While most organizations today are convinced that converged infrastructure is an efficient, cost-effective and flexible way to boost data center capabilities, not all are approaching it the same way. While some choose a preconfigured stack of compute, storage and networking power, others prefer a more do-it-yourself model, using a vendor’s reference architecture as the model.
With the reference architecture method, the pieces--usually from different vendors--are certified to work together, but the organization’s own IT staff or a service provider assembles the pieces themselves. Both lead to effective solutions, but the paths they take to get there are somewhat different. There are pros and cons to each approach.
Deployment Speed: Advantage: Preconfigured. Since preconfigured systems come fully integrated, deployment is fast. According to Christian Perry, a principal analyst at Technology Business Research, it’s possible to be up and running in as few as a few hours or days, compared to weeks with a reference architecture, depending on the capabilities of the IT staff.
Flexibility: Advantage: Reference Architecture. With a pre-integrated system, all components are pre-chosen and integrated. With a reference architecture, there is some leeway in choosing components, within limits. “In a sense, converged systems represent a trade-off in flexibility since you lose the ability to make explicit choices about components,” Perry says. “But in return you gain a set of validated components whose compatibility has been tested by the vendor, which means less likelihood of a surprise down the road.”
Peace of Mind: Advantage: Preconfigured. In theory, reference architectures are tested to ensure that all components are compatible, but every environment is different. With pre-integrated systems, there is no configuration or testing, and when changes occur, the vendor ensures the system will continue to work. If something isn’t working properly in a system built from a reference architecture, there is also the question of which component manufacturer will take responsibility.
Multiple Offices: Advantage: Neither. With a system built from a reference architecture, each implementation can end up a little different. That can be helpful if the workloads and business requirements of each location are different, but it can also cause problems with support and user expectations and experiences. With pre-integrated systems, each one is identical, which can make troubleshooting easier.
Cost: Advantage: Neither. Converged systems tend to be more expensive than those built with reference architectures, but make sure to take into account the cost of assembling and continuing support of systems built with reference architectures.
It comes down to prioritizing the strengths, weaknesses and tolerance of the IT staff. If the IT staff is small and relatively inexperienced, a preconfigured system might be best. If the company expects major changes in IT requirements over the next few years, a reference architecture approach may win out.
No matter which direction you go, make sure you do the upfront work before choosing a winner, Perry says.
“Making an informed choice comes down to testing across the range of workloads expected to be deployed on that system and ensuring that not only can System A handle the workload requirement from performance and management standpoints, but that it will integrate well with the rest of the existing IT environment,” he said. “That’s true for both reference architectures and pre-integrated converged systems.”
Underwritten by HPE
Part of HPE’s Power of One strategy, HPE Converged Architecture 700 delivers infrastructure as one integrated stack. HPE Converged Architecture 700 delivers proven, repeatable building blocks of infrastructure maintained by one management platform (HPE OneView), built and delivered exclusively by qualified HPE Channel Partners. This methodology saves considerable time and resources, compared to the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach.
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