To get the best performance and capabilities, organizations have traditionally bought the biggest or best servers, storage and networking equipment they could afford. They then configured all of the components from the various vendors to work together.
That was challenging even in the good old days, but with virtualization, it’s really become a chore. Virtual systems are more complex and interdependent, and IT departments need specialized skill sets just to keep everything working.
Converged infrastructure (CI) packages multiple IT components into a single, optimized technology framework to centralize infrastructure management, increase automation and simplify system orchestration. CIs that use virtualization provide many benefits. They eliminate IT silos and hardware sprawl, simplify IT management, increase resource utilization, improve system agility and reduce costs.
There are many products that are touted as converged infrastructure solutions, but not all of them are created equal. Here are six features that I consider essential for any CI solution:
- Standardization: Standardization facilitates faster deployment and easier scaling. It’s a building block for cloud and hosting services. Look for a repeatable framework that can start small and grow as your needs increase. Using a single vendor also provides one source for technical and account support.
- Automation: With CI, all the pieces should work together to eliminate interoperability and compatibility SNAFUs. The system should automate many tasks, such as deploying applications and resources. You should click a few buttons and let the system perform the work for you, ensuring that virtual machines are properly assigned processing, storage, network access and backup.
- Unified monitoring and administration: Simple IT administration is the name of the game with CI. There should be one tool that can access data about availability, performance and events for virtualization, storage, networks and security. A single pane of glass lets you take a holistic system management approach.
- High convergence: Your CI system should converge the entire infrastructure—servers, storage and networking—to achieve the maximum benefit. It should integrate with your hypervisor, and either provide virtualization management or integrate with the management tools from your hypervisor vendor. Ideally, it also includes backup and replication to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery.
- Integration: One of the major barriers to CI is the financial loss of scrapping your current equipment. Look for a system that either allows you to use existing equipment (e.g. using servers for processing or incorporating storage devices) or can support existing equipment (e.g. back up existing systems). Then, you can migrate gradually, picking the low-hanging fruit first, such as customers who are due for a hardware refresh or those deploying new technologies such as virtual desktops or cloud storage.
- Turnkey solution: Agility and simplicity are the goals with any IT infrastructure. Look for an out-of-the-box solution that can be rapidly deployed. This lets you deploy new infrastructure or add capacity in hours instead of days/weeks. Once the solution is in place, you can rapidly provision resources for your customers or even spin up trial VMs as part of your sales cycle.
Converged infrastructure is an optimal approach for dealing with the increasingly complex IT environments needed by IT providers and hosting services. By finding the right solution, you can achieve maximum profitability and customer responsiveness.
Richard Reiffer is Vice President of Cloud Services at Zenith Infotech and CEO of Global Cloud Consulting. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of Talkin' Cloud's annual platinum sponsorship.