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The Trend Toward Converged Infrastructure

HP leverages converged infrastructure across IT spectrum to simplify branch offices and container-based data centers

The trend toward converged infrastructure -- a whole greater than sum of the traditional IT hardware, software, networking and storage parts -- is going both downstream and upstream.

HP today announced how combining and simplifying the parts of IT infrastructure makes the solution value far higher on either end of the applications distribution equation: At branch offices and the next-generation of compact and mobile all-in-one data center containers.

Called the HP Branch Office Networking Solution, the idea is that engineering the fuller IT and communications infrastructure solution, rather then leaving the IT staff and -- even worse -- the branch office managers to do the integrating, not only saves money, it allows the business to focus just on the applications and processes. This focus, by the way, on applications and processes -- not the systems integration, VOIP, updates and maintenance -- is driving the broad interest in cloud computing, SaaS and outsourcing. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

HP's announcements today in Barcelona are also marked by an emphasis on an ecosystem of partners approach, especially the branch office solution, which packages brand-name 14 apps, appliances and networking elements to make smaller sub-organizations an integrated part of the larger enterprise IT effort. The partner applications include WAN acceleration, security, unified communications
and service delivery management.

Appliances need integration too

You could think of it as a kitchen counter approach to appliances, which work well alone but don't exactly bake the whole cake. Organizing, attaching and managing the appliances -- with an emphasis on security and centralized control for the whole set-up -- has clearly been missing in branch offices. The E5400 series switch accomplishes the convergence of the discrete network appliances. The HP E5400 switch with new HP Advanced Services ZL module is available worldwide today with pricing starting at $8,294.

Today's HP news also follows a slew of product announcements last month that targeted the SMB market, and the "parts is parts" side of building out IT solutions.

To automate the branch office IT needs, HP is bringing together elements of the branch IT equation from the likes of Citrix, Avaya, Microsoft, and Riverbed. They match these up with routers, switches and management of the appliances into a solution. Security and access control across the branches and the integrated systems are being addressed via HP TippingPoint security services. These provide granular control of application access, with the ability to block access to entire websites – or features – across the enterprise and its branches.

Worried about too much Twitter usage at those branches? The new HP Application Digital Vaccine (AppDV) service delivers specifically designed filters to the HP TippingPoint Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), which easily control access to, or dictate usage of, non-business applications.

The branch automation approach also support a variety of network types, which opens the branch offices to a be able to exploit more types of applications delivery: from terminal serving apps, to desktop virtualization, to wireless and mobile. The all-WiFi office might soon only need a single, remotely and centrally managed locked-down rack in a lights-out closet, with untethered smartphones, tablets and notebooks as the worker nodes. Neat.

When you think of it, the new optimized branch office (say 25 seats and up) should be the leader in cloud adoption, not a laggard. The HP Branch Office Networking Solution -- with these market-leading technology partners -- might just allow the branches to demonstrate a few productivity tricks to the rest of the enterprise.

Indeed, we might just think of many more "branch offices" as myriad nodes within and across the global enterprises, where geography becomes essential irrelevant. Moreover, the branch office is the SMB, supported by any number and types of service providers, internal and external, public and private, SaaS and cloud.

Data centers get legs

Which brings us to the other end of the HP spectrum for today's news. The same "service providers" that must support these automated branch offices -- in all their flavors and across the org chart vagaries and far-flung global locations -- must also re-engineer their data centers for the new kinds of workloads, wavy demand curves, and energy- and cost-stingy operational requirements.

So HP has built a sprawling complex in Houston -- the POD Works -- to build an adaptable family of modular data centers -- the HP Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD) -- in the shape of 20- and 40-foot tractor-trailer-like containers. As we've seen from some other vendors, these mobile data centers in a box demand only that you drive the things up, lock the brake and hook up electricity, water and a high-speed network. I suppose you also drop them on the roof with a helicopter, but you get the point.

But in today's economy, the efficiency data rules the roost. The HP PODs deliver 37 percent more efficiency and cost 45 percent less than a traditional brick-and-mortar data centers, says HP.

Inside the custom-designed container is stuffed with highly engineered racks and the cooling, optimized networks and storage, as well as the server horsepower -- in this case HP ProLiant SL6500 Scalable Systems, from 1 to 1,000 nodes. While HP is targeting these at the high performance computing and service provider needs -- those that are delivering high-scale and/or high transactional power -- the adaptability and data center-level design may well become more the norm than the exception.

The PODs are flexible at supporting the converged infrastructure engines for energy efficiency, flexibility and serviceability, said HP. And the management is converged too, via Integrated Lights-Out Advanced (ILO 3), part of HP Insight Control.

The POD parts to be managed are essentially as many as eight servers, or up to four servers with 12 graphic processing units (GPU), in single four-rack unit enclosures. The solution further includes the HP ProLiant s6500 chassis, the HP ProLiant SL390s G7 server and the HP ProLiant SL170s G6 servers. These guts can be flexible upped to accommodate flexible POD designs, for a wide variety and scale of data-center-level performance and applications support requirements.

Built-in energy consciousness

You may not want to paint the containers green, but you might as well. The first release features optimized energy efficiency with HP ProLiant SL Advanced Power Manager and HP Intelligent Power Discovery to improve power management, as well as power supplies designed with 94 percent greater energy efficiently, said HP.

Start saving energy with delivering more than a teraFLOP per unit of rack space to increase compute power for scientific rendering and modeling applications. Other uses may well make themselves apparent.

Have data center POD, will travel? At least the wait for a POD is more reasonable. With HP POD-Works, PODs can be assembled, tested and shipped in as little as six weeks, compared with one year or longer, to build a traditional brick-and-mortar data center, said HP.

Hey, come to think of it, for those not blocking it with the TippingPoint IPS, I wish Twitter had a few of these on those PODs on the bird strings instead of that fail whale. Twitter should also know that multiple PODs or a POD farm can support large hosting operations and web-based or compute-intensive applications, in case they want to buy Google or Facebook.

Indeed, as could computing grains traction, data centers may be located (and co-located) based on more than whale tails. Compliance to local laws, for business continuity and to best serve all those thousands of automated branch offices might also spur demand for flexible and efficient mobile data centers.

Converged infrastructure may have found a converged IT market, even one that spans the globe.

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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