Preconfigured Systems: Enterprise-by-Design

Arthur Cole
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Five Keys to Creating the Data Center of Tomorrow

Enterprises are a lot like people. Whatever it is they feel they need, they want it now.

This explains the growing interest in preconfigured systems. After all, if you have a choice between building infrastructure and architectures from the ground up or installing a ready-made package with only a modicum of configuration and integration, most organizations will choose the latter. Sure, you lose a certain amount of customization, but with much of the fine-tuning these days happening fairly high in the software stack, even preconfigured architectures should prove surprisingly flexible.

IBM recently released a new line of preconfigured hardware/software packages called PureSystems. Designed as general-purpose data center solutions, they are aimed at organizations looking for quick deployment of server and application environments - in many instances cutting the process from months to weeks.

The first two releases in what is expected to be a lengthy product line are the PureFlex and PureApplication systems. PureFlex is designed to meet the same needs as infrastructure-as-a-service platforms while PureApplications is more closely aligned with software-as-a-service offerings. That is, they both provide cloud-like capabilities for large numbers of users, helping to reduce both the hardware and software footprints currently needed to deliver data functionality.

To be sure, this kind of architecture-in-a-box doesn't come cheap. Versions range from $100,000 to $300,000, although that includes some powerhouse hardware like the Storwize V7000 system, 10 GbE functionality and 8 GB Fibre Channel.

Preconfiguration can take many forms, however, especially when multiple vendors join forces. EMC is looking for greater harmony among disparate systems with the new Vspex reference architecture aimed at creating integrated storage, networking, server and software packages with partners like Cisco, Intel, Brocade and Microsoft. This kind of approach is nothing new for EMC, having established the VCE program around its VMAX and top-end VNX storage systems. The vSpex program is aimed at more mid-level platforms like the VNX 5300 and 5500 systems and is expected to accommodate a wider range of industry solutions, even non-VMware ones.

Open source technology also holds out hope for a wide range of preconfigured systems, provided there is a strong hand to guide it. HP might fill that role for the OpenStack cloud program now that it has delivered greater hardware support for the project in its Converged Cloud architecture. The idea is to foster greater backing for OpenStack among cloud providers by making it easier to tap into internal enterprise infrastructure as they seek to build hybrid cloud platforms. At the same time, HP is adding CloudMaps templates to its CloudSystem development environment, which is intended to foster the creation of pre-configured cloud services that can be quickly built and deployed.

Old-timers in the enterprise may look down at preconfigured systems as data center-lite solutions that are not worthy of critical operations. However, simplicity is not necessarily the enemy of functionality. In fact, it is quite often its ally.

Preconfigured infrastructure puts resources in play at a moment's notice. And with Big Data constantly knocking on the data center doors, that has to count for something.

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