Building a cloud ready data center
By Roy Wakim, Avaya 31-May-2012
Experience has proved one thing that data centers of the future cannot be built on the technology of the past. General products, outmoded techniques, and legacy designs cannot be repackaged as 'data center-ready'.
Virtualization within the data center is now taken for granted, with some declaring that 'cloud computing' will be the choice of most enterprises and that applications and instant access information will become commodities. Cloud computing brings to the table a new dynamic standard that removes technological complexities by enabling on-demand, self-managed virtual infrastructure that can be used as a service.
A decade ago, the largest data center users were the telecom companies and banks. But during late 1990s, when e-commerce emerged during the dot-com bubble, major companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and the sprouting Google, as well as hundreds of start-ups, began building and occupying their own data, IT and collocation facilities. The dot-com burst of early 2000 did reduce the focus on data center but it could not stop its evolution in terms of design and construction and technological sophistication.
"General products, outmoded techniques, and legacy designs cannot be repackaged as 'data center-ready.'"
-- Roy Wakim, networking business leader, Asia Pacific, Avaya
Today's data center has become more complex and difficult to manage with changes in the network fabric, increasing applications and more demanding service level agreements (SLAs). This coupled with increased focus on disaster recovery plans continues to be a soft spot for CIOs across all enterprises. Cloud computing is definitely shaping how data centers built out their new sites from the power and technology infrastructure standpoint.
As enterprises virtualize an increased number of business applications, the private cloud is forecast to grow significantly over the next three to five years. However, this growth will be accompanied by an equally significant dynamic at the edge of the network -- as mobility and use of multimedia proliferates. From access to the core -- the enterprise network is in for a period of "restructuring" to provide the flexibility and scaling needs it is being asked to deliver. Add network intelligence to the mix, and the challenges may even seem daunting.
In this context, newer technologies are focusing on end-to-end connectivity, providing virtualization benefits across the enterprise network. Extending cloud and data center best practices all the way up to network access is a nice way to take the cloud services down to the end users -- it ultimately helps IT with a network infrastructure value-add through improved provisioning, configuration and management.
Factors of consideration
While planning a cloud ready data center one has to consider the following factors:
Reliable and available
IT services are delivered to, or consumed by an end user within an organization or an outside client and there is absolutely no time for downtime. For example, if the organization's business partners and customers cannot retrieve the data or information during downtime, operation of the organization will be adversely affected.
To be fully dependable and available, the data in the cloud infrastructure must always be active, no matter if a failure strikes one or any combination of its components. This level of availability is vital, since many times the architecture of a cloud-based system relies on resources that are shared across a multitude of groups that are both external and internal to each group. The cloud service providers may guarantee 99.9% uptime (about one hour of downtime in a year), however, companies can still worry about the loss of control when an outage occurs.
Virtualization is clearly driving much of the innovation around cloud-based services. These cloud-based hosting environments, service models are evolving towards "zero touch" provision.
Zero touch provisioning means the ability to deliver a new service without having to revisit the current network design and manually configure every switch in the network.
"Zero touch" brings many benefits to the service provider such as reduced cost, better resource utilization, rapid service delivery and mobility of applications within and across data centers, all while reducing capex and opex.
As this demands much more support for dynamically changing environment architectures and configurations, there is a need for automated configuration management processes. This reduces human involvement in actual deployment and maintenance, and enables replacement by automated tools. For example, with zero touch provisioning, the administrator of the data center will have the ability to move virtual machine from one physical server to another or even across data center from the management tool, without having to configure each network element between the servers manually, which in the past could take days.