Agile IT Infrastructure: What Will It Take To Get There, And Does Dell Have What It Takes?

Modern IT organizations are in a state of major transition. Gone are the days where IT’s primary focus is to “keep the lights on” and save money. As technology plays an increasingly important role in all aspects of business, IT is now in the driver’s seat to help the business differentiate with new products, services, and routes to market. The datacenter infrastructure of the past is not well equipped to handle the new cloud-based applications and development models that are central to business success today. IT infrastructure vendors such as Cisco Systems, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Lenovo are bringing solutions to market designed to help IT organizations transition to more modern datacenters that can keep up with the rapid pace of the business.

IT organizations talk a lot these days about improving their agility—and IT agility for the modern datacenter has a direct impact on business agility. If the IT department is not able to keep up, business owners will resort to other unofficial channels (a.k.a. “shadow IT”) to get their applications set up quickly to drive revenue and ensure time-to-market goals are achieved. If the business uses other non-sanctioned IT alternatives, then IT loses control of the user experience but is still responsible for ongoing support and security.

In a recent report, my firm Moor Insights & Strategy outlined the spectrum of solution approaches that vendors are bringing to market to help companies modernize their datacenters.


(Source: Moor Insights & Strategy)

On one end of the spectrum, hyperscale datacenters use custom IT equipment to give them maximum flexibility and optimization for their specific workloads. As you move toward the right, best-of-breed and converged systems provide a balance between flexibility and time-to-market and are generally the focus for the bulk of mainstream IT purchases today. On the other end of the spectrum, integrated systems (sometimes referred in the market as hyperconverged systems) are a growing category of solutions designed for IT organizations who need agility—to deploy their next-generation workloads quickly in environments that are increasingly complex.

Integrated systems may be a good fit for those needing fast time-to-value, but IT organizations need to consider whether the ease of deployment and management is worth the tradeoff in flexibility and configurability.

Integrated systems designed for virtualization and cloud computing are now available from a number of vendors. In addition, application-specific integrated systems are emerging for workloads such as OLTP databases, software-defined storage, Big Data analytics, and ERP. There are many approaches to integrated systems in the market from large vendors like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Huawei, Lenovo, Oracle, and VMware, and smaller, more focused players like Nutanix and SimpliVity.

I think Dell has the potential to grow their presence in this space as they focus their integrated solutions efforts around their Dell Engineered Solutions product portfolio. Dell Engineered Solutions includes integrated systems for a growing number of workloads including virtualization, cloud, software defined storage, Big Data analytics, databases, and high-performance computing. I expect Dell will reveal more information about Engineered Solutions this week at Dell World .

The jury is still out on how big the market opportunity will be for integrated systems. I believe the key to success will be for vendors to prove to IT buyers that they can serve the business better with integrated systems by moving more quickly and by managing these systems with less complexity versus more traditional solutions. Success will ultimately be measured in terms of how effectively IT can respond to business needs and serve as a competitive weapon to help drive business growth.