What do storage, convergence, and statistical physics have in common?

Guest blog by Brad Parks, Worldwide HP Converged Infrastructure team...


I have a feeling that the word “innovation” will be used a lot this year. I think Kristie Popp captured this well in her blog post where she stated that “If you want to be the best at what you do, you can never sit still”.  A valid point but one worth looking at with a twist and such is the topic of this post.


Those in the world of statistical physics have a name for the random act of not sitting still… random energy in that case is lumped in the category of a disordered system.  While no IT vendor is perfect, I’ve noticed that some have been reduced to wild displays of disordered chest thumping in the absence of real meaningful innovation – often forgetting the most fundamental truth: Our job is to help solve our customer’s most demanding IT challenges so that their IT is best positioned to help drive business success.


At the recent Gartner datacenter conference it was very interesting to observe the discussion around datacenter trends, customer needs, and convergence ... or what they call fabric based computing.  Independent of individual vendor bias, it was clear that customers and analysts are acknowledging that IT sprawl is a reality and simplifying the IT stack by bringing the silo’s together is the only way to free the gridlock.


In fact, even Joe Tucci, the CEO of storage-centric EMC acknowledged many of the same customer pain points as part of a chest thumping display yesterday.  In his remarks to the press he flashed a slide that states ‘IT is at a breaking point’ with 73% of effort going to maintenance and only 27% being applied to new investment.  Joe went on to say that additional customer angst includes too many operating environments, too many vendors, and a lack of control.


I’m writing this not to slam EMC as one might expect but rather to applaud them for getting on board the train.  In fact, I’m impressed they were able to get on board a train already moving at this rate of speed for so long… HP has been talking about IT sprawl and the 70/30 split for over a year (link).  Some of Joe’s slides looked eerily familiar. 


Where the slideware and storyline diverged however was when it came to the payoff.  When the dust cleared from all the marketing fluff it appeared that the big new news from Hopkinton was the unification of two mid-range storage silos into a new multi-protocol storage silo.


Seriously… that’s the proposed answer to IT sprawl and customer angst?  Admittedly I’ve drunk the HP kool-aid, and you may not take my word for it, but having spent 9 years as an IT Director and looking at what independent industry experts are saying about convergence ... I’ve got to think that the future is about unification of infrastructure as a whole rather than unification within a storage silo.


There are different schools of thought when it comes to how best to address the 70/30 ratio, but predominantly HP and others believe we are entering the era of convergence… where the best way to reduce the sprawl and address the customer angst is to break down rigid and expense IT silos to reduce operational costs and accelerate application deployment through a whole new level of simplicity, integration, and automation. 


Even EMC has had to change its marketing approach under the momentum of convergence.  After years of beating on the drum of storage-centricity, they have had to partner with a no-share server start-up to attempt to build a vertical stack and have yet to address the application deployment and automation question. 


Convergence should not come at a sacrifice though … we shouldn’t create new problem ‘B’ as we work to solve IT sprawl problem ‘A’.  Only by having best-in-class technology across individual infrastructure domains and best-in-class vertical integration can we truly help transform IT in the future.  And that’s exactly where HP has been outwardly focused with Converged Infrastructure over the past 15 months (even longer behind the scenes with our Labs and engineering teams innovating convergence).


With over 50% market share, the HP BladeSystem and HP ProLiant has truly proved best in class to tie together networking, compute, and storage. HP Networking has industry leading security innovation with TippingPoint as well as high performance and density from edge to core. 


And then there is HP StorageWorks.  Over the last 18 months HP has delivered a record setting array of organic innovations and has acquired new technologies all with a goal of delivering best-in-class storage designed for best in class vertical integration.  For more thoughts on what’s happening in the world of storage you should follow HPStorageGuy (link) but a few things that spring to mind include:


  • HP StoreOnce deduplication from HP Labs delivers leading price-performance and dramatically 
         simplifies backup and recovery with a single software design architected to scale from client to the
         enterprise datacenter.
  • HP’s X9000 Network Storage Systems address the ‘big data’ challenge with industry leading scale…
         a 16PB namespace massively simplifies the management of explosive data growth while automated
         storage tiering and a scale-out architecture maximizes productivity regardless of I/O workloads--small
         or large files and I/Os, reads or writes, and random or sequential.


  • HP P4000 G2 SANs provide non-disruptive scale-out capacity for virtual environments including the
         only virtual SAN certified by VMware to run as a virtual machine….  Eliminating the need for dedicated
         storage networks in smaller sites.


  • And then there’s 3PAR… designed from the ground up to meet the information storage needs of the
         convergence era.  Hyper-efficient, autonomic management, and multi-tenant architecture all contribute
         to the fact that 7 out of the 10 largest global service providers have deployed HP 3PAR Utility Storage for
         their cloud initiatives.


That said, when it comes to truly solving the challenge of IT sprawl, we’ve got to look outside of an individual storage, server, or networking stack.  News flash… HP is not a hardware company and sprawl is not a hardware problem.  The answer requires application oriented management software to pull together virtual pools of resources… enter Insight Dynamics and HP BladeSystem Matrix


       Best in class servers, storage, and networking all managed by a single service management
       portal for physical or virtual servers running on any number of different hyper-visor technologies
      all with intelligent power management. 


I’m biased, but that seems like a more ordered and meaningful set of innovations to address the angst that today’s customers are feeling.  Do any weekend statistical physicists out there have a different opinion?


Tags: 3PAR
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