Data Center

Would you prefer a rack with integrated compute, storage & networking components?

Front of Franklin Cray XT4 racks (landscape)

Photo: Derrick Coetzee. Published under this creative commons license.

Instead of buying a separate rack, servers, storage appliances, networking switches, etc and integrating the hardware/firmware to work with each other, what if you are able to buy a rack that comes pre-installed with all these components and (internal) connectivity? Wait, there is more – What if this rack comes with a OS/virtualization software and has a unified management unit/interface for all these components? What if you could choose what goes into certain parts of this integrated unit and still be able to manage all disparate systems using the same interface? Yes, such systems are available today.

Unified management is the obvious advantage of such an integrated system, but there are other advantages too. Faster provisioning and deployment hardware and software (using master configuration settings, for example) is possible because all the components are factory-integrated. Also, applications could be up and running relatively quicker.

Since all the components are integrated at the factory, available rack-space could be utilized more efficiently (due to better planning/design) and energy utilization can be controlled more effectively (hence saving energy). Workload provisioning and deployment could be dynamic and the system could be scaled quickly. Integrated systems are a good choice for cloud-computing applications.

The different components – hardware, software, compute, networking, storage, virtual server/hosts, etc. are tested and certified for interoperability. So, the customer need not worry about integrating and coordinating with multiple vendors, on-site. Common maintenance and management interface ensures that faults could be detected and corrective actions taken automatically as far as possible (moving a VM from one compute unit to another when one server is down, for example).

There maybe some limitations to such an architecture as well. The extent of customization (and partner choice) is limited to what is provided by the manufacturer of the integrated unit. How such a system integrates with the existing IT systems in the enterprise/data center is another challenge. Maintenance provided by a single vendor eliminates multiple points of contact/coordination during troubleshooting (for customers) but dependence on the single vendor increases.

These days, we even get a data center in a box! Hence pre-populated racks with integrated management systems may not be a big surprise. The question is – Is this becoming a trend? Will more enterprises & data centers move towards such integrated systems in the future?

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