Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Making the Most of Convergence

Converged infrastructures can help agencies simplify and optimize the IT infrastructure, deliver IT services more quickly and efficiently, and reduce costs. But before jumping on board, it’s best to examine your motives for moving to a converged infrastructure in the first place and make sure that you’re choosing the right converged solution.

At its core, a converged infrastructure should simplify IT while helping the IT staff achieve its goals—whether it is improving disaster recovery at branch offices, being able to provision virtual machines more quickly or consolidate workloads. With that in mind, it pays to look under the covers at the solution to ensure that it does more than just bundle servers, storage and networking into one package. In addition, it should include comprehensive monitoring, security administration and IT management activities. It should also include tools to analyze potential failures and performance impacts and conduct root cause analysis. Other must-haves include automated patching and updates. And, of course, make sure that the converged infrastructure solution supports the operating systems and applications your organization requires.

In addition to analyzing the bundle’s features, it’s also important to fully understand the relationship between the technology components. For example, do all components come from one vendor, or is it a package that includes technology from multiple vendors? If it’s a multivendor package, make sure the technology stack is fully integrated, and that the hardware vendors and application providers have stronger partnerships with each other. That includes confirming that all software is certified to run on the converged infrastructure hardware.

Once deployed, there are steps agencies can take to get the most out of the solution. For example, by automating the process for deploying both new and legacy applications onto a converged infrastructure, agencies will have a standard way of standing up applications quickly and efficiently.

Another way to increase the benefits of a converged infrastructure is by setting up a self-service portal that allows internal users to choose the services they will be using. If, for example, users expect to frequently use a particular Web application service, they can pre-select that service so that IT can deploy it quickly on demand.

Culture and process changes

Choosing the right converged infrastructure is just the first step. Since it’s a different deployment model, an IT staff will have to be cross-trained in other disciplines. For example, in the traditional data center model, an agency might have separate server, storage and network specialists. But with converged infrastructure, all of the components are managed together. That means that an IT staff will have to understand all three technologies to some extent, along with virtualization and cloud architecture.

The changes in IT culture are permanent. In addition to finding that individual administrators need to know about servers, storage and networking, IDC found that important new skills include the ability to rapidly detect and remediate problems, understand the best way to make effective use of self-service, and understand which types of applications are best suited for converged or integrated systems.

Converged infrastructure also will require IT staffs to learn new skills.

“People who would have been running systems dedicated to networking, storage or compute will all be working at the software layer and collaborating across a common layer of infrastructure,” explains Grant Challenger, manager for software-defined storage at VMware, which is active in both the converged and hyper-converged infrastructure space.

It’s also important to prepare the top tiers of an organization for these changes. That means explaining to executives that every application no longer requires its own dedicated server, storage device and network interface. Instead, a converged infrastructure makes it possible for an organization to adopt more of a “shared use” model.