Caught Up in Data Center ConvergenceBy Michael Vizard | Print
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The current wave of data center convergence presents both an opportunity and a challenge for solution providers dealing with end-user IT staffs that already feel threatened by managed services.
One of the major new trends in enterprise computing that solution providers have to tread carefully is the push to lower the total cost of computing in the data center by converging network, server and storage technologies.
On paper, the whole concept is pretty compelling. By creating a new generation of systems, vendors are allowing IT organizations to lower their management and personnel costs by deploying systems that fewer people can more easily manage.
These systems introduce a series of disruptive technologies into the enterprise that will require solution providers to rethink how they go about setting up IT services. Most solution providers today have distinct practices built around server, storage and networking specialties. But as new systems from companies such as Cisco (/c/a/Cisco/Cisco-Begins-Unified-Computing-Push/), Hewlett-Packard (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/HP-BladeSystem-Matrix-Combines-Server-Storage-Networking-475797/) and Intelicloud (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/IT-Infrastructure/Convergence-in-the-Data-Center-401657/) come on to the market alongside new enabling technologies from Brocade (http://blogs.eweek.com/masked_intentions/content/infrastructure/evolving_data_center_convergence.html) and Broadcom (http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Enterprise-Networking/Broadcom-Offerings-Cover-Network-Edge-Core-607626/), the convergence of these distinct disciplines becomes inevitable. The question that solution providers have to navigate is just how far away is the inevitable?
As much as senior IT executives are likely to see new converged systems as a boon, it’s pretty clear that much of the rank and file within IT could just as easily see them as a threat. Most of the new systems allows IT personnel to manage their area of expertise as a distinct discipline within the entire system, but the systems also make it pretty clear that the entire data center operation can now also mean managed more holistically. That means instead of having a lot of specialists dedicated to multiple disciplines, the time is coming when fewer IT people will be required to manage the data center as a single IT discipline.
For solution providers, this creates a challenge where they have to promote the economic and performance virtues of these new systems without immediately alienating the IT staff.
Solution providers such as Glasshouse Technologies (http://www.glasshouse.com/index.php) have seen a marked increase in profits and managed services opportunities by focusing on data center convergence. According to Glasshouse CEO Mark Shirman, the best thing about these new disruptive technologies is that they create an impetus for change of the status quo.
But that change will take time. Right now IT organizations do not have a major appetite for capital expenditures. So the best way that many solution providers have of introducing customers to major change is by providing managed services that allow them to treat IT as an operating expense.
In the meantime, the movement towards converged data centers will continue to steadily evolve, which in turn is going to require solution providers to evolve more rapidly to stay in front of the inevitable.