Convergence and collaboration -- good or bad?

In discussing his experiences at the last HP Gold Partner conference, a VAR questions whether the recent boom in convergence really benefits the end user.

Andrew Cross

 At a recent Hewlett-Packard (HP) Gold Partner's conference, I had the privilege of seeing, firsthand, the visions of each business unit. Against a visual backdrop of "Convergence," senior managers stood up and presented their current performances, outlined their aims for the coming financial year and painted a picture of where they fit into the overall HP story.

Nick Wilson, UK managing director and vice president, explained how the convergence vision was his idea, highlighting the dream of minimising part codes. Perhaps his stated end goal of a single part code for a data centre may be out of reach. Time will tell. What is clear is that HP and others are attempting to simplify their messaging. They are commoditising the many aspects of hardware, software, racking, switching, etc., into complete solutions, presented and sold as single part codes. So, will this help the busy CIO and their teams or not?

The industry is notorious at providing technologies to simplify existing problems, which in turn creates mysteries to solve, which need consultants to assess and fix at a very good daily rate!


Andrew Cross, sales director, Sol-Tec,

The answer is that it should. Back in the early '90s, Microsoft sold its Windows application products like Word and Excel separately. Then along came Office; it combined these products in different variations. Pricing was adjusted to entice the purchaser to buy the bundled offering and not the individual applications. Today, those products are still bundled, and MS Office is the choice of most companies for their word processing and spreadsheet application requirements. For PC manufacturers, like Dell, including MS Office at little additional cost provided excellent competitor differentiation and assisted greatly in obtaining good market share. So the strategy of bundling is far from new.

At the recent IP Expo 2010 exhibition, an IT trade distributor, Magirus, launched its vBundle. A combination of Cisco, EMC and VMware products designed to provide an off-the-shelf infrastructure platform for virtual machines: server, storage, switching and software on one part code. To a point, this directly emulates the vBlock initiative from the same set of vendors, but the Magirus offering clearly targets the SME or regional office. Both approaches echo the Oracle strategy of a single stack containing hardware and software that is compatible and tested.

The vBlock initiative
At the enterprise level, the vendors involved in the vBlock initiative have opened their arms to Orange Business Services. The Flexible 4 Business initiative offers a portfolio of outsourced cloud services including unified communications, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). The way an organisation can acquire a virtual infrastructure is changing.

The virtualised desktop market is also seeing collaboration with the V-Alliance initiative bringing together Citrix and Microsoft. "You cannot have a desktop virtualisation discussion without Microsoft" is a compelling statement, and it provides good justification for vendors with complementary technologies to join the initiative.

For the CIO wanting to widen the use of existing Citrix installations or considering the virtualised desktop for the first time, a library of resource is provided on their website to assist. To gain further from this initiative, value added resellers and service providers can gain a specific V-Alliance accreditation.

SCC proudly announced before IT Expo 2010 its status as one of the first British resellers to gain this. On further investigation I found this only requires a Web form filled and confirmation that a small number of standard Cisco/Microsoft exams have been passed. It's not the most challenging accreditation a reseller will be asked to obtain, but it will keep out those resellers not wishing to invest in the required education for their engineering department and just looking for additional profit.

Marketing gloss?
So is convergence a strategy that will assist the CIO or a new marketing gloss? The IT industry is notorious for providing technologies for solutions to simplify existing problems, which in turn creates mysteries to solve, which need consultants to assess and fix at a very good daily rate! Our industry is also very good at renaming existing technologies and re-presenting them as something new. Convergence, though, is something quite different.

They are commoditising the aspects of hardware, software, racking, switching...into complete solutions. Will this help the busy CIO and their teams or not?


Andrew Cross, sales director, Sol-Tec,

The HP convergence story is very attractive. Its recent and probable future acquisitions will provide an even more rounded and complete single vendor source for the data centre. An end-to-end solution from a single vendor clearly supports the vision of maximising compatibility and, in turn, reducing associated support costs. An objective the CIO will welcome with open arms.

But let's not get carried away. When working under the auspices of Lord Sugar in years gone by, I had the pleasure of the personal computer being explained to me as essentially a number of circuit boards, a power supply and a box; not the multimedia, home office, Internet gateway I had imagined it was. For me, it was a reality check I have never forgotten. /p>

Today, a similarity exists. The bundles offering virtualised data centres are essentially a server, a storage array, switching and a type 1 hypervisor, all of which have been individually available for many years. The convenience of having these elements installed, configured and tested before shipping in a single box is a time and money saver. But what is the difference in approach between this new virtualised bundle offering and the combining of a motherboard, graphics card, memory and Windows operating system in a single box. There is always the danger of over dressing and then complicating something that is simple.

So does the CIO face another barrage of marketing hype that they'll need to wade through to find the most appropriate solution for their business? Maybe. What is true is that vendors are offering increasingly combined solutions through acquisition or collaboration. These multiple technology offerings have the aims of providing a more comprehensive solution and a simpler purchasing choice. This can only be welcomed.

The end-user IT budget has been squeezed with new and existing expenditure requiring even greater justification. With the lesser part of the budget being spent on researching innovation to bring greater business benefit, strategies like HP's Convergence or the Citrix/Microsoft V-Alliance collaboration can only help improve the CIO's ability to assess emerging technologies as they are presented by providers whom they trust.

Andrew Cross is the sales director at reseller Sol-Tec and a contributor to

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