May 21, 2013, 11:50 AM — When the first murmurs of "converged" infrastructure -- or what we refer to at ESG as integrated compute platforms, or ICP -- reached my pessimistic ears, I immediately thought, "Here we go again." What was old is now new -- just another in a long line of examples of the IT industry rebuilding the mainframe.
That's what VMware amounted to: "We can make one physical machine look like 13!" Isn't that exactly what the mainframe did all those hundreds of years ago? As a matter of fact, the word "virtual" nearly always amounts to this same idea: Make something look like more -- but actually execute on less. Less physical kit, that is.
Why? Because less is better. Less stuff to run equals less stuff to break, less power to consume, less space to buy or lease, less, less, less. Less makes sense. IT people love less. And yes, having less vendors to deal with would be welcomed.
An ICP is theoretically designed to give you less of the things you don't want (headaches), and is optimized to execute more of the things you do want (transactions, revenue, time savings, etc.).
And so I've been watching. I have watched the likes of Hewlett-Packard push the notion of converged infrastructure. Initially, HP wanted a way to sell more of its own stuff when selling other pieces of its own stuff. Eventually, this worked, because it provided more value to the customer -- easier-to-implement kit, with one throat to choke when something goes wrong. And the customer thinks, "Now that I've got a standard bill of materials, I can start to optimize for certain application environments or cloud-type functions." What's not to like?
In a similar vein, VCE, the joint venture between EMC, Cisco and VMware, has been building massive consolidated systems for equally massive production environments. That gives customers the ability to collapse down a ton of infrastructure silos into large, powerful integrated systems -- preconfigured and optimized for VMware environments.
Then there's NetApp and Cisco in the midmarket with FlexPod, and EMC's VSPEX.
IBM is in the game, as is Dell. Several startups, including Nutanix and Simplivity, are building purpose-built collapsed stacks.
And guess what: It's taking hold.
Customers are clearly seeing the benefit of "collapsed kit." (I'm going to use as many phrases for the same concept as I can until one sticks!) As a matter of fact, I'd say the market has now moved from "vendor push" to "customer pull." That means the market isn't happening just because of all those vendors and their nifty pitches any longer -- customers have started to demand more and more converged kit.
Now, there are three ways to play in the ICP world: do it yourself (buy up all the pieces and put it together on your own), leverage a reference architecture, or buy it turnkey.