Three Paths to a More Agile Infrastructure

By John Flores,
VP of Marketing and Business Development
Sigma Solutions

IT-as-a-Service is the new nirvana, an agile IT infrastructure that enables rapid response to changing business conditions and needs. Some people refer to this agile infrastructure as the private cloud. Whatever you want to call it, it represents a transformation of the traditional data center architecture.

Traditionally, IT infrastructure was built vertically to support individual applications. That monolithic structure made it difficult to scale the environment to meet increased storage or performance demands. The new agile IT infrastructure is built out horizontally, with applications spread across pools of virtualized compute, storage and networking resources. Because those pools can readily scale in response to changing requirements, this new architecture is much more flexible and efficient.

There are three ways to go about building an agile environment. One option is to go out and buy best-of-breed components and construct it from the ground up. The beauty of that strategy is that it’s extremely flexible and can be finely tuned to existing infrastructure and specific business requirements. The downside is that there is a good deal of complexity and effort involved. That’s why customers call Sigma — we have proven experience helping customers build private clouds.

At the other end of the spectrum is a converged infrastructure solution such as Vblock from VCE. Vblocks are validated “stacks” that integrate best-in-class virtualization, networking, compute, storage, security and management technologies. They offer a more streamlined approach to creating private clouds, and Sigma has the certifications and expertise to successfully integrate Vblocks into the IT environment. But while Vblocks deliver pervasive virtualization and scale, a pre-engineered, pre-integrated solution may be somewhat limiting in certain environments.

A third option is to use a reference architecture — a tested and validated design based upon best-of-breed technologies. NetApp’s FlexPod solution, for example, is a predesigned base configuration comprising the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS), Cisco Nexus data center switches and NetApp FAS storage. The reference architecture is modular or “pod-like,” such that the configuration of each customer’s FlexPod may vary. Nevertheless, a FlexPod unit can easily be scaled up by adding resources or scaled out by adding FlexPods. It creates an agile computing environment that can meet ever-increasing performance demands and support “big data” workloads.

A Sigma customer recently experienced the benefits of the FlexPod approach. The customer had already implemented NetApp storage, Cisco UCS and a Nexus fabric, and opted to leverage that infrastructure to create a FlexPod. Sigma engineers helped the customer tune the configuration in order to validate the design. It enabled the customer to rapidly expand a virtual desktop initiative with the confidence that the infrastructure could support the workload.

EMC’s VSPEX is another reference architecture. With VSPEX, customers can combine their choice of industry-leading compute, networking and virtualization technologies in a proven infrastructure validated by EMC and built on highly flexible EMC storage and backup infrastructure. As a result, VSPEX Proven Infrastructures significantly reduce the planning, sizing and configuration burdens associated with private cloud deployments.

Of course, Sigma has been providing these types of solutions for a number of years now. Sigma’s broad and deep experience across the data center enables us to create robust yet highly flexible environments based upon best-of-breed technologies. Whatever solution best meets the customer’s needs, Sigma has the knowledge and experience to transform the IT infrastructure and achieve the nirvana of the IT-as-a-Service model.