Owning and using technology is very much like deciding what tools to have in your garage. There are people that will choose to buy the 64-piece wrench set in standard and metric sizes and others that will simply buy one crescent wrench and call it good. Technology has the same choices. You can buy many individual things to meet needs or look to converged technology platforms as an alternative approach.
There is no universal right answer but I believe there is a very specific decision process that should be used when evaluating different solutions. It comes down to 3 rules.
Rule 1: Assume you will use the simplest, most cost efficient “converged” solution and then see if there are any use cases where it simply WILL NOT work.
Converged solutions will tend to be “good” at everything and “great” at nothing. In each individual case, there will likely be specialty products that would come out on top. The reason to not buy a specialty solution is generally that they are more costly, more complex, and less flexible. Consequently you will always wind up with multiple solutions.
The best example is your smartphone. Today, most of us choose to carry one device with us and use it as a phone, camera, GPS, music/video player and browser. There are definitely better single-function devices in every category yet most of us still prefer the convenience, cost-effectiveness and simplicity of a single device.
Rule 2: Don’t use a variable cost model.
Let’s say you already own a digital camera and are looking for a new phone. Should you buy a smartphone even though you don’t need that camera? In most cases, the answer is yes because it will offer you an overall improvement for minimal incremental cost. While not strictly essential, it will easily pay for itself over time.
If you use a strict variable cost model, you wind up never innovating and only buying the next point product to meet each single need.
Rule 3: It is OK to do both.
I have both an iPhone and a fancy Canon 22 megapixel camera. I probably take 10 times more pictures with the iPhone (because it is convenient) but there are still times when I want the best possible picture and will sacrifice convenience for specialized function.
Converged platforms are never going to be able to cover 100% of use cases and there will always be needs for specialized solutions but it is often better to still use converged platforms where possible and also use specialized products.
The compelling reasons to look at converged products are simplicity, convenience and cost. I believe that, within IT, converged solutions are about to take center-stage just as smartphones did 5 years ago. Convergence comes in many forms; there are cloud-based SaaS solutions that provide “convergence” by aggregating customers onto a single platform and solutions that integrate server, network and storage infrastructure.
With our new company, Formation Data Systems, our focus is converging data storage resources like flash, disk and even cloud storage into a single virtual environment that can be used to meet all types of application data storage needs. In this way, a common set of physical resources can be shared to deliver block, file and object formats with varying performance and reliability metrics.