It began soon after the term "cloud computing" was coined: How, exactly, would this new breed of IT functionality change the tried and true physical aspects of the data center?
It seems the answer to that question is becoming clearer with each new end-to-end platform from the major providers. The latest of these is HP's Converged Infrastructure solution, a coordinated set of systems, storage and turnkey data center modules designed to enhance the agility and mobility of IT infrastructure to meet the demands of rapidly changing data environments.
The package is part of the company's Instant-On Enterprise program that seeks to do away with sprawling yet largely static enterprise infrastructure in favor of interoperable pools of shared resources that can be configured and reconfigured at a moment's notice through an integrated management stack.
To that end, the package consists of elements like the new VirtualSystem, CloudSystem and AppSystem components that provide for common architecture, management and security across all three layers. For storage, the company has integrated its HP Store360 scale-out software with BladeSystem and ProLiant hardware in an effort to speed up deployment, reduce layers of administration and boost data and application access. There is also the new Server Automation 9.1 stack designed to handle lifecycle management of both physical and virtual application instances.
Undoubtedly, the trade press, abetted by the PR machines of the top platform vendors, will engage in endless analysis of the new HP infrastructure compared to similar offerings from IBM, Cisco and others. If anything, though, it's fair to look at the Converged Infrastructure solution as the model on which future data centers will be designed, according to Interarbor Solutions' Dana Gardner. Only through virtualization, hardware standardization and integrated server, storage and network management will enterprises be able to meet the challenges presented by hybrid/cloud environments, big data and the rise of mobile computing.
No data center platform is worth its salt these days without a robust energy-saving component, and here HP has delivered as well. The EcoPOD (Performance Optimized Datacenter) is a new 10,000-square-foot modular design capable of hitting an extremely efficient 1.05 Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) with certain data loads. As with most modular designs, the EcoPOD can be up and running in a matter of weeks, holding upwards of 4,400 servers while cutting upwards of 90 percent off of traditional data center space and energy requirements.
This new kind of converged data center infrastructure represents both a challenge and an opportunity for large system vendors like HP, according to Forbes.com's Quentin Hardy. On the one hand, it ushers in a lengthy and potentially lucrative building spree as enterprises try to keep pace with the changing data environment. On the other, it poses a threat to many entrenched product lines and business practices that have served the vendor community well over the past four decades.
The change, however, looks inevitable, so leading firms like HP need to start thinking out of the box before a nimble start-up gains a crucial edge.