Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
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Builder versus Plumber

Rob Enderle recently added some great insight into a question we posed a couple of weeks ago, "What If a Plumber Built Your House".  When thinking about the question if you wanted a plubmer to build your house, he answered with "maybe".  Here are some of Rob's excellent points from his post, "Cisco, EMC and VMware: Cloud Computing Could Bring Strange Bedfellows".




  • Most builders learn the ropes in a specific trade like plumbing.


  • Plumbers can learn and partner.


  • Other experts may be useful if you were building with non-traditional materials in non-traditional places; like a cliff

Can a plumber learn new skills and partner with others to fill in the gaps?  Certainly.  Could a world-class builder do the same thing?  That is, continuously learn and partner to expand innovation in new areas based on a proven foundation.  Absolutely.


But when the example of the cloud came up, Rob inferred the cloud is primarily a network thing. Or at least a network, storage, virtual thing.  That's one point where we disagree.


The point between our builder versus plumber analogy is this: the only frame of reference when building a house is from the family and the people that make it up.  In the case of the next generation data center, that means the business and the applications and services it relies upon.  If everything isn't aligned, unified and integrated with those needs in mind for both today and the unknown tomorrow, it's a non-starter. 


Whether you are building a cloud, a data center, a or a tiny IT room, it's about about the business and delivering the application services the business needs - faster, cheaper and easier.  In our opinion, taking any kind of technology-centric view; network, server or storage is just the wrong approach.


This really just comes down to a simple difference in our points of view .  We view the big picture from the business and the application perspective across the data center, others see these as appendages hanging on to either side of a network cable.  


Rob ended with this.



"But the key to all of this is a general contractor that understands networking, storage and virtualization deeply, because those are likely the three critical skills in this new world order. By the way, this clearly suggests other partnerships, as well."


We agree it takes a lot to bring all the skills together to build in the world of the next generation data center.  Our team features EDS, who may be the world's greatest general contractor, HP software for the best home automation, and ProCurve might be your best bet for a plumber.  VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, Oracle and more are some of our most talented sub contractors too.  But without a builder, how do all the necessary parts of your data center work together and stay optimized; and who's accountable if they don't?


A big thanks to Rob for adding a lot of great ideas to consider in the "builder versus plumber" discussion.  What do you think?

What if a plumber built your house?

Nine months ago, I started to build a house. This week was all about tying up loose ends. We're only days away from moving in. One such loose end was the mystery of the missing faucet.  It was a cool bronze faucet I picked up on eBay for a song.  Forgotten in my trunk, I never gave it to the plumber. 


As the plumber came today to install it, he handed me a change order for $175 - something about the valve and trim weren't compatible!?!  The faucet was in and the plumber was out in five minutes flat. He also warned me not to cry to him if it breaks. Sigh. 


I'm really glad my plumber didn't build my house.




  • The house budget would have come in just shy of a one billion dollars. I promise you, on a per hour basis, my plumber walked away with 10x more profit than my builder.


  • Faucets would have been the focal point of every room.  I even suspect the pipes would be outside of the walls.


  • All pipes and faucets would be made of 24k gold.  The rest of the house, crape paper.

If you want to build a house, hire a custom builder.  They can see your vision. They grasp the big picture and they know how to bring the pieces together.  Most importantly, they know how to execute it.  Custom builders also know your budget and they don't get paid if they bust it. 


That brings me to this article today from Lippis group.  The title is "Are Cisco, HP and IBM on Data Center Collision Course?" It's clear to me that Cisco is taking a plumbers' view to the next generation datacenter. Or a "packet plumber" view if you will. 


This article does a great job of posing some interesting questions of Cisco while clearly drawing the lines between different approaches already being executed in the market, i.e. Adaptive Infrastructure.  James Staten at Forrester echoed some of these sentiments in a recent post as well.


Here are some of the quotes and questions that popped out to me:




  • "Cisco’s Data Center 3.0 initiative is its vision to orchestrate virtual IT." - What data center is virtual only?  Convergence is needed in the data center - not divergence.  Virtual and physcial can not be addressed separately with different tools, processes, etc.  There needs to be a master plan for physical and virtual to minimize the proliferation of different tools, control conflicts and poorly managed processes.


  • "Its products include the Nexus family of data center switches including the Nexus 7000, a high-density 10Gbs Ethernet core switch; Nexus 5000 . . . "  followed by "Cisco Nexus family provides customers with a granular path to add capacity and capabilities to the data center network while allowing customers to have the ability to leverage their existing and continued investment in Catalyst." The granular path is a little unclear here for Catalyst and IOS folks.  Exactly how does Cisco's vision include the millions of Catalyst and IOS products out there? 


  • "But here’s the rub: business models."  Quite a rub indeed.  HP has a proven history of driving out cost across the data center.  Possibly the only player in that can do it on all four axis in the data center - compute, storage, networking, and facilities.  Will Cisco drive down network costs the way HP has driven down compute and facilities costs?  We think it takes a lot more effort than addressing FCoE to get there. 

The final assertion I saw was that Cisco thinks that "HP and IBM will be painted as legacy data center players."  I guess I'm okay with that as our legacy. 


HP knows data centers.  Cisco knows networks.  Which one do you want to build your house?


 

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  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
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  • Global Marketing Manager with 15 years experience in the high-tech industry.
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  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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