Dan's Take

Playing the 'Forced Hardware Update' Game

Curvature and DataCore wonder why it's necessary to rip-and-replace perfectly good systems.

I recently enjoyed an interesting  conversation with Jeff Zanardi of Curvature and both George Teixeira and Steve Houck of DataCore about how enterprises often find themselves being pushed to upgrade systems, networking and storage equipment, even though those devices are still working just fine. Since the design lifecycle for equipment is often five to seven years, buying new equipment every three to four years seems silly.  Enterprises take this step because they want to know that support will be available when something goes wrong.

Another point is that over the years, system architectures have changed from a system design in which the processors, memory, networking and storage equipment were integrated and housed in a small number of enclosures or even a single cabinet, to systems comprised of many individual components in standard racks. The processing now is supplied by blades, the networking is supported by separate network servers, and storage is supplied by a storage server supporting its own storage area network (SAN).

If this appears more complex than ever before, it's also important to understand that security, management, individual applications or application services might all be built into separate appliance servers. If we think about what today's datacenters look like -- racks and racks of components supporting individual functions -- this can mean that enterprises are always finding themselves forced to upgrade something.

Supporting the Elderly
Curvature has been addressing this issue for quite some time. It offers older equipment that can fulfill the requirements of the enterprise, and supports it. The company asks "Why replace perfectly good, working equipment just to keep up with supplier support policies?"

So the company acquires, resells and supports equipment from a number of suppliers, including Arista Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Dell, IBM, Juniper and others. Their goal is making systems, storage and networking equipment enjoy a long and cost-effective life.

If we focus on storage equipment for a moment, Curvature's customers sometimes found keeping around older, but perfectly workable equipment, to be a challenge because the suppliers are using proprietary communications protocols, storage equipment interfaces and control software. This makes it difficult to make existing and new equipment play nice with each other.

While looking for a way to address customers' needs, Curvature came across DataCore.

Putting It Together
DataCore has long addressed the needs of this type of environment. The company has developed network and storage virtualization that can enable a software-defined computing environment made up of both old and new storage and networking technology. The company's virtual SAN and SANsymphony-V technology is designed to manage all the different types of storage in use by industry standard systems (x86-based) in an enterprise data center, making it all work together.

DataCore points out that its software also provides features such as compression, deduplication, auto-tiering and intelligent caching to improve performance and reliability.

Teixeira explained that storage suppliers will often develop these features and only offer them to their enterprise customers as part of a new storage server. DataCore has taken a different approach: provide those features in a software layer that supports a large array of different types of storage devices from different suppliers.

Dan's Take: No Need To Run in the Rat Race
Curvature and DataCore have a point. Why should enterprises replace systems supporting the business just because a vendor has decided it's time to upgrade? Wouldn't it make more sense to keep working systems in place until they wear out, rather than changing them out when they're no longer stylish?

Curvature is offering the hardware and firmware support. DataCore's virtualization technology offers the newest availability, manageability, performance and reliability features.

Enterprises seeking a cost-effective way for IT to support business functions would be well advised to learn more about what these companies are doing.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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