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GCN : March 2013
14 GCN MARCH 2013 • GCN.COM Afew years ago, the data center supporting criti- cal agencies in Avondale, Ariz., was on the verge of maxing out on power and space, hamper- ing the IT department's efforts to deploy new technologies that would help those agencies pro- vide better services to citizens. The array of servers and stor- age equipment in the data center consumed 98 percent of available power, draining much-needed resources from new servers de- ployed on the network. "We had a definite power issue and we weren't getting the type of density we needed to provide all the services we needed to our em- ployees and citizens," said Wesley Harris, an IT engineer for the city. Avondale needed technology that used less power and space, and, at the same time, derived better performance and efficien- cy from a virtualized environ- ment. The city eventually settled on an integrated data center in- frastructure, NetApp's FlexPod, which helped the technology de- partment continue its efforts to consolidate servers and disparate storage area networks. In the pro- cess, data center administrators were able to reduce power con- sumption, save on maintenance costs and provide a more efficient IT environment, Harris said. Government agencies and mu- nicipalities are turning to such "converged infrastructure" tech- nology to consolidate and unify data centers and to build private clouds . It also makes migrating to new technology easier. FLEXIBLE SYSTEMS The goal for many government agencies is to put all of their appli- cations on a common, converged infrastructure to which they can dynamically add or remove re- sources along the way, said Dan Kent, director of solutions and CTO of Cisco U.S. Federal. Within the public sector, state and local governments actually have con- verged infrastructures in produc- tion, Kent noted, while federal agencies are mostly in pilot mode. The move to this next-genera- tion, automated data center has been a multiyear endeavor that started with virtualization and the concept of unified computing. Cisco was a key driver of uni- fied computing, which integrated computer processing and net- working on the same platform. Unified computing initially fo- cused on the virtualization of blade servers, allowing users to dynamically concentrate one, 10 or even 100 servers on a particu- lar application, Kent said. Today, Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and servers tie together computing, networking, manage- ment, virtualization, and storage access into a single integrated ar- chitecture. The Minnesota Department of Transportation deployed UCS a few years ago to consolidate and upgrade aging servers, as well as to create savings in server operations by cutting costs in cooling and power consumption. By decreas- ing data center hardware, the Mn- DOT reduced costs by $300,000 to $400,000, and achieved potential eligibility for $77,000 in energy savings rebates, according to Mn- DOT IT officials. A joint venture among Cisco, EMC and VMware three years ago really marked the beginning of converged infrastructure tech- nology, Kent said. The partners created VCE, a subsidiary which offers the Vblock system to gov- ernment agencies and businesses. Vblock is a converged infrastruc- ture platform that incorporates unified computing, unified fabric, storage, virtualization software and automated tools to give users a simplified, standardized data center. Separately, Cisco came up with a similar strategy with storage provider NetApp, which offers FlexPod. FlexPod is an integrated infrastructure that includes Cisco The move to this next-generation, automated data center is a multiyear endeavor that started with virtualization and the concept of unified computing. DATA CENTER OF THE FUTURE: CONVERGED INFRASTRUCTURE UNIFIED COMPUTING TECH ANALYSIS BY RUTRELL YASIN