Evolution of the IT Pro (staying relevant in 2014 and beyond)

June 9th, 2014 1 comment
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Bob-the-BuilderSummary: The IT function is becoming a broker of services but, until that happens, infrastructure engineers will likely to fall into the ‘builder broker’ camp – you’ll need to be able to ‘stitch together’ different services but you’ll also need to build them and understand what’s ‘under the hood’.

For a few years now infrastructure engineers have been hearing how cloud computing is going to change their jobs, potentially putting many out of work. Plenty has been written about whether this will result in a net gain or loss of IT jobs (here, here, and here plus in one my first blogposts I talked about changing roles) but whatever your stance it’s undeniable that the nature of IT jobs will change – technology never stands still for long.

This isn’t theoretical or a shift that’ll start in ten years – changes are happening right now.

Gartner recently identified ‘IT as a service broker’ in their top ten technology trends for 2014 and I’d agree with those that say skills such as virtualisation are no longer enough. Here’s a few things I’ve being asked for in the last few months which is why I’m adding my voice to the ‘service broker’ trend;

  • Knowledge of alternative virtualisation/cloud platforms. “Should we be considering Hyper-V? Openstack? Oracle VM?”
  • How can we integrate Amazon’s VPC with our internal dev/test environments?
  • If we buy into a third parties managed services, what’s the impact on our production platform and technology roadmap?

The news columns are filling up with articles about changing skillsets;

Still not convinced? VMware’s flagship cloud product, vCAC, exists to orchestrate resources across multiple clouds from AWS, RackSpace, Azure and others so this talk of ‘brokering’ across heterogeneous systems is also where VMware see the future.

The requirement for inhouse engineering expertise isn’t going to disappear overnight so you’ve got time to adjust, but for many the future may be more about integrating services together than building them.

How do you stay relevant?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I’ve listed my opinions below although for alternative advice Steve Beaver wrote a great article for The Virtualization Practice at the end of last year (“Get off the hypervisor and into the cloud”) which mirrors my thoughts exactly. If I’d read it before writing this I probably wouldn’t have bothered!

  1. Focus on technical expertise. As the industry coalesces towards service providers and consumers the providers need the best people they can find as the impact (at scale) is magnified. Automation is a key trend for this role as self-service is a key tenet of cloud. Luckily, while ‘compute’ has already been disrupted by virtualisation both storage and network are just getting started which will generate demand for those who keep up with technology developments.
  2. Focus on becoming an IT broker. This means getting a wide knowledge of different solutions and architectures (AWS, VMware, OpenStack, understand SOA principles, federation, integration patterns etc) and know how to implement and integrate them. You’ll also have to get closer to the business and be able to translate business requirements such that you can satisfy them via the available services. Some would argue that this is crossing over to the role of a business analyst, and they may be right.

If you’re going to go deep on technology, go work for a vendor, ISP, or big IT consultancy (sooner rather than later).

If you’re going for the broker/business analyst role make sure you’re building up your business knowledge, with less focus on the low level nuts and bolts.

Pick one or the other, but don’t stand still. Taking my own advice I’ve just taken a role with a service provider. Let’s see how this plays out! :-)

Moving to pastures new – ‘old’ Jersey!

June 4th, 2014 7 comments
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St Brelade's BaySt Brelade's BaySt Brelade's BaySummary: I’m moving to a small island where I’ll be working for an offshore service provider, so my perspective (and hence my blog’s content) might change.

I’m a believer in keeping my blog professional and avoiding personal posts but it’s been a while since my last post so I thought it was worth a quick explanation. I’ve been living in London for the best part of the last 15 years but the time has come for a change of scene. My family is growing (number two is due in early September) and my wife and I had never planned to stay in London forever – so from mid July this year, it’s all change. I’m moving to Jersey in the Channel Islands - it’s where my wife’s from and where her family are, along with many friends she’s stayed in touch with. Moving from one of the largest cities in Europe (with a population of 9 million) to a small island measuring nine miles by five (population 95,000) is going to require quite a shift in thinking. Hence the lack of blogposts – kiddie number two on the way, selling our London house, buying a house in Jersey, finding a new job, and planning a relocation to another country is all pretty time consuming!
NOTE: For those that are wondering this is ‘old’ Jersey, NOT New Jersey in the US! 

Of course it also means my professional focus may shift. I’ve accepted a job with an offshore service provider so I’m moving away from my roots as an end user and moving to the other side of the fence. Will this affect my blog? Probably. I’ll still try to be objective and impartial but everyone’s opinions are formed via their experience and my day to day experience (with both customers and technology) is going to change. My new company includes vCloud, Desktone (DaaS), and Zerto (for DRaaS)  in their portfolio, all of which I’m keen to get more experience with. Jersey has a thriving business community, largely due to it’s advantageous tax regime (which is a discussion for another day) and I expect to have plenty to blog about. With a second young child, a new job, and a new country to familiarise myself with whether I have any time to blog is another matter! :-)

Despite the small geography and somewhat remote location I hope social media will keep me firmly in touch with (and part of) the community I’ve been enjoying for the last few years. Thanks for reading! :-)

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Pluralsight training – is it any good?

November 26th, 2013 4 comments
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online-trainingSummary: Pluralsight are an online training provider who offer a comprehensive and cost effective selection of training courses for a monthly fee, with no lengthy commitments. Having used the service for the last few months I’d recommend it.

PluralSight offer online-only training for technology professionals. They recently hit my radar for two reasons – they acquired the well known training provider TrainSignal, and they offered a years free subscription to vExpert’s. Prior to the TrainSignal acquisition their audience was mainly developers but they now have a good (and growing) series of infrastructure content too. Being a vExpert, this has been an unexpected perk and eventually prompted this blogpost.

The course catalogue is available online so if you’re in the market for training check it out. On the cloud computing front there’s quite a bit of good content (search the catalogue for cloud to see a full list);

  • vendor neutral courses covering topics such as cloud basics, REST, patterns of cloud integration, CompTIA cloud
  • some good AWS content including a great introduction to building distributed systems (covering many AWS components such as EC2, EBS, S3, VPS, CloudWatch etc) by Richard Serroter
  • quite a bit of (TrainSignal acquired) VMware content, including three vCloud Director courses (v1.5, v5.1, and one about organisations in particular). Nothing about vCHS yet! Authors include Jake Robinson, Chris Wahl, and David Davis
  • There’s also plenty of MS focused content including Hyper-V, using System Centre 2012 for private clouds, plus Azure fundamentals. Authors include Elias Khnaser & David Chappell
  • Google Cloud also gets some coverage from Lynn Langit

Not all categories get such good coverage though. For instance there’s only one Oracle course (which is actually about optimising SQL queries in databases, so not Oracle focused) whereas MS SQL Server gets 49 courses (and incredibly MS Sharepoint gets over 80)! Inevitably some courses are pretty out of date (XenDesktop 4, vSphere 4 etc) because someone, somewhere, might still need it and once the content exists why remove it? The quality of the courses does vary but most of the ones I’ve seen are pretty good.

Being online only they need to offer choices for user access, and they do. I’ve used Android (phone and tablet) and web access both Mac and PC) plus there’s also an iPad app and even a Windows mobile client (only some devices supported I gather). Your viewing history is retained centrally meaning you can switch devices seamlessly – start watching a course on your tablet on the train then switch to your desktop and continue where you left off when you reach the office. There’s also a variable speed option which is great for courses where you need a refresher or where your brain works faster (or slower!) than the speaker’s usual pace. Offline viewing is available but only on the higher priced subscriptions but if you spend significant periods of time  ‘off the grid’ (which is getting harder with Wifi on some flights) then it might be worth the additional cost. I found downloading courses a bit variable – downloads has a tendency freeze but clicking Pause/Resume always kicked it back into life – just remember to check it’s fully downloaded before you lose internet access (yep, lesson learned).
NOTE: I’ve found that the offline courses don’t seem to update progress centrally even once you reconnect to the internet. This can be frustrating as I watch a course on my tablet and when I go online to finish it off I have to remember where I was. A minor niggle, not a showstopper. I also couldn’t get the offline courses to work on my Samsung S3 when I used full phone encryption but besides reinstalling the Pluralsight app I didn’t troubleshoot further so it’s not a definitive diagnosis.

NOTE: Another frustration – the mobile apps don’t seem to respect your screen lock options – the Pluralsight app rotates regardless. I wanted to watch courses while running and found this very annoying. Respect your user’s choices!

This kind of online, on-demand training is perfect for contractors who Read more…

An introduction to Puppet

November 19th, 2013 No comments
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puppetPerfectly positioned to provide automation for the infrastructure providing both private and public clouds (and a darling of the burgeoning DevOps scene), Puppet has seen a groundswell of adoption in recent years. It’s undoubtedly very capable but may not be what some enterprises expect.

For those not familiar with Puppet it’s a tool which helps to automate system administration tasks. They’ve managed to build a large mindshare and strong brand recognition although it’s still a relatively small company of around 190 staff globally, headquartered out of Portland, Oregon in the US. The London based team is actively growing (interested in a job with PuppetLabs?) and the first usergroup meeting in London recently attracted 45 people at pretty short notice. Their financial results speak for themselves with year on year sales more than tripling and over 9 million downloads. Pretty impressive for a company which in 2010 only had 11 staff! They’re not the only show in town (Chef, Salt Stack, & Ansible are notable competition) but they seem to be getting the most traction.

Puppet’s success lies in the VM sprawl ushered in by virtualisation combined with the availability of cloud infrastructures which can scale rapidly and on demand. If you need to quickly spin up hundreds, maybe thousands, of servers and guarantee that their configuration is identical and correct, how would you do it?  How do you manage the rapid releases required by your software development lifecycle, especially if you’re aiming for continuous delivery? How do you deal with configuration drift in your test and development environments? This is where Puppet comes to the rescue.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Puppet as a configuration management tool since 2009 when it first popped up on my radar (maybe it was Thoughtworks Radar). At the time I was looking for tools to help deploy RedHat Linux 4.6 but sadly I didn’t opt for Puppet – in hindsight I consider that a missed opportunity! Earlier this year it was covered at the London VMUG and I’ve recently had conversations with PuppetLabs staff both at VMworld Europe (Jose Palafox) and in the UK (Steve Thwaites). Have a read of the official PuppetLab intro then continue reading to get my initial thoughts.

Puppet comes in two flavours Read more…

VMworld 2013 Barcelona wrapup

October 28th, 2013 2 comments
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2013-10-14 10.29.38Summary: Some new (and actually exciting) announcements, some good conversations about the challenges VMware face in the next few years, and business as usual in the solutions exchange, HOL, and general sessions. Still a conference worth attending!

As I’ve done for the last couple of years (2012, 2011, 2010) I recently attended VMworld Europe, which was in Barcelona for the second year. As you can see from my photo on the right, it looks much the same as last year (unsurprisingly)! Blue skies, warm weather, and a large conference venue stocked to the gills with techies and technology…

The keynotes

IMG_2596

VMware’s timeline – what will it say in a couple of years time?

As is the case every year I’ve been the keynotes are largely a repeat of the US sessions with a few additions to keep the masses happy. Typically it’s management products that get announced at Europe although this year I’m glad to say they felt more substantial than previous years (a full list can be found on the official VMworld blog);

  • vCAC v6.0 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year) including vFabric Application Director and integration with Puppet.
  • Log Insight v1.5 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
  • vCOPs v5.8 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
  • In the EUC space VMware announced the acquisition of Desktone, a ‘desktop-as-a-service’ company. Given the complexity of VDI I think this has a lot of potential to increase adoption.
  • vCHS to launch in the UK in Q1 2014. The vCHS Online Marketplace was also launched although I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet.

nsxThe vCAC integration with vFabric Application Director and Puppet look like great additions (and allowed VMware to jump on the DevOps bandwagon) and the announcment that vCHS will be available in the UK early next year is welcome. NSX conversations were a recurring theme throughout the four days – everyone agrees that it looks good but also agrees that adoption faces quite a few challenges and the fact that pricing is a per-VM model won’t help. I’m no longer quite as grumpy or pessimistic as I was after VMworld US but I still think VMware are in for a tough few years. Read more…

Categories: Cloud, Storage, VMware Tags:

Nexus7 tablet power issues resolved

October 28th, 2013 No comments
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Nexus-teardown-smallLast year while attending Gestalt IT’s SFD#2 I was lucky enough to be given a Nexus7 tablet by Asigra. For the last year it’s served me well but about a month ago I started to have issues whereby it wouldn’t charge properly and even leaving it plugged in overnight didn’t charge it to 100%. I ignored it for a while until it finally died completely and wouldn’t charge at all.

At that point I did what everyone does and resorted to Google. Power issues on the Nexus7 tablets (both 2012 & 2013 models) are a pretty common issue and after I ran through the standard ‘my tablet won’t charge’ steps  I rang Google to get a replacement as it was only 10 months old. They advised that I needed the email address used to buy the device if I wanted to claim on the warranty. This was complex as it was given to me by a US based company and futhermore they said even if I could find the contact I’d have to return the tablet to the US and pay for shipping both ways. For a tablet that cost £150 new and which has already been superseded that hardly seemed worth it.

Faced with a dead tablet I figured I had nothing to lose so I thought I’d try replacing the battery and hope that was the fault. It turns out it’s pretty easy to do (unlike Apple kit which is nigh on impossible to fix) and batteries can be found cheap on Ebay (often from tablets with broken screens). Luckily for me I didn’t get as far as replacing it – I simply unplugged the battery and reconnected it as firmly as I could and hey presto, I was back in business. The tablet started charging again and I’ve since found that it charges much quicker (<4hrs from 0% to 100%) and even seems to last longer in standby. Maybe my battery has always had a slightly dodgy connector – it’s cheaper than Apple kit for a reason I suspect!

Motto of the day – give it a try and you might get lucky! Be aware that taking off the cover may invalidate your warranty so use at your own risk!

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VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

October 16th, 2013 1 comment
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vcap-dcdSummary: A good book which is ideal for those new to design with plenty of real world examples and exam preparation tips.

I’ve been meaning to take my VCAP5-DCD certification for a couple of years but still haven’t made the required time available.  I attended the Design Workshop (last year) and was lucky enough to have Paul McSharry as my instructor – I’d not met him previously but I was familiar with his work through his website (www.elasticsky.co.uk) and via Twitter.

Now Paul’s written the official VMware Press certification guide to the VCAP5-DCD exam. This book takes a slightly different approach compared to other study resources as it includes a practice test and considers the mental transition a VCP-DCV certified engineer might need to make when moving into design. To quote Paul;

I decided to approach the guide with the mindset of a VCP5-DCV qualified engineer who has yet to complete a full design.

 How do you make the transition from engineer to architect? Whats the process? 

I like the format of the book and found Paul’s writing style to be very easy to read. In many ways the VCAP5-DCD is a less technical exam compared to the VCAP5-DCA but there are some concepts which can be hard to wrap your brain around if you’re used to an operational focus (which I am). There has been plenty of discussion on the web around functional vs non-functional, logical vs physical designs, and constraints, risks, assumptions, and requirements and Paul’s book tackles them all pretty well.

One thing you’ll notice when you look at the contents page is Read more…

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VMware certification exams – 50% discounts (2013 offer)

October 14th, 2013 13 comments
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defy-conventionIf you’re in the market to take a VMware certification exam, there’s some good news – provided you’re quick. For the next couple of days (while VMworld Barcelona is running, Oct 14th-17th 2013) you can book the VCP and VCAP exams at a cool 50% offeven if you’re not at the conference! For VCP that’s a saving of approx £50 and more like £200 for the VCAP exams! If you want to blitz some of the new certification tracks recently announced you’re not limited to just one – study your little legs off and you could save even more by taking multiple exams….

The codes you need to register with are;

  • VWBAR50 – for the VCP exams (VCP-DV, VCP-DT,VCP-Cloud,VMware IaaS, VMware View)
  • VWADVBAR50 – for the VCAP exams (VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-CID, VCAP-CIA, VCAP-DTD)

UPDATE 15th Oct: There is also a code for the new VCA exams (completely free) which looks to be good until the end of the month (October 2013).
CORRECTION 15th Oct: I incorrectly stated the VCAP code as VMADVBAR50, which has now been corrected (as above).

Conditions:

  • You MUST book the exam while VMworld Barcelona is running. You don’t have to be attending the conference, it’s just the period of time the offer is valid.
  • You MUST take the exam by the end of the year.

What are you waiting for? Head over to VMware Certification and get registered certification junkies!

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

Storage Field Day #4 – who will you see?

October 8th, 2013 No comments
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I'll-be-backFollowing on from last year when I attended Storage Field Day #2 I’m glad to say I’ve been invited back to San Jose this year for SFD #4, happening Nov 13th-15th. I enjoyed the experience last year and learnt a lot so while it’s another four days out of the office (and two long haul flights) I believe it’s time well spent. Of course I’m not the main attraction – below I provide a quick summary of the sponsors as it gave me a good excuse to go look up the ones I was less familiar with (the official event page also lists them). These are my thoughts based on a quick look at vendor websites so I’m happy to be corrected! Nimble Storage, Proximal Data, and Virident are attending VMworld Barcelona so I’ll have a chance to get some information in advance;

Avere Systems – a NAS hybrid storage array with a difference as it’s designed to work as accelerated networked storage in front of ‘legacy’ storage arrays and includes unusual features (for a storage array) such as WAN acceleration and storage migration functions. It also offers storage virtualisation and a global namespace. A less common use case maybe?

Cleversafe – an object storage solution designed for large scale storage requirements (first mention of Big Data during my investigations) – if you don’t have 10PB these guys aren’t what you need. You know RAID and replication techniques? That won’t help you here. Cleversafe uses ‘dispersed’ storage and erasure codes (which I need to learn more about) and sells via hardware appliances.

CloudByte – Their flagship product, ElastiStor, is a ZFS based software only product which offers storage virtualisation, linear scalability, and storage QoS. Potentially comparable to Nexenta (although they don’t offer QoS to my knowledge)? Software only, scalable, ability to use commodity hardware – what’s not to like? There’s also a free trial which works up to 4TB – lab time here we come…

CohoData (previously Convergent.io) – As a startup company who have yet to launch its hard to know exactly what they do. The founders were behind the creation of the Xen hypervisor back in the late 90s – these guys have serious pedigree.
From their website “an integrated storage and networking model that abstracts configuration and functionality from the underlying hardware while making use of innovative storage networking integration and high-performance, commodity hardware to help customers realize the vision of a software-defined datacenter“. Buzzword bingo? Another Nutanix or Simplivity? Time will tell.

GridStore – They’ve recently changed direction from scale out NAS to focus on performance enhancement by resolving the I/O blender problem created by virtualisation. In this respect it seems to do for Hyper-V (and Windows in general) what Virsto offers for VMware although it also offers storage QoS per VM. Like others it’s a ‘software defined storage’ product that’s bundled as an appliance (apparently for support purposes).

Nimble Storage – offer a hybrid storage array using a CASL architecture. These guys presented at SFD2 and seem to have seen good growth. It’ll be interesting to see what’s new – I’m guessing they’ll cover some of their SmartStack reference architectures with maybe a mention of InfoSight and NimbleConnect.

Overland Storage – Many of the SFD sponsors are startups but Overland were founded in 1980 and as a global company it’s hard to know which product from their portfolio they’ll be covering. I’d guess at SnapScale X4, a unified (NAS & iSCSI), scalable storage cluster which was released recently.

Oxygen Cloud – Dropbox on steroids with end to end encryption, AD/LDAP authentication, and easy sharing. Rather than being just ‘cloud’ storage Oxygen Cloud offers a storage service which abstracts away the underlying storage implementation, allowing you to use multiple vendors and locations (including your own) transparently. Interesting but there’s a big challenge overcoming Dropbox’s brand awareness.

Proximal Data – Their product is Autocache which offers intelligent server side caching embedded in the (VMware only) hypervisor. There is tough competition in this area notably from VMware’s recently released vFRC and Pernix Data’s FVP product which hit the scene with a splash a few months ago (Pernix presented at SFD3). I like the fact the company name is relevant so I can easily remember what they do!

Virident (now Western Digital) – makers of PCI-E server flash storage solutions, very much in competition with the market leading Fusion-IO. Recently acquired by Western Digital (Sept 2013). Unlike Proximal the server side flash is used as an adjunct to main memory (containing the working set of the application) rather than as an I/O cache.

As always you can watch the sessions live over the Internet (via the TechFieldDay website) and interact via social media (Twitter hashtag #SFD4).

Further Reading

Luca Dell’Oca has a similar post with some extra details

Categories: Storage Tags: ,

Converged infrastructure: an introduction

September 9th, 2013 No comments
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For the last couple of years adoption of ‘converged infrastructure’ has been on the rise but until recently it wasn’t something I’d needed to understand beyond general market awareness and personal curiosity. I was familiar with some of the available solutions (in particular VCE’s vBlock and Netapp’s Flexpod) but I also knew there were plenty of other converged solutions which I wasn’t so familiar with. When the topic was raised at my company I realised that I needed to know more.

Google research quickly found a converged infrastructure primer at Wikibon which had the quotable “Nearly 2/3rds of the infrastructure that supports enterprise applications will be packaged in some type of converged solution by 2017“. The Wikibon report is well worth a read but it didn’t quite answer the questions I had, so I decided to delve into the various solutions myself. Before I continue I’ll review what’s meant by ‘converged infrastructure’ with a Wikipedia definition;

Converged infrastructure packages multiple information technology (IT) components into a single, optimized computing solution. Components of a converged infrastructure solution include servers, data storage devices, networking equipment and software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration.

In a series of blogposts over the coming months I’m planning to summarize the converged offerings from various vendors including VCE, Netapp, HP, Oracle, IBM, Dell, Hitachi. If I find time I’ll also cover the newer ‘hyperconverged’ offerings from Nutanix, Scale Computing, Pivot3 and Simplivity. This is largely for my own benefit and as a record of my thoughts – there’s quite a bit of material out there already so it may turn into a compilation of links. I don’t want to rediscover the wheel!

Q. Will this series of blogposts tell you which converged solution you should choose?
A. Nope. There are many factors behind these decisions and I (unfortunately) don’t have real world experience of them all.

CI solutions vary considerably in their degree of convergence and use cases. Steve Chambers (previously of VCE, now CanopyCloud) has a good visualisation of the various solutions on a ‘convergence’ scale. If you haven’t read it already I’d strongly recommend you do so before continuing.

Why converged infrastructure?

Before I delve into the solutions let’s have a look at some factors which are common to them all – there’s no point looking at any solution unless you know how it’s going to add value.

  • Management. The management and orchestration tools are often what add real value to these solutions and that’s typically the component that people aren’t familiar with. Run a POC to understand how effective these new tools are. Do they offer and API?
  • Simplicity – validated architectures, preconfigured and integrated stacks of hardware and software, and built in automation all promise to ease the support burden of deploying and operating infrastructure. Who do you call to resolve problems? Will you be caught between vendors blaming each others components or is there a single point of contact/resolution? While a greenfield deployment may be simpler, if you add it to the existing mix (rather than as a replacement) then you’ve added complexity to your environment, and potentially increased your TCO rather than reduced it. Changes to existing processes may also impact job roles – maybe you won’t need a storage admin for example – which can be a benefit but may require considerable change and entail uncertainty for existing staff.
  • Flexibility – Is deploying a large block of compute/network/storage granular enough for your project? Many vendors are now producing a range of solutions to counter this potential issue. While deployment may be quicker, consider ongoing operations – because the engineered systems need to be validated by the vendor you may not be able to take advantage of the newest hardware or software releases, including security patches. For example Oracle’s Exalogic v2, released in July 2012, ships with Linux v5 despite v6 being released in February 2011. The CPU’s were Intel’s Westmere processors (launched in Jan 2011) instead of the E5 Romley line which were released in March 2012. This isn’t just Oracle – to varying degrees this will hold true for any ‘engineered’ system.
  • Interoperability. Can you replicate data to your existing infrastructure or another flavour of converged infrastructure? What about backups, monitoring etc – can you plumb them into existing processes and tools? Is there an API?
  • Risk. CI solutions can reduce the risk of operational issues – buy a 100 seat VDI block which has been designed and pretested for that purpose and you should be more confident that 100 users can work without issue. But what if your needs grow to 125 VDI users? Supplier management is also a factor – if a single vendor is now responsible for compute, networks, and storage, vendor lock in becomes more significant but consolidating vendors can also be a benefit.
  • Cost. CI is a great idea and easy to grasp concept but there’s no such thing as a free lunch – someone is doing the integration work (both software and hardware) and that has to be paid for. CI solutions aren’t cheap and tend to have a large initial outlay (although Oracle have recently announce a leasing scheme which some are sceptical of!) so may be more suited to greenfield sites or larger projects. TCO is a complex issue but also bear in mind support costs – engineered systems can be expensive if you need to customize them after deployment. CI system’s integrated nature may affect your refresh cycle and have an impact on your purchasing process.
  • Workload. Interestingly virtualisation promised a future where the hardware didn’t matter but the current bundling of CI solutions could be seen as a step backwards (as eloquently described by Theron Conrey in this blogpost ‘Is converged infrastructure a crutch?‘). There’s an interesting trend of extending the convergence through to the application tier as seen in Oracle’s Exadata/Exalogic, VCE’s’specialised’ solutions (SAP Hana etc) and Netapp’s Flexpod Select solutions. This promises certification/validation through the entire stack but does raise an interesting situation where the application teams (who are closer to the business) increasingly influence infrastructure decisions…

There’s a thought provoking article at Computer Weekly discussing modular datacentres which takes the converged concept even further. Why bolt together building blocks in your datacentre when you can buy a complete datacentre in a box. Convergence on a larger scale! Next thing you know they’ll be using shipping containers for datacentres… :-)

Further Reading

Converged infrastructure primer (Wikibon)

Management of converged infrastructures (the Virtualization Practice)

Engineers Unplugged session on hyperconverged infrastructure (7 mins)

The Future of Convergence think tank (2hr video)

EMC’s white paper “Time for Converged Infrastructure?” – some good points but with an obvious bias

Containerized datacenters – is a box a good fit?

Converged infrastructure and Object Oriented programming

The state of Converged infrastructure (Zenoss 2013 survey results)