The convergence era

The regional market is seeing an uptake for converged infrastructure solutions. Reseller ME examines how channel partners can effectively sell these solutions.converge

Enterprises are increasingly becoming more dependent on technological innovations to ensure smooth and cost-effective functioning of operations. Converged infrastructure is one such approach, which aims to reduce compatibility issues among various components of an organisation such as servers, storage systems and network devices.

There are various benefits of converged infrastructures from centralised management, better control and simplification of IT resources management to reduced initial deployment time.

Kartik Shankar, Senior Sales Manager, StorIT Distribution, says, “This helps in software projects to go live much faster, and it also enables faster provisioning of resources besides other advantages such as scalability, cost effectiveness and reduced foot print in data centres.”

While it is difficult to add more variants to a converged infrastructure due to its standardisation, hyper-converged infrastructure is a software-defined approach towards converged infrastructure, which allows the addition of different traditional data centre aspects. It depends on the organisation to see which approach suits its requirements better.

“There is a role for both converged and hyper-converged, depending on what the customer needs. Converged infrastructure is best suited for today’s mission critical enterprise applications that rely on resiliency and data services that are built into the infrastructure and tailored to provide highly available service levels with predictable performance,” says Jan Lawford, Senior Director, Global Strategic Accounts & EMEA Channels, VCE. “Hyper-converged is appropriate for workloads that do not have high system resiliency requirements, or native cloud workloads that have resiliency built into the application. Appliances are purpose built systems that are targeted for specific use cases and environments. Their characteristics typically include easy customer deployment, comprehensive software stacks already installed, and extreme ease of use.”

A recent Gartner report states that IT infrastructure spending in the Middle East and Africa is forecast to reach $3.48 billion in 2015, a 0.9 percent increase from 2014. Also, the server market will continue to lead IT infrastructure spending through 2018.

This indicates that regional customers are showing a keen interest to deploy converged and hyper-converged infrastructures.

Shams Hasan, Enterprise Product Manager, Middle East, Dell, says, “Customers’ interest in integrated systems continues to grow with the opportunity to deploy simplified yet powerful solutions that offer high performance, fast deployment and lower operational costs. This is best achieved in converged and hyper-converged infrastructure.”

Lower operational cost is definitely a compelling feature for organisations.

Ramkumar ‎Balakrishnan, President, Value Distribution, Redington Gulf, says, “With standardised commodity hardware that is balanced for compute, network, storage and virtualisation requirements, expanding the network will be far simpler. Adding new hardware to infrastructure will be faster because, like building blocks, it should snap into place with the existing hardware. Maintenance and support costs also are expected to be lower. Interoperability and installing maintenance patches and upgrades will also be more efficient with a converged infrastructure.”

The advantages of these integrated systems are clear for customers, but how can regional channel partners ensure they gain recurring profits in this space?

Taj ElKhayat, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Riverbed Technology, says, partners should primarily focus on these three areas: storage, networking and compute. “These three components need to be properly addressed by the converged infrastructure solution, so partners need to have a 360 view around this.”

According to Shankar from StorIT Distribution, the most important phase in the convergent infrastructure business is the sizing of the requirement and designing.

He says, “Partners should evaluate the lead carefully and design a solution that balances between cost effectiveness, robust to handle the kind of proposed workload, growth and scalability.

“Converged and hyper-converged infrastructure approach gives partners more control on customers IT environment compared to the traditional approach. It helps end-customers’ IT resources to spend more time to enhance their business by planning and deploying new IT initiatives rather than getting involved in less technical activities like break and fix, trouble shooting, evaluating individual components of the datacenter for compatibility etc. On the other side, it helps partners to support customer with faster response, quick resource provisioning and better SLAs with lesser resource and cost.”

Balakrishnan further says with evolving trends, the focus today is more on selling solutions as a package, starting from consultation to implementation.

“Data centres are getting all virtualised and as a result customers are looking for partners who can provide virtualisation services such as capacity planning exercises, design and build private clouds, create cloud strategies and provide multiple services including setting up of VDI environment. We are positioning ourselves as a solutions partner in an effort to cater to an industry that is fast-changing into a marketplace for all-in-one solutions.”

It is also important for partners to know if a converged infrastructure solution will be best suited for an organisation. This can only come with in-depth knowledge of the technology and thorough understanding of the customer’s requirements.

Hasan explains, “Converged infrastructure isn’t a best-fit for all use cases, partners should not attempt to shoe-horn converged infrastructure solutions into all user needs. Converged infrastructure brings together compute, storage and networking, as well as offer a differentiated value proposition in systems management, partners need to understand how to lead such discussions as well as build such solutions for customers. Also, partners need to find vendors they can partner with who have true end-to-end value in the converged infrastructure space.”

While education and developing skills are important factors, choosing the right vendor too is equally significant. With the right vendor, partners have the opportunity to avail appropriate support and resources to further develop their capabilities.

ElKhayat adds, “Riverbed assists its partners by letting them have the entire share of the services business and readily supports those partners who are keen to take advantage of this. So, channel organisations that already have competency in the domains of storage, networking and compute clearly have the motivation and the support necessary to rapidly scale their abilities in the services domain.”

Balakrishnan adds, “A deeper engagement between vendors and partners is crucial to enable the success of any IT solution. Partners should forward to trainings and enablement apart from periodic forums about the latest technology updates as well as key insights into market verticals.”

Partners need to focus on enhancing their skillset and capabilities to be able to lead the converged infrastructure discussion with customers while also ensuring they are updated on current market trends. This will be the key difference between partners who are able to monetise the opportunities in this space effectively and those who are not.

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