With economic growth still uneven and uncertain across the globe, public and private enterprises of all sizes are now more mindful of their capital spending and operational costs. Given the key role technology plays in today’s enterprises, the IT organisation is highly expected to exercise this prudence.

Besides keeping a keen eye on spending and running costs, the IT function is also called upon to help create a competitive advantage for their enterprises by applications and services, users – and the business as a whole – can respond quickly to marketplace conditions.

Building infrastructure that can serve up new applications and IT services swiftly, however, can require significant investment in time and effort. For many enterprises, building infrastructure is not a core competency. Most spend weeks and months working through the selection, procurement, installation and configuration phases.
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The need for speed
Some enterprises turn to cloud models to gain agility and speed delivery. Successful cloud participation, however, demands that the base infrastructure is sound and efficient. Not surprisingly, those with legacy systems find they cannot effectively build and deploy a private cloud or utilise public cloud options.

In an attempt to address the challenges they face trying to deliver new applications and IT services to users in double-quick time, enterprises converge whatever IT infrastructure they can. IDC predicts that converged infrastructure and private clouds will reign over the next 10 years. Up until recently, however, convergence has been limited, primarily occurring at the network, storage and infrastructure administration layers.

The full value of convergence can only come through when the key IT infrastructural elements – compute, storage and networking – are fused together, according to Sumir Bhatia, Enterprise Director, Dell South Asia.

“Bringing together the key IT elements simplifies the entire infrastructure and makes possible the automation of critical administrative tasks, making infrastructure easier and less costly to manage, and more efficient and agile when it comes to delivering new applications and services. In addition, such convergence enables dynamic response to end-user needs and workloads, mitigates the explosive growth of data and endpoints, and provides a strong foundation for cloud participation.”

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Data centre in a chassis
To help enterprises move from limited physical convergence to broad and full convergence across compute, storage and networking, Dell offers a range of converged infrastructure solutions.

Fronting these solutions is the Dell Converged Blade Data Centre. The solution combines the Dell PowerEdge M420, the industry’s only quarter-height blade server; the recently announced enterprise-class SAN Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 blade storage array; and Dell Force10 MXL switch, the world’s first 40GbE stacking IOM switch, into a single blade chassis. The three converged platforms share a common interface, making configuration and management easy.

The Dell Converged Blade Data Centre features an architecture that is totally agent-free, with no software to install and no operating system dependencies. Modular components make in-chassis scaling up a simple process and multiple Dell Converged Blade Data Centre solutions can be implemented side-by-side to scale the overall infrastructure horizontally.

“The concept behind the Dell Converged Blade Data Centre is similar to that of a Formula One pit. The driver pulls in, members of the pit crew refuel, replace tyres, repair parts and make adjustments, the driver accelerates away to maintain his lead or improve his position in the race. The aim: to optimise the car’s performance for the current conditions in as little time as possible. Each crew member is trained for his role, not a second is wasted, the various tasks are minutely co-ordinated, the tools needed are readily at hand, and it all happens in one place,” said Sumir Bhatia, Enterprise Director, Dell South Asia.

Principled Technologies, an independent test laboratory, pitted the Dell Converged Blade Data Centre against an equivalent server-network-storage chassis solution from HP recently using a mixed workload including mail, database, and collaboration applications and found it superior in multiple aspects.

“Throughout our testing, the Dell data centre in a box solution based on Dell EqualLogic PS-M4110 blade arrays had the advantage over the HP solution based on HP StorageWorks D2200sb storage blades. Not only did the Dell solution deliver 40.2 percent better performance, it required 55.6 percent fewer major steps to set up, supported 42.7 percent more users per watt, and took one-fifth of the time to configure. Choosing such a complete data centre in a box solution can simplify infrastructure setup and configuration, boost performance, and save your organisation in data centre costs over the life of the hardware.”
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Fast track to cloud
Joining the Dell Converged Blade Data Centre is the Dell vStart 1000. Targeted at enterprises that want to quickly create or enhance a virtualised IT environment and a rapid, low-risk path to private clouds, the solution leverages proven, best-of-breed components: Dell Compellent SAN storage, Dell Force10 10Gb networking and Dell’s 12th-generation PowerEdge blade servers.

Available in two configurations (for Microsoft and VMware hypervisors), the Dell vStart 1000 enables businesses to focus on delivering IT services by taking advantage of Dell’s ability to rapidly provide a pre-integrated, virtualisation and private cloud infrastructure while lowering risk from a tried, pre-tested and certified configuration.

Like the Dell Converged Blade Data Centre, the Dell vStart 1000 can be managed from a VMware or Microsoft management console. Using Dell VIS virtual and cloud infrastructure management solutions, enterprises can unify the two converged solutions with non-Dell server, storage, and networking assets into a common resource pool. This enables IT managers to provision infrastructure assets and automate their management at every layer – physical or virtual – using their preferred hypervisor.

One component of the Dell VIS suite, VIS Self-Service Creator, ships with the Dell vStart 1000 and includes a web-based portal that enables authorised users to select, deploy and manage a customised catalogue of IT applications and resources, reducing the time it takes to deploy a workload to just minutes.

Its sister solution, Dell Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM), simplifies data centre management by bringing together heterogeneous hardware offerings and virtualisation hypervisors to create virtual pools of resources that are easy to manage. A single administrator can then allocate resource bundles to particular application workloads. Besides this just-right provisioning, Dell AIM can be used to simplify consolidation, migration and refreshes; reduce downtime of business-critical applications; and rapidly move workloads and backup data across heterogeneous, physical and virtual data centres.
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True convergence
With its new converged infrastructure solutions and management solutions, Dell has redrawn the lines among servers, storage, networking and management to offer customers technology convergence that provides simplicity and improved performance and efficiency while reducing the operational costs associated with running today’s data centres.

“Moreover, what Dell offers is true convergence. With our converged solutions there is no need to rip and replace existing investments, switch to a new infrastructure management model or custom-integrate consoles, use multiple, overlapping tools, or install several systems, unlike with other vendors’ so-called converged systems,” said Sumir Bhatia, Enterprise Director, Dell South Asia.

“Our open approach to interoperability and flexibility of management in the data centre and beyond mean customers don’t have to change their operational processes to gain the benefits of convergence. In short, Dell offers a simpler, more practical, and more affordable approach to driving efficiency and agility – with just one vendor to manage.”
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