It’s a bright and clear summer morning, you have your Starbucks in hand and you are off to your first meeting with a CIO about network convergence. You have heard all of the vendor pitches, built a PowerPoint deck with all of the right talking points… but is it enough? What does a CIO really need to know about network convergence at a strategic level to ensure you are a long-term partner and provider to his or her company?
Here are seven key points to hit as part of your CIO meeting:
- 1. 10GbE is Moving into the Mainstream – 10GbE is becoming the main backbone in the X5500-based blade servers from IBM, HP, Sun and Dell. Next year, every major server vendor will be leveraging 10GbE with some form of converged NIC, iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) interface. This is because the cost of 10GbE is coming down, 10Gb Enhanced Ethernet provides the flexibility to support all key network protocols on a single wire and 10GbE will be the core networking technology for the next decade.
2. Network Convergence Starts at the Host – Blades servers are very tight on I/O real estate and are the natural leaders for network convergence. Why guess how many IP and Fibre Channel ports you need, when you can load up on 10GbE ports and then just provision the bandwidth to each blade or virtual machine (VM) as required? This networking strategy will also easily change as VMs migrate and I/O needs evolve. In terms of hard dollars, this saves on host bus adapters (HBAs), NICs and hundreds of cables per rack. See our Convergenomics Cost Calculator for more details: http://www.emulex.com/files/tools/FCoE-Calculator.html
3. Network Convergence Does Require Protocol Bridging/Switching – One thing most vendors dance around is that the first generation of network convergence solutions requires a protocol conversion box (like the Cisco Nexus 5000) to convert Enhanced Ethernet to standard IP and Fibre Channel. The cost of this box is more than offset by the savings in NICs, HBAs and cables. This piece of the solution is vital for protecting the investment data centers have in IP and Fibre Channel gear. Value-added resellers (VARs) need to tackle this issue up front with CIOs. As a rule, CIOs are smart folks, and they will arrive at this observation right away, put it on the table and take care of it out of the gate. These bridges are offered by Cisco, Brocade and Juniper, and IBM recently announced an embedded Enhanced Ethernet switch that fits blade center chassis.
4. Network Convergence Provides Investment Protection – As CIOs move into their next round of server upgrades, buying connectivity that will last for the full lifecycle of the server makes sense. An early move to network convergence should be an easy decision for them if we (VARs and vendors) communicate the long-term value and investment protection to them. This is also a good time to leverage support from their favorite server, networking and storage vendors, who will all have strong network convergence programs.
5. Network Convergence was Built for Green Field Data Centers - If this meeting with the CIO is about a new green field opportunity, then the move to network convergence based on 10GbE will not be a “no-brainer.” If this is a green field sales call, don’t go alone; make this a much more compelling story with a team sales call with reps from their favorite server, networking and storage vendors. This single call should make it clear to the CIO that network convergence is real and has strong industry support and a compelling value proposition.
6. Network Management Is Converging – Up to this point, the lines between IP and Fibre Channel network management were fairly clear. Now, these lines will blur, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed upfront (we will hit this in an upcoming blog ). CIOs need to look at regulatory, business continuance and security policies and best practices as they move into the network convergence world. For VARs, this is a key new area of professional services they can offer. It will provide more value that being a simple provider of the gear; it will differentiate your offering.
7. Know Where They Are in Their Hardware Lifecycle Management – Now for the real driver of purchases: does this lower their current operational expenses? Are you speaking to them at a point where they are ready for a hardware refresh? Have the costs of owning, servicing and managing older gear exceeded the cost of the new amortization? Helping the CIO understand this will be a key to making the case for network convergence. If they don’t know, then you can help them do an audit to find out if this will really save them money. In discussions with Emulex’s CIO, Dave Goff, he indicated that, for his team, enhancing business programs is higher on the spending plan than refreshing hardware this year. You have to make sure the CIO knows that doing this will lower his cost and free up resources for other top priorities. I hope this list helps you plan your next CIO session on network convergence. This new market will change the game, not just on networking storage and servers, but will define which VAR has the right strategic partnership with CIOs and not only gets the Purchase Orders for the IT gear, but the coveted services revenues and the long-term partnerships that build long-term relationships.