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IT Transformation Fuels New Holistic Platforms

There is a tremendous amount of evidence that enterprises are transforming their IT environments to support the business better. Consolidated datacenters, virtualization technologies, cloud adoption, and mobile computing are on the rise and fueling the shift. Core to this transformational process is ensuring that all business applications are highly available, optimized for performance, and accessible to anyone from anywhere.

To help accelerate this transformation, organizations have created teams comprising individuals from each technology domain, who work together to define new architectures and technologies. This means that organizations will look at technology solutions more holistically, understanding not only how a single technology will work in a specific technology domain, but also how it will interact with adjacent domains and become part of a tightly integrated solution.

Technology vendors will play a significant role in this transformation, as well. We have seen a lot of evidence over the past year of technology vendors expanding their footprint and providing a more comprehensive platform. Here are a few examples.

  • VMware: The server virtualization pioneer has expanded to a comprehensive platform approach that now includes networking (NSX), storage (VSAN), and cloud (vCHS).
  • Microsoft: With its Cloud OS, Microsoft offers virtualized server (HyperV), network (HyperV Network Virtualization), storage (Storage Spaces), and cloud (Azure) via a single platform.
  • Cisco: Many still view Cisco as a networking company, but look at the moves and momentum it has achieved with its Unified Computing System (UCS). Its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is complementary to its UCS service profiles concept, and with Invicta, it now has the storage component.
  • IBM, Dell, HP: Many of you may think, "Big deal." These companies have supplied compute, network, storage, and cloud technologies for some time, but the big difference now is the level of integration and the ability to provide continuity between private and public clouds (for example, Dell's OpenStack initiatives and HP Helion). It's not just about being able to sell the individual pieces; it's about the ability to tie them together in a cohesive manner.
  • OpenStack: This platform is interesting to watch, because it enables organizations with all the pieces to leverage an open-source solution to tie everything together (again, see Dell's OpenStack initiatives and HP Helion).
  • Converged infrastructure: This is another solid example of a platform approach. A number of the major players are participating in it, including Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, NetApp, VCE, and VMware. So are startups such as Simplivity and Nutanix. These all-in-one bundles provide tightly integrated solutions that many organizations are leveraging to solve specific solutions such as SAP, VDI, and branch office infrastructure.

However, taking a platform approach isn't restricted to tying together compute, network, storage, and cloud. I was reminded of this with Riverbed's announcement of its Application Performance Platform. Some may initially view this as a pure rebranding effort, but it is really the culmination of Riverbed's integration of technology it developed and acquired over the last four to five years. Essentially, Riverbed has moved from a company focused on individual products to one with a platform designed to enable what Riverbed calls location independent computing.

The company's goal is to enable organizations to ensure application performance from anywhere (private datacenter or public cloud) to anywhere (corporate HQ, distant supplier/partner, or remote mobile user). Riverbed played a major role in enabling the first wave of datacenter consolidation with application performance management tools, and now it looks to help drive the second wave: leveraging the cloud and bringing back all the apps to a datacenter, even those difficult-to-move point-of-sale and manufacturing apps. The integration efforts started more than a year ago, when Riverbed created an open API that spanned all its products, including, WAN optimization, application performance management, and network performance management.

Core to any platform approach is the ability to leverage common technology across the private datacenter and the public cloud by deploying cloud versions of the datacenter technology. As one enterprise architect told me recently, "If I can't deploy it in the cloud, I am not putting it in my private datacenter."

Essentially, both enterprise organizations and technology vendors are thinking more comprehensively about the technology they deploy/deliver and looking for opportunities to leverage solutions that deliver one-plus-one-equals-three math.

Whether it is a virtualization vendor covering compute, network, and storage like VMware or Microsoft or a technology vendor like Cisco or Riverbed, these companies are more aggressively integrating their technologies to solve a wider range of problems and deliver greater value to the organizations with a comprehensive approach.