Manage infrastructure convergence without losing your grip

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Admins will wear many hats as they tackle the infrastructure convergence brought on by rampant data and application growth

Michael Heil remembers when network convergence began to make sense to him. A few years ago, the manager of infrastructure engineering for Cone Health, a regional health care provider in central North Carolina, was asked to stand up a large virtualized SQL environment running Microsoft Amalga in 90 days with no additional resources. About the same time, he was also asked to implement a new document management system — again, with no extra hands on deck.

Heil knew that Cone was just beginning a growth spurt, and he knew that despite having a virtualized and consolidated data center, the company was already starting to hit the limit on rack space, power, and cooling. “We had to figure out how to do this with what we had on hand,” he says. “That’s what drove us to adopt a Cisco Unified Computing System platform.” By converging its storage and data networks, Cone was able to achieve some impressive gains in efficiency while cutting costs, says Heil.

“In the past, standing up a new VMware server would have required three different people three or four days,” says Heil. “My server guy would have to arrange time with a network tech and a storage person, so they could do everything in the proper order. After we implemented Cisco UCS, one person could deploy an ESX server in three or four hours.”

What’s not to like? The problem is that as enterprises converge their storage and data networks, they’re also converging siloed IT departments with little overlap in expertise — subgroups that often see each other as rivals competing for the same limited pool of resources. In most organizations, three-headed IT employees with expertise in networks, data storage, and servers simply don’t exist, so companies have to grow their own.

Overall, says Heil, the unified network has been a boon to his staff, which was able to broaden its expertise over time and become a cadre of generalists rather than specialists.

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