While there is no shortage of theories concerning how data center convergence is going to evolve in the years ahead, there appear to be three distinct phases of data center convergence emerging within IT organizations.
At least that's how Doug Oathout, vice president of converged infrastructure for Hewlett-Packard, sees it. Starting with the virtualization of servers and data storage, Oathout says most customers are well into this first phase of what HP is calling Converged Infrastructure. In fact, as part of this phase, many of them are now testing automation tools that not only allow existing IT staff to manage more resources, but also keep the organization as a whole more flexible because the IT organization no longer has to over-provision IT resources for any given set of applications.
The next phase of data center convergence is what Oathout refers to as Virtual I/O. Using technologies such as HP's Virtual Connect software, IT organizations will be able to use the same wiring infrastructure to connect all storage resources over a network to any server. This phase, says Oathout, will eliminate the need for many of the Level 2 switches that permeate the data center today, while giving IT organizations the ability to dial up or down the exact amount of tiered storage and network resources that any application needs because the various protocols being used to access those resources will all share the same wiring.
The third phase of data center convergence, says Oathout, is private cloud computing. In this phase, customers have ruthlessly standardized on a particular set of IT infrastructure that is then replicated across the entire organization. This level of convergence, says Oathout, typically requires a system such as the HP BladeSystem Matrix that has been designed from the ground up to support private cloud computing deployments.
Oathout says that for the most part private cloud computing deployments are going to be restricted to new applications. Most existing applications were not designed to run in the cloud, and Oathout says it may never be appropriate to run transactional applications on a cloud platform where all the resources are shared with other applications.
For the most part, existing applications will benefit most from phase one and two of data center convergence, which essentially allow IT organizations to re-engineer the IT infrastructure used to support their existing applications, while private cloud computing platforms lend themselves to new applications.
Oathout says HP has built an application and systems management framework that spans all three phases of data center convergence. At this point, the only thing that remains, he said, is for each individual IT organization to decide at what pace they want to move up the IT maturity curve of managing the next generation of IT infrastructure.
Of course, not every vendor agrees with the approach laid out by HP. But to one degree or another, they all concede that data center convergence is inevitable.