CI, integrated systems, IDCM—which approach fits best for federal data centers?

Data center approaches

According to a recent report1, 59 percent of federal agencies are turning to converged infrastructure (CI) as part of their agencies’ current data center strategies, while 23 percent have multiple converged solutions in place.

When looking at the current challenges that federal organizations are faced with—such as reduced budgets, aging infrastructure and volatile energy prices—the move makes sense given that federal data centers make up a part of federal buildings’ existence. Federal data centers specifically are faced with shrinking budgets, growth in connected devices and the Internet of Things (IOT), and programs such as the Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) directives. As they are challenged to better reduce energy and operating costs without impacting capital budgets, it is important to understand the benefits that converged infrastructure or integrated data center management (IDCM) provide to bridge the gap in data center IT and facility management.


Functionalities of CI, integrated systems and IDCM

For example, CI can have many different definitions. “Gartner calls it integrated systems, while Cisco Systems calls it the unified computing system (UCS).2” To understand what you need to know in applying either model to your federal data center, let’s take a look at the processes and functionalities at the core of each model.


In the past, networking infrastructure environments were challenged with silos and multiple resources to integrate different data center IT systems. Instead, CI now works to address that by integrating servers, storage systems and network devices for improved compatibility to reduce costs for cabling, cooling, power and floor space.3 Akin to CI is hyper-converged CI (HCI), which ties these components further together with optimizing software.4 And beyond HCI are software-defined data centers (SDDCs), which isolate mechanical and electrical systems to eliminate cooling inefficiencies and improve Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE).5


Both CI and HCI can handle virtualized workloads and improve IT infrastructures, but neither should be confused with Integrated Data Center Management (IDCM). 


While CI can provide federal data centers with ways to reduce costs while boosting capacity and performance on their IT infrastructure, IDCM provides their facility counterparts with many ways to optimize operations. In practice, a holistic approach to federal data center management would tightly integrate facility and IT operations versus just individually improving data center IT infrastructures or traditional hardware-centric data centers. IDCM intelligently links IT and facility assets with real-time data to provide both IT and facility managers all the information they need to make smarter, more informed decisions about their data center operation. 


A way forward for federal data centers

As increased data usage drives volumes in data center IT workloads, federal data centers may find themselves looking to implement CI, HCI or IDCM—perhaps overcoming such concerns around security, limited funding or interoperability issues which may slow CI adoption. As integrated approaches for both IT and facility management in data centers continue to grow in market awareness and adoption, it is important to understand how each can best fit for your federal data center. 


While CI, HCI or IDCM can each respectively provide a way forward, it is important to understand how each can best fit for your federal data center, given that integrated approaches for both IT and facility management in data centers will only continue to grow in market awareness and adoption.




1. MeriTalk, “Converged: At the Core of IT All: A 2017 Converged Infrastructure Report,” Aug. 2017 

2. CIO, “Is Converged Infrastructure the Future of the Data Center?” March 19, 2013

3. Techtarget, “Converged Infrastructure,” Oct. 2015

4. Data Center Knowledge, “What the Words ‘Converged Infrastructure’ Mean Today,” April 2015

5. Data Center Frontier, “The Power Paradox of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure,” Feb. 2017