How the Cloud Makes Convergence A $400 Billion Game

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Convergence (Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine) by dalberaLook at the news coming out this week and the trend lines are pretty clear that the enterprise giants are all banking on convergence as the hallmark of their cloud strategy.

HP announced its plans on Tuesday for its cloud strategy that banks heavily on convergence. IBM unveiled its Pure Systems on Tuesday and EMC has a mystery event tomorrow for its EMC VSPEX.

It’s all about convergence, a term that has the enterprise giants jumping with glee. For our purposes, convergence is that integration of storage, network and compute. It’s an infrastructure recipe for the cloud. Data needs a converging infrastructure. As Dave Floyer pointed out to me in an interview recently, data has a value of one by itself. Its magnitude scales when it gets shared. You push it out and it comes back better than before.

This sounds nice and peachy but it belies the reality that people control the knobs and levers. And people always seek control. Politics becomes the norm. Inside the corporate walls and outside, the CIO and the vendors do their dance.

It’s a high stakes game. An IBM source said to me this earlier this week that customers don’t want to own data centers anymore. They want to consolidate. That opens the gates.

It means a few things:

Consolidation. To consolidate, virtualization becomes as important as ever. The reality: virtualization is mainstream but its evolution is a study in technology adoption. Virtualization has its roots in test and development. It moved into Exchange and other apps but there it has remained. The next step is to take it deeper into mission critical apps such as SAP.

The Channel. Who controls the channel wins the game. Vitally important to the scale out of the private cloud market and will help determine whether it can stand up to the competition that is banking more on an Amazon Web Services approach to integrating data centers with public cloud infrastructures for managing mission critical environments. See: The Channel’s Role In Converged Infrastructure.

A More Holistic Approach. There needs to be a more holistic approach. You have to take into consideration that customers are faced with an onslaught. Their employees default to a smartphone and tablets are plentiful. They all require apps, not digital assets. Legacy apps are changing, too. The developer environment in this context means that there has to be platforms for them to work. Platforms-as-a-Service will integrate into converged infrastructures. A holistic approach is also the secret to market success. The market is expanding. Virtualization will move to mission critical apps. You need to take that all into consideration when making decisions.

Tier3 is banking on this migration. PaaS will make up 90% of the infrastructure. The other 10% will come from data-as-a-service providers and third party apps.

“In the end, the converged infrastructure will see PaaS as the only layer,” said Tier3′s Jared Wray. “In the next two years the infrastructure will be commoditized.”

EMC is one company that appears to understand the holistic view of the enterprise world.  The tip of its spear is Vblock.The Vblock technology is helping EMC win some huge deals through VCE, its joint deal with Cisco and VMware. It’s deeply integrated hardware and software appeals to the very top of the market.But as you go down market, the customers vary greatly. The broader market has much more choice. To reach deeper, EMC, IBM, Dell and HP are all investing deeply in storage, networking and compute technologies and are integrating with various platform environments. Some are doing it better than others.

In an interview last week, HP’s Pete Karloczak said without a doubt converged infrastructure is where the market is headed. Customers do not need separate firewall devices or teams of networking engineers. Convergence means everything becomes a software capability.

Wikibon Co-Founder Dave Vellante said the news from all the vendors demonstrates how large the market will become.

“The market for converged infrastructures is huge and essentially comprises all server storage and enterprise networking,” Vellante said. “The TAM (total available market share) will be more than $400 billion by 2017 and reference architectures will be the largest piece, by far. VCE is about ‘any color you want as long as its black’ — highly integrated, single SKU. Same with Oracle’s Exadata. NetApp and HP primarily sell solutions which we categorize as reference architecture meaning configs and options are pre-tested in the lab and documented with more choice of hypervisor (eg Hyper-v). Same with IBM and Dell.”

This is where EMC may have an advantage. EMC’s Prassad Rampalli had this to say on theCube:

In the wider context, the winners will find success depending on how  they execute in the channel. The channel cares about their margins. So the key for them is the ability to  integrate different hypervisors, management packages, tools and then upsell services. The guy that gives the channel the best chance to make margin will win.

When EMC announced Vblock many in the channel decided to build their own converged solutions like Internaltional Computerware, Inc. did. EMC is hoping that the combination of choice and engineering, testing and integration will lure the channel into VSPEX. But companies like ICI have years of effort into their own solutions. So will the channel in an effort to add value try and hold on its newly formed integrated offerings? Or will they leverage EMC’s technology and rebrand their solutions. Or will EMC allow the channel to use it’s own brand the way HP has done with its channel one program?

There’s a land grab for the channel and this is huge stakes. IBM, HP and Dell are all defending their server turf. Oracle is disrupting with Exadata, Exalogics and Exalytics by bundling database and apps. VCE is pushing VMware everywhere and Cisco is trying to expand its team by getting into servers as is HP by getting into networking. As for the storage guys. NetApp is doing well with Flexpod and it’s clear EMC wants a piece of that action. But it’s all going to come back to the channel and how they respond. The channel is becoming more and more important in this private cloud world and the winners will be those that can partner while at the same time preserving value add opportunities.

About Alex Williams

Alex Williams is an editor for SiliconAngle and lives a charmed life in Portland, Or.