Navigating the converged infrastructure hype cycle

Does the reality of converged infrastructure products, such as the Vblock and FlexPod, live up to the hype? Our columnist shares his hands-on experiences.

There has been a lot of hype around converged infrastructure products lately, and it’s led me on quite the journey.

When VMware, EMC and Cisco Systems first formed the Virtual Computing Environment (VCE) Company and announced their Vblock offering, I was very excited. I was a diehard VMware fan and longtime EMC user, very interested in learning more about Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). I saw a vision of the future data center: fully virtualized, with UCS changing the role of servers and EMC providing the storage to fuel these fires of change -- all through converged infrastructure.

But as with so many technologies, my initial excitement began to wane. I started to feel that Vblocks were too rigid, and I was not sure that their advantages outweighed their constraints. For example, when Vblocks debuted, they were only available in two configurations, and those offerings did not provide much flexibility.

These high and lows are typical as new technologies are introduced, at least for me. I have to consider all of the pros and cons, over time, to fully appreciate how they fit into the bigger picture. It’s all part of what Gartner calls the hype cycle: New products often produce “inflated expectations” at first, which then lead users into a “trough of disillusionment.”

Around that same time, I moved from working as an end user in a large corporation to a consulting role with a premier partner of Cisco, VMware, EMC and NetApp. With this new role came more exposure to converged infrastructure, and its value became more evident to me.

As I worked on a number of implementations, I began to appreciate the benefits of having all components arrive pre-installed and ready to run. I was not as caught up by the “one number to call” support argument, but I immediately saw the value in receiving all patches and updates from a single entity that would verify compatibility with all the components involved. Who has not been brought down by driver mismatches? Or been frustrated by issues where a fix from one vendor creates a new problem with another vendor?

Both the Vblock and the FlexPod -- a converged infrastructure offering from VMware, Cisco and NetApp -- provide pretested configurations that can remove much of the uncertainty that comes with building out an IT infrastructure (although they take very different approaches).

They are not one-size-fits-all solutions, and they are still maturing. (Case in point: VCE has added additional Vblock configurations since their launch.) But these converged infrastructure products will survive the hype cycle and make it to the final stage: the “plateau of productivity.”

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