09/08/2011 - Data Center Decision: Converged Infrastructure Vs. Best-Of-Breed

By Joseph F. Kovar, CRN - The move to adopt converged infrastructure as a platform on which to build the modern data center is gaining traction as more vendors enter the market and existing vendors improve their product offerings.

Established vendors with converged infrastructure offerings such as HP (NYSE:HPQ), Cisco (NSDQ:CSCO), and Oracle (NSDQ:ORCL) are facing new competition both from major IT companies such as Dell (NSDQ:Dell) and Huawei Symantec (NSDQ:SYMC) and from upstarts like Xsigo, all of whom are looking to entice customers with a one-stop-shopping approach to data center infrastructures.

At the same time, however, potential customers are also looking at multi-vendor, best-of-breed solutions that not only give them a choice of technologies but which also help them avoid getting locked into a single vendor's technology.

Customers will be facing this choice for the foreseeable future as both technolgy trends continue to develop.

Converged infrastructure is a way to integrate multiple IT technologies, such as servers, storage, networking equipment, virtualization, and/or software applications into a larger solution.

Unlike best-of-breed solutions in which a solution provider and its customers integrate different components from two or more vendors based on specific customer requirements, converged infrastructures offer relatively little leeway in terms of vendor or product choice.

Instead, converged infrastructure solutions are typically either pre-integrated by a vendor or distributor or are assembled in the field by a distributor or solution provider according to the vendor's "blueprints."

Converged infrastructures offer a number of advantages over best-of-breed solutions.

The primary advantage is that the solutions are either integrated by a single vendor or built according to a vendor's pre-designed templates, making them much easier to deploy than a solution which needs to be assembled from multiple vendors' products in the field.

Converged infrastructure solutions also provide customers with "one throat to choke," or a single entity with which to deal for service, repairs, updates, and patches. Indeed, many converged infrastructure solutions included automated updates and patches to reduce the amount of work administrators need to keep their systems up-to-date.

However, an equally strong case can be made for best-of-breed solutions.

While integrating of multi-vendor solutions in the field is much more complex an operation than shipping a fully-configured solution into a data center, they allow customers to pick and choose their required technologies from vendors of their own choice. This is especially true where a customer already has major investments in their preferred server, storage, or networking vendors.

More important for many customers is the fact that a best-of-breed solution helps prevent vendor lock-in.

Converged infrastructures allow vendors to lock customers in and competitors out of the data center. This becomes a major issue as customers and their data centers are increasingly connected to the cloud because the vendor who provided the converged infrastructure has the inside track on building the cloud infrastructure.

Solution providers see advantages with both the converged infrastructure and best-of-breed approaches.

John Convery, executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing at Denali Advanced Integration, a Redmond, Wash.-based solution provider and HP partner, said his company is a strong proponent of HP's converged infrastructure solution because of how it drives costs out of the data center while increasing IT efficiency.

Denali holds about 30 customer events a year in which it leads with data center converged infrastructure, Convery said. "That's our elevator pitch," he said.

Denali is currently working with partners like McKinstry, the Seattle-based developer of technology for managing facilities, to build an HP Cloud Center of Excellence for helping customers develop cloud solutions based on HP's converged infrastructure.

"Efficiency is in our DNA," Convery said. "From the get-go, we talk about costs with customers. A lot of data centers are facing a down economy and budget cutbacks. So we not only talk efficiency with them, but put our money where our mouth is by heavily investing in our infrastructure."
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Arbitech, LLC, founded in August 2000, is the nation's leading independent distributor of server, storage, networking, mobility, telephony and point-of-sale products. By offering creative, cost-effective solutions, Arbitech enables its customers to win net-new business and earn greater profits. Recognized locally by industry associations and business publications for company culture and growth, Arbitech strives to be a total solutions provider with its extensive product offerings and value added services.

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