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Summary:

Conventional wisdom suggests buying into the convenience and performance of converged infrastructure means buying into the dreaded vendor lock-in problem. As it turns out, however, that doesn’t have to be the case — Dell and Egenera are two players leading the charge for open converged infrastructure.

I’m starting to think converged infrastructure (or unified computing, if you prefer) is more than a trend. Since Cisco put the idea on the map with the launch of its Unified Computing System (UCS) in March 2009, nearly every major systems vendor  — notably HP, IBM and Oracle — has rolled out its own integrated stack of blade servers, networking, management software and, sometimes, storage. Furthermore, as I discuss in my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, it appears the lock-in concerns inherent in such architectures might remain — at least if vendors like Dell and Egenera have their way.

For its part, Dell is now selling its Virtual Integrated System architecture. Anchored by Dell’s Advanced Infrastructure Management software (a product of its recent Scalent acquisition), the product lets users provision servers, networking and storage from a single interface. In true Dell fashion, where those resources come from doesn’t really matter — the VIS architecture supports heterogeneous gear and hypervisor environments.

Then there is Egenera, which has been selling its PAN Manager converged infrastructure software since 2001. What makes Egenera open is its broad choice of blade hardware and virtualization platforms. Customers can choose Dell hardware (via the Dell PAN Manager or Dell Datacenter-in-a-Box solutions), Fujitsu PRIMERGY blades or Egenera’s own BladeFrame architecture (with more platform support on the way), and can keep their existing Ethernet technologies.

Whether Dell and Egenera can prevail against the one-stop-shop approaches of their much-larger competitors remains to be seen. Companies like Cisco, HP and Oracle have mountains of marketing muscle and sales teams, as well as great technology. The problem, of course, is software and hardware components designed to work optimally, sometimes exclusively, with one another. Dell and Egenera certainly appear to have the upper hand if it cost is a factor: Forrester comparisons show Dell VIS and Egenera PAN Datacenter-in-a-Box coming in at approximately 75 percent the cost of comparable VMware/Cisco/EMC Vblock, HP BladeMatrix and IBM CloudBurst implementations (roughly $150,000 compared with roughly $200,000).

Despite past concerns, I’m willing to acknowledge that IT departments will indeed buy into the converged infrastructure vision. But I’m not yet ready to concede that complete vertical integration will win the day. As long as there are independent server, networking and virtualization vendors, there will be buyers for whom best-of-breed is the only way to go.

Read the full post here.

Image courtesy of Cisco Systems.

  1. The proposals I saw for VBlocks were 2.25M and IBM CloudBurst was 1.75M. Not sure where Forrester got their numbers. The Cisco switch gear alone is more than 200K.

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    1. Derrick Harris Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      From what I understand, these were for base configurations, not including additional software or service. Could that explain the difference?

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      1. Derrick,

        I can show you some of the information, but no, it’s a base configuration. You can’t buy most of the gear for less than 200K. For example, an EMC CX4-120 in the smallest configuration possible is at least 300K. The Forrester #s are wrong.

        I would be happy to walk you through what I have if you want to see it.

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  2. [...] Cisco isn’t alone in converged infrastructure success. Egenera, a company that takes a somewhat more-open approach to unified systems management, last week reported its best financial year ever. It has been selling its PAN Manager software and [...]

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