization features and in their place numerous labs that highlighted how VMware was now a cloud product. Even the third party vendors that were on display were now focused on orchestration, automation, self-service portals, service providers and everything else Cloud orientated. As for the traditional storage vendors, each of them was now presenting their storage arrays as part of either a reference architecture or converged infrastructure. If you belonged to either the Storage or virtualization silo there was little if anything on offer compared to previous years, if anything it was a wake up call that times were changing and changing fast.
As the converged infrastructure market continues to experience unprecedented growth there is now an inevitable evolution in how IT infrastructure is being procured, manufactured, managed and monitored. Akin to how desktop PCs evolved into slim and powerful laptops and portable tablets, IT infrastructure is experiencing a similar revolution. It wasn’t that long ago when you wanted to buy a PC you’d have to choose and order all the various components as single items i.e. the CPU, the RAM, the motherboard, the CD-ROM drive, the monitor etc. and then wait several weeks as the PC store would build and integrate all of those components together. In terms of support if anything went wrong with that PC, you’d have to go back to the PC store who’d then spend several weeks deciphering the issue as they went back to all the component manufacturers to either replace or diagnose the issue. Such an approach is now almost non-existent where instead an end user can simply purchase a preconfigured, customized laptop online as a single product that’s manufactured and supported by a single company. Converged infrastructure offers the same simplicity to what was once a complex approach to setting up infrastructure that’s ultimate aim is to support applications. Consequently the simplicity that converged infrastructure has brought to organizations in terms of time to deliver, speed of deployment and risk mitigation has led the same organisations to question their traditional silos of management and monitoring.
Indeed such a change was exemplified to me in recent weeks with examples from two clients that I have been working with. The first client is a large organisation that has a multitude of silos and consequent processes and stumbling blocks to whenever they require new infrastructure for any new projects. With their current project they decided to bypass their internal silos and instead create a new team that would solely be responsible for a Vblock, i.e. their converged infrastructure team. In 45 days this team were up and running with their system delivering a service to the business, something that their traditional silos were taking nine months to achieve. The other client was a completely different case where a small team of seven was responsible for IT operations. Separated as silos of storage, network, compute, databases etc. this client made the step towards a mid-range 300 series Vblock converged infrastructure just over a year ago and immediately saw the benefits of accelerated deployment, performance optimization and risk mitigation. Recognising the potential their internal IT now had to open up new avenues for business, the same client only a few months later went on to procure seven more Vblocks. As for the team of seven there was no requirement for them to grow or change, in fact the only change that was required was their name; they’re now the converged infrastructure team.