At Storage Field Day 19, I attended two insightful sessions about DevOps and infrastructure automation, and they were both hosted by Dell EMC. One was about PowerOne, a next-generation converged infrastructure, while the other was more geared towards the efforts that Dell EMC is putting in the so-called infrastructure as a code.
I don’t like Converged Infrastructures
To be frank with you, I’ve never liked converged infrastructures, but I understand why they exist. Dell EMC PowerOne, from this point of view, doesn’t make any difference. The user pays for a system that is pre-certified, pre-installed, and pre-whatever-else-you-need because it is just cheaper than doing it yourself. In large IT organizations, processes can be such a pain in the neck that getting it all sorted out could cost you more, and take much more time, than buying a CI solution. That said, it would be nice to work on the processes that govern the IT organization instead of keeping doing the wrong things… but this is a topic for another blog, maybe.
PowerOne Could Be Much More Than CI
The PowerOne Controller is the component of PowerOne that supersedes all first installation, configuration, and management activities. In practice, as you can see from the demo, it allows you to install and configure a complete infrastructure in a few hours with just a few inputs from the sysadmin. But this is not the coolest part; the most interesting thing is the concept behind it and its potential. Take a look at the video that talks about its internal architecture to understand why:
From my point of view, Dell EMC should take this to the next level and try to make PowerOne controller something similar to what CISCO has with NSO. Long story short, it could be an automation hub for simplifying and automating all the storage infrastructure, simplifying the configuration management of large scale infrastructures.
Been There Done That?
Yes, the vision of a PowerOne Controller in charge of storage infrastructure automation is very similar to what we had years ago with ViPR. Great on paper, short on execution. There are a couple of differences to take into account though:
- At that time, the world was not ready. Enterprise mentality was not there, and nobody wanted to leave control to configuration and automation tools like Ansible. Now everybody wants to do it!
- There wasn’t the same maturity we have today when it comes to infrastructure automation. Now we have public APIs for every device in the data center, best practices, plug-ins for common automation tools, and so on. Everything is just easier.
Maybe a PowerOne Controller (or call it next-gen ViPR if you want) could be a success this time.
Takeaways (and Wishful thinking)
It is a shame that Dell EMC has two teams working on infrastructure automation that don’t talk to each other (PowerOne and the guys that are developing Ansible plug-ins and other components for automation tools). In my opinion, they should work together and see if PowerOne could become much more than part of their converged infrastructure.
I know that we saw several attempts to automate storage infrastructures all failed, miserably. Still, this time it could be different because of the maturity of the tools, datacenter people, and vendors. It is a huge maybe, of course, but Cisco did a fantastic job (take a look at the demo they had at Tech Field Day 20), and there is potential for a similar product for enterprise data storage.