Apr 15 2014

The Value of Converged Infrastructure

Security, management and efficiency are just a few of the benefits CI can deliver.

Although converged infrastructure is a relatively new concept, many companies have already deployed CI solutions, at least on a limited scale. Thus, the benefits and value of CI can be measured.

A study conducted by Forrester Research for HP found that 37 percent of survey respondents reported saving between 5 percent and 10 percent on their overall IT budgets using CI. Another 15 percent of respondents said they saved between 11 percent and 20 percent overall. The study also determined that larger CI deployments tended to return larger benefits than smaller deployments.

Most companies that responded to the survey found savings in the areas of power consumption, storage management, new system configuration, patching system firmware and virtual machine management. In addition, 60 percent of the respondents found that deploying new software and hardware within a CI environment took either slightly less or significantly less time than with a traditional architecture, in which IT assets had to be pushed out to a large network or even installed by hand on multiple machines.

The Physical Benefits of Convergence

The benefits of CI begin with the physical infrastructure. Many machines are combined into one system, or at least fewer systems. Thus, CI takes up less floor space — sometimes dramatically less — than a sprawling IT environment.

According to the Forrester survey, companies have successfully moved web, Java, middleware, print, file, Domain Name System and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol servers into a CI environment. Databases, email, messaging, collaboration, enterprise resource planning and even mission-critical applications were also consolidated. In a few cases, companies even consolidated Big Data applications along with the terabytes of information that drive them. The reduction in physical space requirements that organizations see with converged infrastructure often is accompanied by savings in other areas. With fewer machines running, power consumption frequently decreases. Cooling also tends to be more efficient, further reducing energy consumption. With fewer cables and fewer devices vying for IP addresses, networking is simplified. In some cases, an infrastructure that previously took up a cavernous data center floor can be moved to a smaller room supporting the CI.

A converged infrastructure also eliminates the need for an organization’s IT department to make sure that different components will work together. A CI provider pre-integrates each component of the solution, certifying that the pieces work together and reducing the potential for problems down the line.

CI also reduces the demand for data center workers, as a smaller staff can manage the consolidated systems. Those staff members can respond to IT problems more quickly as well, since CI offers a single management interface that allows an administrator to manipulate every aspect of a CI architecture. The IT staff won’t have to hunt down problems hidden within hundreds of servers, devices and network hardware. Instead, problems can be identified quickly and fixed efficiently.

Freeing Up Time for Other Projects

With a well-managed CI solution, IT staff and administrators can concentrate less on being network mechanics, keeping disparate components cabled (sometimes cobbled) together. Instead, they can use their skills to support new company initiatives and business growth. In fact, 40 percent of the respondents in the Forrester study said IT workers were able to shift their focus from maintenance to new initiatives once a CI solution was implemented. In addition, 73 percent of respondents reported that implementation of CI resulted in improved IT responsiveness to new business requirements. Another benefit that many organizations find with a converged infrastructure is that capacity is used more efficiently.

The pooling of IT resources allows the organization to look at the IT infrastructure as a whole and consider all available resources when planning to expand or reduce capacity. As data grows at every organization, the need for more efficient storage grows with it. A CI solution can help organizations deal with the greater demand for storage of more data and for longer periods. By virtualizing storage, a CI solution can reduce cost and complexity. This also adds flexibility, resiliency and scalability. Shared storage allows different physical servers to access storage resources so they can support the various applications they host.

Finally, with all resources consolidated on fewer machines, many processes can be automated. Policies can be set one time and applied across an entire CI network. Patching software or adding new programs can take place from one location with no need to push updates across a network. This reduces the risk that some obscure server might miss out on a security patch, creating vulnerability.

Want to learn more? Check out CDW’s white paper, “The Power of Convergence.”