ESG has been tracking and monitoring the integrated computing platform (ICP) market extensively, as major system vendors like Hitachi, HP, Dell and IBM align their server, networking, and storage products into a single turnkey solution or companies like VCE, NetApp, and Cisco partner and execute through a best of breed approach. We also have a number of emerging companies like Nutanix, Scale Computing, Simplivity, and Pivot3 that are taking more of a bottom up approach and have the potential to cause some disruption with their 'hyper-converged' solutions. ESG covers all these ICPs and the benefits to IT organizations in greater detail in its recently published Market Landscape Report: Integrated Computing Platforms. But, where does Microsoft fit into the mix and why should you care?
Microsoft has its Private Cloud Fast Track program with a number of vendors providing joint reference architectures (RAs) for building private cloud platforms. Integrated with Microsoft System Center for management and orchestration, these RAs combine Microsoft software and guidance with OEM partner technology to deliver validated, turnkey solutions. They are designed around several key tenets of cloud computing: resource pooling, elasticity, continuous availability, predictability, metering and chargeback, multi-tenancy, and security and identity. Participating vendors include Cisco, Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, Huawei, IBM, NEC, NetApp, and Nimble Storage.
While Microsoft's Fast Track program is all well and good and does focus on the key benefits of an integrated computing platform, what would stop Microsoft from creating its own hardware solution for the data center? CEO Steve Ballmer already addressed shareholders last year about Microsoft being a devices and services company, so why not have a Surface for the data center - a Surface Server. So much of what we have traditionally seen embedded in the different layers of hardware infrastructure is now being designed and delivered with Windows Server and System Center. Why stick with the traditional IT model of consuming different silos of infrastructure and why not take everything Microsoft already delivers through its software and run it on a piece of Microsoft hardware? It certainly would make the lives of IT pros much easier.
I have no idea whether Microsoft will do this or not, but why shouldn't they? The timing appears right with the Windows Server 2012 R2 release right around the corner and Microsoft has rekindled its virtualization and cloud computing credibility. A Surface Server could potentially propel adoption of an OS upgrade, onramp customers to System Center, and, if Microsoft gets really smart, will link into Azure with management through Intune.
The pace of change we are experiencing in the market is incredible. If Microsoft were to introduce a device for the data center I suspect some may be shocked, but to many Microsoft customers, it would be a welcomed option that could potentially help ease the transition from physical to virtual to cloud. I'm constantly enamored by the ebbs and flows of technology and believe that Microsoft has a very real opportunity to strike the market with a data center device that massively simplifies IT infrastructure and architectural decisions.