My sense is that you've heard it all before.
You know that you can “lower cost of ownership and greater flexibility to meet more business demands” and that you can “deploy pre-validated, factory-tested configurations in weeks instead of months…”, right?
I’m sure you have been told by now that “converged infrastructure delivers faster outcomes through simpler IT.”
You certainly must have already heard that the goal is to make “IT infrastructure invisible” and build out an architecture “that delivers the agility and economics of the public cloud.”
And, heck, you may already be aware that you need a “modern IT infrastructure” with converged systems that can help “accelerate your digital transformation” as you prepare for a very different future.
What’s interesting to me is that those quotes come from the websites of HPE, EMC, Nutanix and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) – and I’m sure others could easily be added. And largely, they are interchangeable. Aren’t they?
So what now? What does it mean?
Does it mean that converged infrastructure value is all marketing-team (not engineering-team) generated? Does it mean that there’s no differentiation between vendors? Does it mean that – to hearken back Nicholas Carr – converged infrastructure doesn’t matter?
No. I don’t think it means any of those things, specifically, but each of those issues offers something to think about.
The bottom line – for me, at least – is that converged infrastructure solutions are simply the new building blocks of IT. Some offer more flexibility. Some offer more granularity of scale. Some are easier to gang together to create a big pool of resources. Some start out as a large pool of resources.
But the common factor is that there’s the trifecta-plus of capabilities: storage, networking and compute PLUS (one hopes) some unique integration, management and data protection to tie it all together. (And an even larger PLUS, are the forward looking solutions that add the real value to the business. We'll get back to that in a bit.)
This converged "trifecta" testing and packaging – ALONE – provides significant value. It is why so many of the first-level marketing messages you hear from vendors sound similar. It is easier to deploy. It certainly should be easier to manage. Etc.
Of course, implementations matter and the underlying components create real differences in how the systems perform in the real world. Though, that can be hard to ascertain for many who are looking at the solutions.
So how does one get clarity in such a market? My humble recommendation? First, sort out which solutions to take seriously. Second, pretend converged infrastructure actually DOES NOT matter and focus on what does…
Find Solutions To Take Seriously
Starting with external market data and perspectives are a good way to get a quick assessment of which converged infrastructure solution providers are worthy contenders for time and attention.
First, get an industry-level perspective…
- The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Systems (see it here) document - arguably the gold-standard of market landscape reviews - is a very useful place to start. It includes important Gartner advice on how to use the information it contains. To keep it simple, I'd also offer: a) Is your potential vendor included in the analysis? B) How does the vendor rank and has it had a positive trajectory of change over the years? C) … probably most importantly… What does Gartner SAY about the vendor’s offerings and do the vendor's strengths match with your use cases and needs?
Second, since all vendors talk about economics and agility, seek out third-party validation of vendors’ claims. Hopefully all vendors should have something that was driven by reputable 3rd party vendors, here are two very good reads that looked at Hitachi converged system environments.
- IDC undertook an extensive project (see the paper here, and webinar here) that interviewed HDS Unified Compute Platform (UCP) customers ranging from 80 to 35,000 employees to get a better understanding of the business value of a Hitachi converged infrastructure solution. Using IDC’s well established research methodologies, the detailed study shows an average of 360% five-year ROI and significant improvements in both reduced cost and increased revenues. And, not surprisingly for those of you who have used Hitachi before, they found customers saw 100% up-time with their UCP systems.
- The Edison Group conducted a somewhat similar analysis (paper here) of economic impact and total cost of acquisition/ownership, comparing business-as-usual IT environments, VCE environments and UCP. This was done leveraging customer data/interviews, HDS economics modeling and Edison Group’s own internal and historical data models. Bottom line: over a five-year period, UCP customers realized per-virtual-machine savings of 38% over a do-it-yourself approach and 19% over VCE.
Third, and you probably don't need to vendor guidance on this, is to talk to - and interrogate the use cases of - other users. Users can tell you what sits behind the marketing. Does a system scale like the marketing suggests? Are they comfortable rolling mission critical production apps onto the system? Here are some HDS customers to get you started.
- Czech bank, Raiffeisenbank. The bank used unique feature features of Hitachi hardware to find new cost savings on Oracle databases, saving 65% in TCO, while loading a critical data warehouse 50% faster. The impact: “The data warehouse is more powerful, the users are more satisfied and the bank is able to meet regulatory requirements as well as to be more agile in responding to business and market developments…”
- Turkish Electricity Supplier, Enerjisa. After a week long migration, the critical systems are ran 1.5 times faster and the company believes “The HDS solution has also made us more profitable.”
- Global leader in technology services and consulting, Infosys. This video walks through how Infosys deployed the world’s largest HANA single instance environment with Hitachi and our converged technologies.
- Minnesota (USA) based check-printing and financial services company, Deluxe. A model of digital transformation, this check-printing institution leverage a modern cloud infrastructure based on Hitachi UCP to power new business models and new relevancy in the digital realm.
There are plenty more, but you get the idea.
Between the market content, the 3rd party economic impact work and real customer stories, you can start to determine which vendors offer converged infrastructure for your critical environments. We certainly think we've earned a place on most customers' lists.
Converged Infrastructure Doesn’t Matter
The second suggestion I had was to look at your choices with the underlying idea that, in reality, these systems don’t matter. While I believe the above research will start to show differences on production-ready systems, mission-critical services and better technology, if we think (pretend for a moment?) that it makes no difference at all, there’s a bigger question at hand: so what?
You KNOW you’ll move to more converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. You can assess different vendor technologies. That's great.
But what SOLUTION is being delivered? What vendor is relating the converged infrastructure to your business issue in a unique way that helps your business? Who is helping you get your arms around the vastly growing pool of enterprise, social and IoT data you are struggling to get value out of?
I cannot promise that HDS is always that vendor, but I CAN promise that we are working hard to be.
We are aligning with our parent company Hitachi Ltd. and its massive industrial and operational technology prowess. We are expanding our partnerships. We are co-innovating with our customers to deliver the vertical solutions that drive better business and a unique solutions that can better a society. Yes, some of this is IoT. When the direction and solutions impact and improve the greater community, we call it Social Innovation.
It starts with taking a different view of what solutions we can build for you and how we can challenge assumptions to provide better solutions. There are many examples of our new thinking and focus. One of our thought leaders has started a five part series of blogs on our HDS Community to show the way technology powers the data that will help create better business decisions and better businesses. Part One is here and while it’s pretty heady stuff, but wait until you get to part three that posits that the value in your latent enterprise data is similar to chaos theory or the butterfly effect. And Debi is one of a growing number of HDS leaders who is focused on helping our customers think about their data differently.
Does the converged infrastructure “matter” in this level of solution thinking? Well, in a practical “ensure it runs well” scenario, sure. But at the level of unleashing the power of your DATA for business betterment, the system may matter a lot less than the solution.
As Hitachi, we want to focus on how we can help you build your enterprise data strategy. Understanding applications will matter. Understanding your business will matter. And leveraging our sister companies and partners to bring unique business solutions will be part of our daily value to you.
So, Where To Now?
Converged systems, despite similar high-level messages, do indeed differ in meaningful ways. Researching and understanding how and where is critical and most large enterprises are becoming expert at separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of technology and delivery capabilities of their vendors. (Last year that type of differentiation translated into a significant portion of our 40+% year-over-year growth in our UCP business.)
But after you do that research, do one more exercise that pretends the technology differences don’t matter.
Think through if you are working with vendors that bring you something more. Because if you are not working with someone that can co-innovate with you to build data-centric solutions relevant to solving business challenges or capturing new opportunities, the technical differentiation really won’t matter.
Your digital transformation demands this level of thinking. Hitachi is ready to help.