Convergence presents org-chart challenges

Hyper-convergence has a side-effect on IT operations that needs to be considered before taking the hyper-converged plunge. Hyper-convergence is taking what were separate components of the IT infrastructure and merging them into a single solution.  Think of a smartphone.  A smartphone takes a PDA, MP3 player and camera and merge them into a mobile phone.  Converged infrastructures do the same with IT infrastructure which can create challenges within a highly silo’d organizations.

The CPU, Storage and in some cases network are collapsing into tightly integrated platforms. Examples include Nutanix on the hardware side and VMware VSAN or EMC ScaleIO on the software side. These converged solutions allow for simplified infrastructures that scale by just adding additional blocks of integrated storage and compute.

These solutions compete with traditional compute and storage architectures in both capacity and performance. VMware’s VSAN solution scales up to 4.4PB of storage and two million IOPS. This puts it in the same class of many mid-sized enterprise storage solutions. This is in addition to the compute capacity of up to 32 ESXi nodes.

These are great technical solutions with great technical specs. However the model creates a challenge for operations. Smaller enterprises shouldn’t see much of a challenge. Engineers in these environments tend to work across silos. It’s when these solutions are sold into large enterprises with distinct operations silos. A good place to look at the challenges in a large enterprise is the budget process.

In a normal transaction, a storage vendor can go to the leader of the enterprise storage group and sell a storage array.  A server or virtualization software provider can go to the server leader to sell their product.  How would you like to be the sales person trying to sell a hyper-converged solution to a large enterprise? Worst still, how would you like to be a server admin trying to buy a solution that includes substantial storage? Who pays for maintenance or how is it divided between desperate groups?

It’s this simple challenge that foreshadows the operational challenges of who manages the design and implementation of these solutions within the operations groups. This is an example of when a great technology is not enough. Operations groups need help defining structures that make choosing and implementing these solutions palatable for large enterprises. Vendors are challenged with helping to make these solutions digestible to static org-charts.

This isn’t the case in every large environment and use case. Some large organizations are able stand up specific groups charged with managing these environments as part of a new project such as a VDI deployment. The challenge comes in trying to retrofit these platforms into existing architectures and their support structure. Before bringing these vendors in-house, you need to have conversations with the stakeholders from departments that the converged platform encroaches. Of course if you can get away with sneaking the solution in and not discussing it with anyone…

I could easily see a customer choosing to go with traditional network, storage and compute to avoid the political complexities of convergence.

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

10 thoughts on “Convergence presents org-chart challenges

  1. Isn’t it part of higher management to make this decision if it’s beneficial for the company?

    1. It’s that simple in some organizations and others not so much. This is the difficult part of organizational politics. A business owner can have tremendous influence of say the budget for SAN. Even if the CIO wanted to go with a converged solution they’d have to get buy-in from the group that functionally owns the budget. It can be a messy thing to navigate.

  2. Great point Keith. So what part of the org chart do you think will collapse first?

    Maybe someone from a successful hyper-convergence solution could speak to who ends up as their target customer as well.

    Thanks for a great write up.

    1. Thanks Matt.

      I don’t see individual departments collapsing versus the combination of multiple departments into single infrastructure groups. Convergence promises that the number of engineers needed to support the infrastructure will shrink. Those with the skill will find themselves inside that group. Obviously there will be outliers where applications dictate dedicated resources with dedicated support.

  3. Todd Knapp from Envision made a great comment during the Providence VMUG last week – and to fit it into this conversation, to not do something because its not how it has been done in the past would be a bad decision in my opinion, and likely reflective of poor management. Find the solution that fits the business and technical requirements, if that means changes in your team model then so be it!

    1. There’s a lot of bad management that understands the collapse of departments is coming. Making this decision may cost them their job because of the resulting overstaffing.

      Protectionism is something great technology has always had to fight.

  4. What if converged infrastructure has a different effect? Rather than changing the org chart it may actually facilitate communications between departments and bring about better solutions.
    Everyone supporting IT should have a basic knowledge of all the infrastructure but we will always have a need for specialists.

  5. I get a lot of nasty looks when I talk about the impending collapse. Comfort zones are a tough thing to break through.

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