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So the IT industry is starting to look like IHOP with stacks everywhere from Hitachi to Oracle, everyone is at it. It seems that infrastructure stacks are the new thing and everyone has to have one. And if you don't have one, you'd better announce one just in case.

So what is going on? Is this an admission that the heterogeneous infrastructure has failed? Is it an admission that the vendors are incapable of agreeing and implementing standards in a standard way? And what blame if any can be laid at the door of the humble infrastructure techie?

I think that firstly, heterogeneous infrastructure has been altogether too successful at emphasising the differences between infrastructures. Standards are implemented in differing ways and extended to give competitive advantage. Just take Fibre Channel, for what is basically a simple protocol; it's a joke! You put a fibre-channel switch into Interop mode and loose half the features which you paid for. Heck, half the time, they'll try to charge you extra just to put the switch into Interop mode. Yet half the features that you 'loose', you'll probably never miss anyway! I mean who is going to miss 'read-only' zones or LUN zoning on the MDS? I suspect pretty much no-one. So we've ended up in the situation where we've only got two SAN switch vendors with one pretty damaged, it's not a healthy situation really.

And of course the various implementations of standards have lead to compatibility matrices which are now longer than the manuals which come with the kit that they ship with. We've built an infrastructure with such complex dependencies that it is becoming impossible to manage. So now the very vendors who have caused this problem are coming to the rescue with certified solutions, guaranteed interoperability and reduced complexity (and a greater share of your infrastructure budget).

Well, don't expect me to cheer this heroism and I'd want a good look at the small print before I bought into any of these stacks. I want to know how long a stack was going to be supported for, how long it was going to be maintained, guaranteed non-disruptive migrations when I decide to upgrade, guaranteed interoperability between version 1 of a stack and version x of a stack.

I think ultimately the move to vertically integrated stacks is an admission of failure on the infrastructure vendor's part but as infrastructure techies we can take some of the blame; see the shiney tech! Pretty isn't it?

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