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FCW : November and December 2014
38 program, which includes blueprints to support enterprise data centers, branch offices, applications and vertical industry requirements. Other choices include the FlexPod reference architecture, which combines NetApp unified storage systems, Cisco Unified Computing System servers and Cisco Nexus networking fabric. The blueprint enables organizations to tailor a FlexPod unit to meet their specific needs and then easily scale the solution as demands change. The validated designs provide a range of choices for hypervisors, operating systems, applications and infrastructure software. EMC VSPEX offers sizing and scale guidelines for solutions based on Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere virtualization technologies, along with EMC unified storage and backup solutions. Related solutions provide documentation for desktop virtualization using Citrix XenDesktop and VMware vSphere. Workloads Lead the Way Either a preconfigured solution or a reference architecture is a valid path to a converged infrastruc ture, but a decision about which to choose isn’t the first step in the implementation journey. Instead, industry analysts recommend that IT managers first determine which workloads would benefit most from a converged solution. Bowker says a large number of today’s converged systems support virtual desktop infrastruc tures (VDIs). Other top application choices include systems for customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, unified communications and collaboration and Microsoft SharePoint. Speed of implementation is one reason why converged systems are so attrac tive for these types of applications. Lockyer describes a Florida-based chief technology officer who had been directed to implement a VDI infrastructure within a three- month time frame. “ He didn’t have the expertise in-house to decide which hardware and software would work best or to integrate everything for optimal performance,” Lockyer says. “Besides, his people were already working to their fullest capacity on other projects. So he went with a converged infrastructure solution, because he could drop it in quickly and meet the requirements for performance and availability.” Once IT managers identify a target workload or application, they can narrow the technology choices by considering the service levels that will be required, initially and over time, given estimated growth projections. “ Don’t start with the box; start with what requirements you are seeking for your applications and your services,” says Campbell. “Then determine what your must- haves are in terms of security and uptime. It’s about being app-centric.” Next, IT administrators should evaluate the management tools available with each solution. “ Management will be one of the most important trends in converged infrastructures in the coming year,” Bowker says. HP OneView displays electronic dashboards to help IT managers monitor and adjust server, network and storage resources. “ The tool enables push-button deployments to stand up servers in record time without a lot of manual intervention,” Campbell explains. “And it can manage heterogeneous environments, including those with VMware and Microsoft virtualization technologies.” VCE’s platforms come with VCE Vision Intelligent Operations software, which acts as a mediation layer for sending data between Vblock systems and existing data center management tools providing a single view of the entire converged infrastructure. The technology has native integration with management products from VMware and also supports integration into other standard industry tools via an application programming interface. “The approach we took was to provide a tool that would enable organizations not only to view Vblock Systems, but also allow them to transition to a new management model when it makes sense,” Lockyer says. Leading tools do more than just control the converged environment. “ It’s best to use the same provisioning, management, monitoring and reporting tools for the converged infrastruc ture and for cloud resources,” Bowker says. BEYON D CONVERGENCE For an IT operation looking to improve its efficiency, what could be better than a converged infrastruc ture? How about hyperconvergence? A handful of growing companies, including Nutanix, SimpliVity and Scale Computing, offer highly engineered appliances that take converged infrastruc ture a step further. Many existing converged solutions accelerate performance and simplify implementations by combining computing power with traditional storage systems. But in the hyperconvergence approach, each resource is managed as a separate entity. “ Hyperconvergence brings together the data layer and the server layer with the hypervisor in a single X86 platform,” says Mark Bowker, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. For example, each Nutanix node runs an industry-standard hypervisor and a proprietary controller virtual machine, which handles all input-output operations for the local hypervisor, according to the company. The appliance makes a pool of storage capacity available to each virtual machine. The tighter integration does away with traditional storage area networks or network-attached storage and attempts to improve input-output performance. “ CIOs can snap these building blocks together to build an integrated solution on an x86 platform,” Bowker says. CONVERGED INFRASTRUCTURE 36-39 GSO145298.indd 3 9/23/14 11:29 AM