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Converged Infrastructure: Challenge is to live up to the hype

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The most important values that converged infrastructure brings to the customer is simplicity, especially in the areas of operations and support. But, if you look at the market today, most of the pioneers of the converged infrastructure are in turmoil themselves. The uncertainties around VCE’s compute system, viability of NetApp as a company, the sale of IBM X-series to Lenovo and split of HP company are just some examples. Therefore, the key challenge is to live up to the hype that the industry players have built, says Sunil Chavan, Senior Director, Solutions Sales APAC, Hitachi Data Systems in an email interview with EC’s Mohd Ujaley

What trends did you witness in the converged infrastructure space in 2015?

With the focus on IT investments in public and private sector, huge business opportunity is opening up for global ICT companies to offer infrastructure and solutions in order to meet the country’s transformation needs. Converged infrastructure is a large and growing market opportunity as users are increasingly demanding simplified deployments and fewer siloed solutions.

The shift to converged infrastructure is happening fast. In 2015, global sales of converged infrastructure reached $2.1 billion in the first quarter. Converged Systems are currently at a point of maturity where the initial pain points are now addressed and the solutions are primarily positioned for mainstream adoption. Some of the key enablers for this mainstream adoption include – support for multiple hypervisors such as VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V, pre-bundled offerings for SAP HANA, Oracle and SQL Server, VDI Workloads and secure multi-tenancy and the ability to inter-operate with existing infrastructure landscape

The primary reason why companies are embracing converged infrastructure is that it allows IT to flexibly and automatically allocate resources according to application importance, performance requirements and service level agreements made between IT and the business.

By moving to a policy-based approach to management, IT is radically shifting the balance between innovation and on-going operations. Specifically, with converged infrastructure, there are capital expenditure savings related to consolidating servers and reducing port count, but the real value for many customers is the operating expenditure savings.

What’s the outlook for the converged infrastructure space segment for 2016?

The converged infrastructure market has gained significant traction in India over the past few years. As converged infrastructures scale much more easily than silo architectures, there is going to be an increased focus towards converged solutions as these solutions offer a cost effective way to centrally manage its network and storage components.

IDC estimates that total worldwide spending on converged infrastructure will hit $17.8 billion in 2016, up from $4.6 billion in 2012. Converged infrastructure will account for 12.8 per cent of total storage, server, networking and software spending by 2016, up from only 3.9 per cent in 2012. As IT complexity continues to grow, businesses recognise that converged and hyper-converged infrastructure solutions have been proven to deliver major benefits over traditional approaches to IT infrastructure management.

Addressing the market need, the Hitachi Unified Compute Platform (UCP) takes the promises of a converged infrastructure to a whole new level, with single-pane centralised management of resources, virtualisation and applications. The Hitachi Unified Compute Platform (UCP) portfolio has been expanded with new hyper-converged and converged infrastructure models that now cover customers’ needs to rapidly and more easily support core to edge IT workloads.

From enterprise demands perspective, which verticals are primarily propelling the demand for converged infrastructure?

Today, organisations are increasingly transitioning from dedicated, separate compute, networking and storage systems to converged and hyper-converged infrastructure architectures because it enables them to accelerate time to value and simplify data center management.

Converged solutions have been highly successful for Tier 1 applications, such as CRM and ERP systems, and are frequently deployed to modernise and re-platform mission critical applications, help cloud and service providers with always on services, and enable enterprises to deploy their most critical applications. At Hitachi Data Systems, we have fine-tuned our solutions around different areas like VMWare, Microsoft, SAP’s HANA, Kubernetes etc. In India, the space is growing by leaps and bounds specially in pockets like Telco, ITeS and Hitachi’s market-share has significantly expanded in last three years.

How have the technology shift such as cloud, mobility, virtualization, BYOD impacted the overall converged infrastructure space in India?

Traditional IT infrastructures have been made up of connected components, such as networking, storage, systems administration, and software. However this has been changing over the past decade, as virtualization becomes a prominent technology tying networks and servers together forcing business and IT to work more collaboratively than ever before. This has led many organisations to take a converged approach to infrastructure to help meet demands around flexible IT environments, collaboration and IT.

Technology shift such as those mentioned are here to stay and they have already made inroads to enterprises IT infrastructure. Most CIOs today already have plans for the inexorable intrusion of these technologies into their data centres. Instead of opposing the move, most enterprises have decided to embrace them in their IT infrastructure.

How HDS hyper-converged infrastructure solutions helps in transforming traditional data centers?

We recently unveiled the next generation Hitachi Hyper Scale-Out Platform (HSP), which now offers native integration with the Pentaho Enterprise Platform to deliver a sophisticated, software-defined, hyper-converged platform for big data deployments. With HSP, Hitachi continues to deliver on the promise of the software-defined datacenter to simplify the delivery of IT services through greater abstraction of infrastructure, and improved data access and automation.

The HSP system gives customers complete control of the analytic data pipeline and enterprise-grade features such as big data lineage, lifecycle management and enhanced information security. The powerful combination of technologies in the next-generation HSP appliance is designed to accelerate time to business insight and deliver rapid return on investment (ROI), while simplifying the integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT)—a strategic imperative for modern, data-driven enterprises

In addition to leveraging Hitachi expertise in enterprise data center technology, we are leading the charge to bridge IT to operational technology (OT) solutions. This approach relieves technology-based complexities and delivers total cost of ownership (TCO) savings due to major architectural transitions. It gets organizations ready for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Hitachi Social Innovation solutions.

Some of the Indian customers who have adopted the Hitachi converged solutions are Birla Cellulose, Cigniti Technologies and Detox Group

What are the major challenges that converged infrastructure space face today and how they could be overcome?

The key challenge would be living up to the hype that the industry players have built. One of the most important values that a converged infrastructure brings to the customer is simplicity, especially in the areas of operations and support. However, if you look at the market today, most of the pioneers of the converged infrastructure are in turmoil themselves. The uncertainties around VCE’s compute system, viability of NetApp as a company, the sale of IBM X-series to Lenovo and split of HP company are just some examples.

On the other hand, at HDS, we have been very focused on our UCP offerings. Over the years, we have been adding new features to the product. Besides stability as a product and company, we also offer customers a clear roadmap. Our partner ecosystem grew steadily over the years and today we have key partnerships with SAP, VMware, Oracle and Microsoft.

With HDS, customers have the confidence and assurance that their IT infrastructure is in good hands. Hitachi UCP powers their enterprise applications today and is also capable of scaling into the new frontiers such as Big Data with Hitachi HSP.

What is the value of converged infrastructure solutions for the Business-Defined Economy?

Today organisations want greater efficiencies and higher service levels, which are dictating unprecedented levels of flexibility, performance and cost reductions across IT infrastructure. Departing from traditionally non-3
converged IT environments is critical to transforming how organizations cope with future data demands and rapid application deployments. Converged infrastructure can offer a way to cost-efficiently and centrally manage compute, network and storage components, virtualization and applications. For businesses managing cloud infrastructure or considering private cloud, the promise of faster, simpler and cheaper IT is very appealing.

Along the continuum of transforming IT to embrace data growth and the nexus of technology forces is Business-Defined IT. To clear dynamic business hurdles and future-proof the data center, organizations are turning to Business-Defined IT. In this approach, IT and business stakeholders form a symbiotic relationship to achieve a single, integrated, aligned set of strategic goals and business outcomes. IT becomes an accelerant for the forward-moving enterprise, a profit center rather than a cost center, and proactively welcomes new opportunities to attain business advantage.

Business-Defined IT relies on a continuous infrastructure, which includes converged infrastructure, so that IT can focus on business core competencies such as increased workforce mobility, leaner economics and deeper informational insight. Using a combination of continuous services, policy-driven automation, and expansive levels of flexibility and access, Business- Defined IT equips organizations to fully succeed in the new information-led business reality. The right converged infrastructure will amply support these continuous demands, with enterprise-class levels of efficiency, agility, availability and performance.

A key enabler for Business Defined IT is converged solutions that are integrated with the systems and the application stack. Converged solutions are the fastest growing segment in the Hitachi Data Systems portfolio. Businesses no longer need to wait weeks or months for IT to spin up an Oracle RAC or SAP Hana platform. The integration of its orchestration software with VMware and Hyper-V, provides a software defined data center for private and public cloud. IT will begin to focus more on best of breed converged platforms, which can be customized, orchestrated, and optimized through a single pane of glass. New capabilities such as lower cost entry points, deeper integration of infrastructure and software, and the ability to nest hyper-visors will accelerate the adoption of converged and hyper-converged solutions.


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