In the hardware world, it's harder to convince end users the technical challenge is worth the effort, if they don't understand the advantages of virtual I/O, Thompson says. Neither Aprius nor Xsigo has made as much progress as it wanted to along those lines, company spokespeople said.
Packaging virtual I/O and innovative server design has been much easier for HP and Cisco, whose pre-fab virtual infrastructures allow customers to buy chunks of servers in the number they want and install them collectively, rather than building up one chassis at a time.
"We make the whole blade system enclosure look like one server to the outside world," according to Gary Thome, VP of strategy and architecture for Hewlett-Packard's Industry Standard Servers and Software group. "Instead of having to unbox everything and look at the MAC address on the NICs before you can configure anything, you can do all these complex network configurations from a console and decide how many Ethernet or Fibre Channel connections you want on the server and allocate how much bandwidth each one gets."
HP and Cisco Play Cost, Complexity Angles
The approach has been successful for both HP and Cisco, attracting customers who want to build out virtual infrastructures and understand the complexity of doing so, according to an April IDC report on Cisco's Data Center roadmap.
Both companies are still fighting the perception that blade servers--which make up only 15% of the total market--are more expensive than other servers and that consolidated infrastructure products would be more expensive still, the report says.
Buying integrated chunks of data center is less expensive than buying each server and component separately, however, according to Paul Durzan, director of product management for Cisco's Server Access and Virtualization Group.
"In the past you'd want two Ethernet, and two Fibre Channel connections per server, which adds up to about $45,000 per chassis in switch costs," Durzan says. "One chassis with Fabric Extenders is going to cost around $70,000 for one chassis, but the extenders are only $4,000. For two chassis it's $74,000; for three it's $78,000."
HP's approach also costs less in total, and saves costs in power and support. "It's the exact opposite of what you might think," Thome says.
A June IDC report in which IDC analysts interviewed three HP customers found Converged Infrastructure systems cut administration and support time as much as 30%.
More important than support or total-systems cost, however, is the ability to scale to support ever-larger virtual infrastructures and reassign resources such as storage, bandwidth or even memory according to need, rather than physical location, according to Sumit Dhawan, vice president of product marketing for Citrix XenDesktop.