Redefining the Pre-Integrated Server

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One of the IT trends that has been gaining some momentum is the shift towards acquiring IT platforms that come pre-integrated with storage and networking gear alongside the server. The thinking is that these pre-integrated systems will not only be faster to deploy, but also better integrated.

The trade-off, however, is that it's hard to guarantee that pre-integrated systems are going to be able to leverage advances in a particular IT product category, such as storage, without requiring the IT organization to upgrade the entire system. In essence, the suite of server components delivered as part of a pre-integrated server makes it difficult to take advantage of best-of-breed technologies.

The folks at Brocade, however, are saying that IT organizations can now take advantage of pre-integrated servers without having to sacrifice best-of-breed technologies. The company rolled out today at the VMworld 2011 conference a new Virtual Compute Blocks offering, which consists of a set of templates for deploying third-party servers and storage around the company's CloudPlex architecture. Third-party vendors that are participating in the new program include Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Hitachi Data Systems and VMware.

According to Jody Kirk, Brocade senior director of product management, the core idea is to leverage an Ethernet fabric based on Brocade switches to create a variety of template that dramatically reduces the opportunity to misconfigure systems, without requiring an IT organization to lock themselves into a particular server or storage vendor. As part of this effort, the company today also rolled out a series of new additions to the Brocade VDX switch lineup, while also doubling the number of switches that can be included in a Brocade Ethernet fabric.

Virtual Compute Blocks are purchased through Brocade, which then takes care of integrating and delivering all the components of the pre-integrated server, said Kirk.

In addition, Brocade is now making available a new subscription-based approach to acquiring its technologies, which means that IT organizations can opt to pay for equipment on a month subscription basis versus having to make a major capital investment up front.

The shift towards pre-integrated servers is a response to the frustration that IT organizations have in terms of the amount of time it takes to deploy servers. The reality is that IT organizations don't want to spend their time on basic system integration tasks. Some vendors have been able to successfully leverage that frustration by making available pre-integrated servers that substantially reduce the time to deployment. But as positive a development as that might be, the fact that the IT industry needs to find ways to make their products easier to deploy should not necessarily force customers to artificially limit their vendor choices unless, of course, it's in their interest to do so.