Top-tier data center systems makers continue to roll out prepackaged hardware-and-software offerings as they look to grow their capabilities in the increasingly competitive converged infrastructure space.
Both Hewlett-Packard and Oracle added to their portfolios this week with solutions that leverage both in-house and partner technologies designed to give enterprises integrated and easy-to-deploy converged data center systems. Such offerings are considered by analysts and vendors as critical technologies as businesses continue their migration to cloud computing environments.
Smaller systems makers also are making strides in that direction. At the Cloud Summit East show in New York June 7, Supermicro and cloud software vendor Nimbula partnered on a solution that will include Supermicro servers optimized for Nimbula's Director software platforms and aimed at businesses looking to grow their cloud computing capabilities.
"Awareness of IT cost and infrastructure benefits in private and public cloud computing is reaching the masses," Wally Liaw, vice president of international sales at Supermicro. "Supermicro's cloud-ready server solutions are an ideal computing platform for Nimbula Director. Supermicro's application-optimized systems combined with Nimbula's expertise in cloud deployment automation, operation, and scalability will provide any size enterprise or service provider with an accelerated, cost-effective path to evolving cloud services."
Such converged data center solutions got a shot in the arm a couple of years ago when Cisco Systems rolled out its UCS (Unified Computing System), a tightly integrated, all-in-one data center offering that includes Cisco-branded server and networking devices, storage from EMC and virtualization capabilities from VMware. It also includes management software.
The UCS has been a solid business for Cisco. IDC analysts said last month that Cisco is now the number-three blade server vendor in the world, and company executives said Cisco now has 5,400 UCS customers and an annual run rate of $900 million for UCS product orders.
Such integrated offerings aren't necessarily new, but vendor and customer interest has grown with the rise of virtualization and cloud computing. Now most hardware vendors are rolling out such converged packages. For example, Dell in April announced vStart, a pre-assembled hardware and software bundle of Dell PowerEdge servers, EqualLogics storage and PowerConnect switches that will be delivered as a single unit and easily deployed. A vStart package will let businesses initially run 100 or 200 virtual machines with that number growing later.
As part of its Converged Infrastructure initiative, HP executives at their Discover 2011 show June 6 rolled out new and enhanced data center packages complete with HP servers, storage, networking and services, and with support for a wide range of virtualization technologies from VMware, Citrix Systems and Microsoft. HP's AppSystem, VirtualSystem and CloudSystem offerings are designed to help businesses more easily migrate to cloud computing environments, according to company officials.
Analyst generally applauded HP's announcements. Charles King, principle analyst with Pund-IT Research, said in a note June 8 that the HP's vision of an Instant-On Enterprise, with systems that provide seamless and flexible support for myriad processes, makes sense.
"If this all sounds familiar, it should," King wrote. "Though HP's branding is fairly unique, the company's go-to-market approach and goals fall generally in line with those pursued by virtually every other major systems vendor. ... HP's Converged Enterprise strategy and growing solution portfolio have made the company more formidable than it has been for some time."
Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera said the HP offerings gives enterprises options.
"With these new announcements, the virtual infrastructure platform segment of the [converged infrastructure] space begins to look positively crowded, and now HP users will have an alternative to the VCE offerings [from Cisco and partners] as well as Dell's new vStart options when looking at these platforms," Fichera wrote in a June 7 blog post. "On the integrated application stack side, the new HP options look like strong choices for users of these complex vertical stacks."
Oracle officials have been looking to leverage combined hardware-software offerings since buying Sun Microsystems last year and inheriting its SPARC systems, rolling out such solutions as the Exadata database system and Exalogic, a cloud-in-a-box offering.
On June 7, Oracle unveiled the Oracle Optimized Solution for Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, an integrated and pre-tested solution that combines Oracle's Sun Blade servers, ZFS storage appliance and Oracle VM virtualization technology. It will run Oracle Solaris or Oracle Linux operating systems, and comes with Oracle consulting services.
"Oracle is radically simplifying cloud deployment with a pre-tested, single vendor solution for enterprise cloud infrastructure," Ali Alasti, vice president of hardware development for Oracle, said in a statement. "By engineering our hardware and software together, the Oracle Optimized Solution for Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure cuts deployment time from weeks to hours and helps customers get virtualized infrastructure up and running faster."
Two days later, Oracle officials announced they were preloading new virtualization software onto some SPARC system. Oracle VM Server for SPARC 2.1 enables users to host as many as 128 virtual machines on a single server.