Server virtualization, converged networking, and scalable intelligent storage are rapidly becoming de facto standards for data center infrastructures everywhere. Sizing a new infrastructure is no longer a question of exactly how many of what brand of server you might need to buy, but one of how much raw compute power and storage capacity and performance you require -- regardless of how it might be assembled. Although huge differences exist between various vendors' implementations of these features, this phenomenon is ultimately leading to a commoditization of data center infrastructure tech.
At the leading edge of that commoditization are four of the largest infrastructure tech players; Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and a partnership among Cisco Systems, EMC, and EMC's VMware subsidiary, called VCE. Through partnerships and acquisitions, these vendors have each worked to produce soup-to-nuts virtual infrastructure bundles that include all the hardware and software comprising a data center -- including virtualization hosts, networking hardware, storage, and in some cases, private cloud management software to tie it all together.
For organizations looking for a very fast and easy way to deploy greenfield data center infrastructure without having to deal with the hassle of a detailed design and a stack of compatibility matrices, these all-in-one bundles can be an enormous time-saver. However, this bundling is not always good for customers.
Data center infrastructure bundling: The good
It's easy to see why bundling can be a great thing. Despite the enormous freedom presented by virtualization, designing and implementing data center infrastructure is by no means simple. It's no easy task to navigate the complexities of one vendor's blade hardware, another vendor's converged networking gear, and yet another vendor's storage hardware while making sure that you have enough power and cooling. If that's not enough, there's still the question of whether your IT staff has the skills to manage it.
Many IT shops breathe a sigh of relief when presented with a simple menu of preconfigured infrastructure options that are guaranteed to work with each other, shipped and installed quickly, and supported by a single support organization. This is particularly true for large institutions seeking maximally configured chunks of data center hardware that function as independent bricks of compute and storage capacity.