Guest Column | October 23, 2013

What You Need To Know About Converged Infrastructure Platforms: Part 1

By Danika Alston, business value marketing manager, Eaton Power Quality Division

Converged infrastructures utilize virtualization and automation to achieve high levels of availability in a cost-effective manner. According to analyst firm IDC, the worldwide market for converged infrastructure solutions will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent between 2012 and 2016, rising from $4.6 billion to $17.8 billion. Sales of non-converged server, storage, and networking hardware, by contrast, will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just a little over 2 percent over the same period. The following benefits help explain why adoption of converged infrastructures is rising so sharply:

  • Faster, simpler deployment: Converged infrastructures are pre-integrated and tested, so they take far less time to install and configure. According the study from IDC, Hewlett-Packard (HP) converged infrastructures typically enable businesses to cut application provisioning time by 75 percent.
  • Lower costs: Converged infrastructure products usually sell for less than the combined cost of their individual components, enabling businesses to conserve capital when rolling out new solutions. Furthermore, the automated management software included with most converged infrastructure offerings decreases operating expenses by simplifying system administration. Indeed, the HP converged infrastructure users studied by IDC shifted over 50 percent of their IT resources from maintenance to innovation on average.
  • Enhanced agility: Thanks to their ease of deployment and affordability, converged infrastructures enable companies to add new IT capabilities or augment existing ones more quickly and cost-effectively.

In fact, converged infrastructures are so resilient that some information technology (IT) managers believe they can be operated safely and reliably without the assistance of uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), power distribution units (PDUs), and other power protection technologies. In reality, however, such beliefs are mistaken. Despite their resiliency, converged infrastructures require the same power protection as traditional environments for the following reasons:

  • Power protection equipment plays a key role in automatically triggering virtual machine migration processes during utility outages. Converged infrastructures execute automated failover routines only when informed that there’s a reason to do so. During utility failures, networked UPSs can provide that information by notifying downstream devices that power is no longer available. At companies without UPSs, technicians must initiate the virtual machine transfer processes manually, which is far slower and less reliable.
  • A converged infrastructure’s failover features can’t function without electrical power. Even the most sophisticated converged infrastructure can’t transfer virtual machines instantaneously. Completing the migration process takes time, and therefore power. Unless UPSs are present, however, power becomes almost immediately unavailable during utility failures, rendering a converged infrastructure’s failover capabilities useless. For example, without power there can be no networking, and without a functioning network, converged infrastructures can’t replicate virtual machines to a disaster recovery/ backup site or their hybrid cloud-based environment.
  • Converged infrastructures are vulnerable to power spikes and other electrical disturbances. Like all IT equipment, the hardware in converged infrastructures can be seriously damaged by transients, fluctuations and other power impurities. In addition, the power supplies and power factor correction solutions used by many converged infrastructure offerings require clean power for optimal performance. UPSs and PDUs have power conditioning features that shield servers, storage and networking equipment from potentially harmful electrical conditions while delivering clean, dependable power.

Companies that don’t use power protection technologies in conjunction with their converged infrastructures expose themselves to increased risk of data loss and unnecessary downtime. Providing greater flexibility in how they ensure the resilience of converged infrastructures, IT managers should treat power protection as the all-important fifth element of a complete solution, alongside servers, storage, networking and software.

Additionally, the opportunity for resellers to increase revenues by packaging power with converged infrastructure sales, and recurring revenue from managing and monitoring these systems, is vast due to the large amount of organizations viewing converged infrastructures as a cure-all for easily meeting future density requirements.