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Next Generation Systems

Luis Praxmarer

Luis PraxmarerThe new offerings from EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), IBM Corp., and Oracle Corp. are major advancements in the drive to contain IT operational expenses so that companies can invest in innovation and revenue growth opportunities (see article on IBM’s PureSystems).

EMC has added VSPEX – proven, preconfigured infrastructure – to its vBlock converged infrastructure approach while HP has taken a three-pronged approach to converged architecture. EMC labels its new full spectrum of offerings as simple, efficient and flexible, and the company is delivering it with a variety of business partners. On the other hand, HP claims it is redefining the expectations and economics of data centers and is architecting solutions that include added intelligence into the solutions to maximize performance and minimize downtime with a minimum of customer effort. IT executives should evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the different infrastructure technologies and, where appropriate, incorporate the infrastructures into target environments.

Oracle has also leapt into the next generation fray with its engineered systems concept. When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems back in 2009, it had the engineered, full-stack vision of how it could profitably enter the hardware world by delivering integrated systems. Oracle's goal was not to sell hardware building blocks – most of which are priced at commodity levels with thin margins – but to integrate the hardware and software layers into a vertical stack optimized for the applications and middleware that are Oracle's bread and butter. These engineered systems are the Exadata and Exalogic engines and the SPARC supercluster.

The strategy behind these systems is three pronged:

  • to exploit networking, processor, storage, and systems trends to deliver breakthrough innovations by combining Oracle software with Sun hardware and software;
  • to integrate components of Oracle's software stack to provide unique value to customers; and
  • to deliver a complete, open, integrated stack of applications, database, hardware, infrastructure, and middleware.

Although Oracle states its strategy is to deliver an open stack, the reality is that its stack is proprietary and the company is deliberately ensuring competitors cannot be certified using alternative stack components.

HP Triple Play: Beginning last November HP started unfolding its new data center and cloud strategies. First out of the box was Project Moonshot, a hyperscale architecture designed to allow thousands of extreme low energy system-on-a chip (SoC) processors to share an integrated fabric, server management at the enclosure and rack levels, power and cooling, and storage pools. Experton Group discussed this in detail in the research note "HP's Moonshot."

However, Project Voyager, which is to be another multi-year, multi-generational journey, does have its first instantiation of next generation servers out, ProLiant Gen8 servers. These servers, which come with HP ProActive Insight Architecture, are designed to simplify the user's server life cycle experience. The new ProLiant platforms address four key operational elements: integrated life cycle automation; dynamic workload acceleration; automated energy optimization; and proactive service and support.

HP claims a three times improvement in administrator productivity due to the features in its integrated lifecycle automation package. There are intelligent provisioning capabilities that remove half the deployment steps and reduce system deployment time by two-thirds along with faster problem analysis and updating features. The amount of time required to do updates is cut by almost 70 percent, according to HP.

Thus, like the EMC offerings, these servers should be able to demonstrate a strong ROI and TCO over earlier generations and competitive boxes that do not possess embedded process expertise.

The Bottom Line: Enterprises can expect the vendor community to shift to offerings with more engineered solutions with added expertise knowledge built-in so that fewer staff is required, time to value is trimmed, and operational costs are reduced. However, the HP and Oracle offerings are really islands of integrated intelligence. They are improvements over prior packages but there still remains a significant workload left for administrators to do. HP has alluded to more advanced offerings but details remain lacking. Meanwhile, Oracle's efforts are less geared toward solving customer problems than locking users into its proprietary stack. On the other hand, EMC has grasped the customer's dilemma and has created next generation offerings that holistically solve the operational hurdles for certain environments. The potential challenge of the EMC stacks are the variability – especially, that of the multiple choices of vendor partners – and the ability for the customer to have "one throat to choke" in the new integrated solution set. IBM has also shown it understands the customer challenge with the PureSystems announcement.

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