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Why one cloud provider went with converged, not commodity hardware

The web giants — the Facebooks(s fb), Googles(s goog), Amazon Web Services(s amzn) of the world — all tout the benefits of scale-out, commodity (i.e.) cheap hardware, boxes that can be swapped out at the drop of a bit or bite. And they’re not alone, as GigaOM’s Jordan Novet reported earlier Tuesday — smaller companies are getting the commodity hardware religion as well.

On the other hand, some vendors are embracing the notion of specialized pricier machines that pack many workloads into one box.  Oracle(s orcl), HP(s hpq), and IBM(s ibm) are in this camp with their respective Exadata, Project Moonshot and PureSystems products. And some startups, like Simplivity, also pack a range of functions — storage, compute, networking as well as dedupe and other tasks — into a single OmniCube “super appliance.”

Service provider goes all-converged all the way

T-Systems Czech Republic, the third-largest IT provider in the Czech Republic after IBM and HP,  opted for  Omnicube, Simplivity’s self-proclaimed “data center in a box” initially to consolidate its internal workloads but eventually to power customer-facing services as well.

omnicube-fullphoto[2]Why Simplivity? It’s all about that consolidation. T-Systems first wants to simplify and streamline its internal operations and Simplivity converges a number of those operations in a single box, all manageable by a VM administrator from a single console. That frees up other personnel — the folks who had run the storage, the servers, the network — for other, more valuable work, said Jan Drbohlav, delivery VP of T-Systems Czech Republic.

Like many other shops, T-Systems runs an amalgam of server and storage hardware from Dell, HP, and IBM, all of which has a 4 year refresh cycle. That hodgepodge had to end, Drbohlav said in a phone interview. “It is just not feasible to keep running such a complex environment.”

The company did extensive research and then took several months to roll out an internal Simplivity implementation to check everything out. That internal deployment will serve as a test suite before T-Systems starts deploying customer workloads on OmniCube.

Virtualization choice helped drive decision

The fact that Simplivity supports VMware out of the box was a plus for this VMware shop, but perhaps more important is its planned support for Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization. Like many service providers that run VMware, T-Systems was not thrilled about VMware’s entrance into the public cloud market where it will compete with them. In the past companies like T-Systems viewed VMware as an arms dealer to all the players. Now it is also a player that they will have to compete with. It doesn’t take a genius to see that they’ll be seeking other options.

Hyper-V support gives T-Systems an out for its own use and will enable it to work better with customer shops that are also increasingly running Hyper-V, he said.

Any company pondering a hardware upgrade should take a look at how the server market is fragmenting into four major use cases, as explained by GigaOM’s Stacey Higginbotham and which will be a likely topic at Structure: Europe this September.  And, given the number of data center appliance makers out there, as well as the legacy hardware giants pushing their own converged hardware agenda, the  commodity vs. specialized hardware debate is bound to rage on.

Forewarned is forearmed.

5 Responses to “Why one cloud provider went with converged, not commodity hardware”

  1. Interesting that a major SP went for a commodity box of limited size. I would have thought they would have placed their eggs in the basket of EMC, IBM, Netapp or HP. Interesting read as it shows the way the market is going. Commodity hardware is a term that is over used and it takes a lot of time to build that reference architecture yet alone support it internally. If you buy all components in a box/supported/tested you have no issues and your giant mechano set becomes a lot easier. VCE has been doing this for years and in my opinion really opened the door to the converged market!

    • Baron Von Klaussen

      You might enjoy a low level look at the innovation that is Simplivity. No other (hyper) converged offering matches the value or intelligent, ultra-efficient data handling. VCE? No thanks. Spend a fortune to lock-in with three disparate vendors for emulated, VM aware convergence? Maybe if I was big enterprise into bleeding edge infrastructure several years ago.