At the beginning of this decade HP put forth a vision for the future data center that they have now fulfilled with both products and services offerings. Viewed by some at the time as a reaction to IBM Applications on Demand, HP coined Adaptive Infrastructure as its vision for a "composable" data center that let resources  be quickly and easily assigned to business services based on their needs and for IT Ops to achieve and maintain high utilization of their data center resources.

In 2008 HP started to fulfill this vision with the combination of its blade systems, Virtual Connect technology, Virtual Machine Management software, and the OpsWare-lite Insight Dynamics-VSE. It started customers down this path through HP Professional Services who debuted an Adaptive Infrastructure Maturity Model coupled with advisory and implementation services that plotted your course towards this reality. This month they added orchestration and recovery services to the Dynamics family and announced new AI Discovery centers, ProCurve software to enhance network orchestration, and enhanced services offerings to take advantage of these new portfolio elements. All these announcements add significant meat to Adaptive Infrastructure, which is one of the few visions you can actually implement today.

The timing is good for these announcements and for delivery against this vision as VMware, Cisco and others start to ratchet up their own marketing around a similar-sounding futureview.

Cisco debuted its Data Center 3.0 vision early last year with the introduction of its 10GbE Nexus products. It clearly sees the network convergence 10GbE will bring as a catalyst for its vision which speaks with a familiar ring about the orchestration and composability of resources. And with rumors spreading about a potential play on the server side, Cisco is garnering mindshare well ahead of its ability to deliver.

And last fall VMware launched its similar-sounding vision, Virtual Data Center OS. While VMware has yet to reach the market presence of HP or Cisco, it has the ear of many IT Ops leaders thanks to the IT consolidation and automation gains it has delivered to the market in the last four years. Its success has had such a strong effect that most vendors find themselves competing not with VMware’s existing product line, but against their roadmap, as many of the IT best practices for virtualization implementation are being set by VMware.

While all these efforts at transforming the data center into a more responsive, highly utilized asset pool are commendable (and sorely needed), each carries a degree of proprietariness. Thus, IT Ops leaders need to ask: which vision should we follow and what tradeoffs do they carry with them?

In HP’s case, you can’t really deploy a heterogeneous Adaptive Infrastructure — it runs on HP BladeSystem with Virtual Connect. You can use any hypervisor technology, any OS and can even incorporate your Integrity open systems into this model, but its capabilities quickly become limited off-platform.

Cisco’s DC 3.0 obviously locks you into the Cisco networking products family. It will likely be best with VMware, based on their previous partnership announcements, and will likely attempt to commoditize the server and storage assets it orchestrates.

VMware’s VDC-OS will clearly be a VMware-only (while it might incorporate other hypervisors) infrastructure play.

You’ll be hard pressed to find any vendor’s vision or strategy for IT modernization that is truly heterogeneous, so looking for that is a fool’s quest. Instead look to your own standardization efforts. If you are standardizing on any of the above vendors, then you are likely to be inclined toward their vision and will be able to gain tremendously from what they bring forth.

If HP is your preferred systems vendor then you can have this vision now, which may be an important trump card if you are taking advantage of the recession by investing in transformation now so you can emerge stronger. Its one thing to have a compelling vision. It’s another to be delivering it today.

By James Staten

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