Commodity servers, commodity storage, even commodity networking gear -- is the next step going to be commodity data centers?
That looks like the direction we're heading based on the latest technology mashups.
The big news this week is Cisco's Acadia partnership with both EMC and VMware to forge a series of integrated data center packages incorporating each company's respective server, storage, networking and virtualization platforms. The pre-configured Vblock Infrastructure Packages would make it a snap to set up data center infrastructure both for traditional computing models and cloud services, with sizes ranging from entry-level configurations that max out at about 800 virtual machines, all the way to 6,000-VM behemoths aimed at large-scale and green field virtual architectures.
Full details of the Vblock packages have not been released. However, the companies say they can certainly cut the deployment time of traditional data centers and are expecting to reduce operating expenses some 40 percent. Much of that savings will come from the factory-level integration between Cisco's California line of blade and rack servers and its existing lines of converged Ethernet server and storage network products, along with the VSphere virtualization platform and EMC storage.
Cisco is not the only networking firm heading in this direction. Witness Juniper's latest tie-ups with IBM and Dell, which not only provide the company with a broader data center platform to supplement its networking gear, but drive a wedge between Cisco and longtime partners already smarting over the company's expansion into their server territory.
One big question in all of this is what the future holds for Brocade. Rumors over the past few weeks that the company was shopping for a buyer have yet to bear any fruit, with one leading contender, Oracle, saying flat out that it has no intention of acquiring the company.
But if partnerships like the ones Cisco and Juniper are pursuing actually do produce a lower-cost, consolidated data center platform that catches on with the rising tide of cloud providers, companies like Oracle and HP would be hard-pressed to come out with their own integrated solutions. HP already has a full suite of server, storage and networking products, which leaves Oracle in the shallow end of the networking pool even though it stands to gain some top-notch hardware from the Sun acquisition.
The question for CIOs then, becomes whether it makes more sense to simply buy a ready-made data center or continue cobbling together disparate technologies to suit changing needs. That's a tough one because it will take quite a bit of foresight to predict what those needs will be even over relatively short-term cycles of one or two years.
Commodity data centers will certainly be cheaper and easier to manage, but will they provide the flexibility to retain their value over the long haul?