Is This the Dawning of the Year of Convergence?

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    Every year is the year of something. Chinese astrology has the Year of the Snake, the Year of the Dragon, etc. We’ve also seen the Year of Faith, the Year of Africa… Heck, we’ve even seen the Year of Statistics and the Year of Slow Cooking.

    In enterprise circles, it is very likely that 2014 could become known as the Year of Convergence.

    Recent market surveys indicate that deployment of converged or integrated infrastructure picked up dramatically in the latter half of 2013, an indication that organizations of all stripes are scrambling to lay the foundation for next-generation cloud and Big Data architectures. According to IDC, the integrated infrastructure and platforms markets – those that provide either general-purpose functionality or are outfitted with pre-integrated software and components for specific workloads – shot up by more than 108 percent in the third quarter, topping $1.4 billion. In total, integrated systems contributed more than 622 PB of new storage capacity in the quarter.

    As I pointed out last month, converged or integrated infrastructure (I’m using the two terms interchangeably here, meaning systems that combine server, storage and networking components on a single, modular footprint) is the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal time for traditional enterprise hardware vendors. Companies like HP, Cisco, Dell and others have adopted convergence as the go-to solution for enterprises looking to flatten out existing silo-based infrastructure and then quickly ramp up capacity for burgeoning workloads. And let’s not forget, converged infrastructure dovetails nicely with the whole green data center movement, which not only fosters good will among consumers but produces a better balance sheet as well.

    But while it is no secret that most organizations are bent on establishing their own cloud-ready infrastructure, it seems less likely that it will be built on legacy systems. Particularly now that the virtual networking component is ready to go in the form of software-defined networking (SDN), it is becoming clear that the quickest, easiest way to get up to speed is to deploy full virtual data center environments on new, modular infrastructure. According to TheInfoPro, enterprise spending is already shifting away from standard infrastructure and more toward the automation and cloud technology stacks needed to operate the software-defined data center. Cloud platforms, for instance, are a top priority for nearly a third of enterprises in 2014, while more than 40 percent expect to reduce spending on standard equipment like x86 rack servers.

    All the more reason why organizations need to develop a converged infrastructure strategy now if they don’t already have one, says Dell’s Phil Davis. Integrated systems can be designed and deployed at a lightning pace, and at far less cost than traditional infrastructure, so it is crucial to establish an overarching plan as to where and how they are to be utilized, and automated. Convergence is a great way to drive efficiency in enterprise infrastructure, but without the proper workload orchestration and dynamic data management, you could wind up with even more bottlenecks and resource contention issues than you have now.

    So, if implemented properly, convergence offers the scalability and flexibility to handle the dynamic, cloud-based data environments of the future, all within an easily deployable footprint that is both more streamlined than current infrastructure and less costly to operate. It’s hard to see why it shouldn’t be a key enterprise priority for the coming year.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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