Why do we need Cisco UCS, HP Adaptive Infrastructure, IBM Stratus, Liquid Computing, and more?
Management is a critical component of any datacenter. A datacenter may be defined as a symphony of hardware and software spanning multiple disciplines that is expected to be “always-on” and never to fail. If you couple this with advances in virtualization, the “green movement”, and the need to understand a complete Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of datacenter operations, then management is the only answer. Management is not intended to replace the human element, rather to augment it through automation that allows human beings to tame an ever complex environment.
Examples of this renewed interest in management are plentiful; HP buys Opsware and Mercury Interactive, BMC buys BladeLogic, Cisco partners with BMC, Cisco UCS Manager, EMC buys Configuresoft, Voyence, SMARTS, and Infra, and more.
Current, also known as power, usage within the datacenter continues to increase at a staggering rate. In fact, the price for said current may actually outpace both the IT equipment and the facility itself. It’s not simply servers, but routers, switches, wan acceleration devices, security devices, sans, nas, lights, laptops, monitors, and more that cause the bills to continually increase. Couple this with the additional demands of cooling and redundancy and you have a real crisis on your hands.
An example of changes in the industry may be seen in ActivePower’s efforts in the areas of power and environmentally friendly “green” solutions. Additionally, we might have been given a glimpse to one answer to this problem, as Google has made a $10 million investment in eSolar; inventors of Utility-Scale Solar Power.
Cabling is an essential ingredient to any datacenter design and one that has the potential to provide significant cost savings in the next generation datacenter. It started with the blade server revolution including embedded switches, and may very well end with Cisco’s UCS, HP’s Adaptive Infrastructure, or IBM’s Stratus datacenter initiatives.
Illustrating this point, Cisco has published a case study with Saint Joseph Health System (SJHS) in which the hospital claimed an 85% savings in cabling costs by using the Cisco Nexus equipment.
Current generates heat, heat requires cooling, cooling requires current, and around-and-around we go. In the old days, you simply purchased the appropriate amount of cooling to keep your datacenter at a cool and constant temperature. Today, upwards of 40% of your datacenter energy bill is from cooling. Additionally, we have “green” concerns and use PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) and DCE (Data Center Efficiencies) metrics to calculate how well we are doing and compare datacenters against others. Incidentally, chillers, humidifiers, and CRAC’s (Computer Room Air Conditioning) contribute handsomely to these calculations.
A concept called adaptive cooling is a promising technology to solve the cooling challenge. The premise is today’s equipment manufactures build systems that are more reliable and are designed to “handle the heat.” Sensors are used to form baselines and models that are used to optimize modern cooling techniques. Yahoo improved cooling and energy savings of 31% by partnering with SynapSense.
Once thought to be endless, datacenters are rapidly running out of capacity. By capacity, I am referring to everything from floor space to power and cooling to facilities themselves. This has lead to the innovation of a “datacenter in a box” which is offered by the likes of Sun, Rackable, HP, IBM, and more. These containers allow datacenters to expand rapidly while offering innovative power and cooling options. However, space alone won’t solve the capacity issue. Therefore, the efforts by Cisco, IBM, HP, and others to create a new datacenter fabric that combines massively dense servers, storage, networking, security, and virtualization are so important.
Look no further than Facebook who has started construction on a custom datacenter with over 140,000 square foot capacity at a cost of $188 million. Note that they are touting the efficiency of this new datacenter including the potential of power and cooling cost savings.
As Ronald Reagan famously said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” so too can we proclaim the tearing down of the walls between the silos within the datacenter. We no longer can allow storage, networking, servers, security, applications, facilities, and more to operate independently of each other. By operating as a unified team, the datacenter becomes more agile, proactive, efficient, and better equipped to handle all challenges.
Examples of this movement is detected within software vendors (BMC, HP) unifying the management of these disciplines and hardware (Cisco, Juniper, Brocade) vendors integrating the functions into a single chassis.
No equation of savings within the datacenter would be complete without discussing virtualization. While the ideas of virtualization have been around for years, it’s the application of this technology that has changed the industry forever. Advances in network, server, application, and storage virtualization impact cost savings across the equation.
Examples include VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer, Sun xVM, Cisco UCS (Nexus 1000v), Arcadia (Cisco/EMC JV)
Security has and will continue to be a major concern within the datacenter. The number of attacks and sophistication of these attacks continues to rise. With the advent of Cloud Computing or shared services running on a common platform, the potential risks of a security breach are enormous. Additionally, security must span all the disciplines within the data center while taking into account user access/privileges, data (in-motion and at-rest), and more. Finally, security must continue to evolve while adhering to compliance and regulatory pressures.
Recent activities in this area include Cisco acquiring Rohati, SAIC purchasing CloudShield, the growth of Tufin and AlgoSec, and next generation firewall providers such as Palo Alto Networks.