A popular topic for IT pros is converged infrastructure, in which compute, storage, network and systems management resources are deployed in a synergistic, cost-effective way that offers a solution that is easy to deploy and maintain for data centers. One of the benefits of a converged infrastructure is that it allows you to tailor the components to your specific workloads, whether they are storage-intensive, performance-sensitive or network bandwidth-intensive (or none of the above). It’s important to follow some best practices when planning for and implementing a converged solution to ensure you get the most out of it.
Note that converged infrastructure is not a monolithic solution to a single problem. Just as there are many different workloads running in your data center at any one time, there are also numerous approaches and architectures for converged infrastructure. With that fact in mind, be sure that your converged infrastructure vendor offers the full gamut of possible combinations of compute, networking, storage, virtualization and management software that can be tailored to meet your workload requirements.
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Converged infrastructure has the potential to offer IT substantial cost savings, faster implementation, easy to manage components and collection of a wealth of management data related to workload infrastructure configuration and performance.
Document Your Requirements
Best practices for any converged infrastructure evaluation or implementation project begin with developing a requirements list. This will ensure that you fully understand all of the various workloads and technology needs that exist in your data center, and can plan an appropriate converged approach from the start.
You will want to gather requirements from all stakeholders, including operations personnel, application developers, IT architects, IT management, etc. Once you have documented your requirements, categorize your current workloads by type (physical, virtual, local, cloud-based, etc.) and use that data to weigh the various converged approaches and technologies that meet those requirements.
To further document the characteristics of your current workloads, use your existing systems management tools and build a profile for each workload, including statistics such as average and peak network utilization, average and peak CPU utilization and IO statistics for storage accessed by that workload. Pay particular attention to any potential bottlenecks you discover during your workload analysis, as those bottlenecks must be addressed as part of the migration to a converged infrastructure.
Use the Information at Your Disposal
A great tool for matching your workloads to the available converged infrastructure solutions on the market is to use the available reference architecture documents provided by most converged infrastructure vendors. Reference architectures will help you to visualize how each component, both hardware and software, fits into the converged infrastructure in your implementation. Converged infrastructure reference architectures can also help you confirm that the architecture and components under consideration are compatible with each other, as well as your existing infrastructure. You can find out more about the Dell Converged Infrastructure Reference Architecture here: http://www.dell.com/learn/us/en/555/large-business/active-platform-architectures
Build a Strong Case
You will likely have to build a business case for your converged infrastructure project that includes acquisition and implementation costs (including training for relevant admins and support personnel), operational and ongoing service costs and maintenance costs. Once you have identified the scope of your converged infrastructure project and all of the associated costs, you will want to perform a cost/benefit analysis that takes all of these factors into account. Be sure to include in your analysis the soft benefits of converged infrastructure, including the possibility of quicker implementations and less day-to-day administration, freeing up admin staff to address other, more pressing issues.
Converged infrastructure is already delivering on the potential to be a game-changer in enterprise data centers. Follow best practices when evaluating the available solutions for platform upgrades or infrastructure modernization.