European IT organisations are set to revolutionise the way they deploy, run, and manage IT infrastructure.

This is the major finding from the recent 2012 European Storage Survey from International Data Corporation (IDC), which provides insight into private cloud and converged system deployment trends in several large European countries.

IDC provisionally defines converged systems as pre-integrated vendor-certified systems containing, at a minimum, server hardware, together with load balancing and hardware management software – with additional components, including storage hardware and software, networking gear, operating system, virtualisation, middleware, and application software, also part of converged solutions.

Converged systems are a step up compared with reference architectures as they are typically sold as special SKUs (stock keeping units). They can be divided into converged infrastructure systems (workload-agnostic, virtualisation-centric blocks comprising network-level resource control, automation software, and data centre hardware) and converged platform systems (workload-specific hardware stacks in which the application or middleware elements are pre-integrated and dictate the whole engineering effort).

The survey was carried out in June 2012 with a larger sample of organisations and a wider range of questions than in the past. Among the main findings related to private cloud and converged system trends, the survey found that:

* There was a sharp rise in private cloud deployments among European organisations, with 20% of respondents reporting that they have implemented private clouds in 2012, compared with 6% in the previous European storage survey conducted in 2011.

* More than a third of respondents reported have deployed some type of converged infrastructure.

* The reported perceived benefits of converged systems are centred around application performance, application availability, time to deployment, and ease of management.

* 50% of respondents are primarily drawn to infrastructure-oriented converged systems for the deployment of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), while 20% of respondents expressed a stronger interest in application/middleware optimised converged platform systems; and 30% of respondents reported having no interest at all in converged systems.

Commenting on the results, Donna Taylor, research director with IDC’s European Storage Group, says: “Many European organizations recognize that converged systems have the potential to offer a cost-effective solution that can improve agility and business alignment by unlocking faster time to value and faster time to market. Faced with a future in which organisations need to deploy and effectively use hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of server, and/or desktop, applications in a virtual environment, companies are also considering how they can deploy optimally configured converged IT infrastructure solutions that are managed as unified IT assets in order to support private cloud environments.”

Nathaniel Martinez, program director: European Enterprise Server Group at IDC EMEA, adds: “European organisations are seeing private cloud and converged infrastructure as key to their data centre strategy. However, we are only starting to see wider adoption. An increasing number of European organisations are reaching the end of their consolidation programs as suggested by the latest results from IDC’s Virtualization Server Tracker, which reported a server virtualisation rate approaching 25,7% of all servers shipped in Western Europe in 1Q12.

“Those enterprises are entering the last mile of virtualisation and are focusing on application portfolio management, resource pooling, elasticity, and modularity. European organisations, whose investments in private cloud deployments are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23,2% for the next five years to $7,9-billion in 2016, increasingly require systems that are optimised for performance and efficiency.

“In that context, European organisations deem converged infrastructure systems as a good fit for advanced virtualisation usage and private cloud deployments as these systems provide the flexibility of general-purpose machines, the elasticity of cloud computing, and the ease of deployment and use of integrated systems.”

Giorgio Nebuloni, senior research analyst: European Enterprise Server Group at IDC EMEA, says: “While European organisations are not yet fully clear on how converged systems are different from reference architectures, awareness and interest are growing, pushed by the fundamental need to deliver applications to end users in a faster, more stable, and flexible way. IDC believes that in order to make converged systems a success, suppliers will have to tangibly prove these technology improvements to IT managers, while at the same time convincing C-level executives of concrete operating expense reductions.”