IBM SoftLayer: Data center as a service (DCaaS) — Part 2

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This is the second in a series of three articles related to SoftLayer where I am doing a walk-through of capabilities, benefits and costs associated with migrating private IT infrastructure out of your current self-managed data center into an IBM SoftLayer data center. In my previous post, I discussed the foundational architecture that is provided by SoftLayer and how it can form the basis for your N-tier application. In this article I am going to explore why and how migrating to a SoftLayer data center can be beneficial to your enterprise.

First I’ll look at why you should consider migrating your enterprise application out of the existing data center into a SoftLayer data center. Your first step is to have answers to the following five questions:

1. Do you have in-house expertise in managing the infrastructure in your data center?

2. Is it a primary business objective to be able to directly manage the infrastructure in your data center?

3. Is being able to have perpetual ownership of the infrastructure hardware or software in your data center important to you even after the infrastructure components are past expiration date or can no longer support your business needs?

4. Do you have any customized non-standard (rack mountable) devices or appliances you currently use in your data center?

5. Does your signed service level agreement (SLA) with customers dictate that you must not be reliant on a third party for data center management?

If you are able to answer no to any or all of the questions above, then I have great news for you. SoftLayer, now fully owned and managed by IBM, can relieve you of all your headaches related to the preceding questions. The migration of existing data center infrastructure to SoftLayer will mean many things for you.

It may provide you with the ability to offload the infrastructure management functionality to SoftLayer, which specializes in that specific field and is working day-in, day-out to become more efficient.

If you are not in the web hosting business, where you may have a very specialized need to be extra efficient with resource usage, then you really do not need to manage your data center. By moving to SoftLayer you may be able to relieve yourself of the burden of doing so on a daily basis.

With technology evolving at a very fast pace, these days it makes very little sense to have ownership of the devices in your infrastructure. Your business may not benefit by having a year-old CPU in your server that may no longer be serving your requirements. With SoftLayer, you lease the devices and can request a like-for-like upgrade to the latest generation device components as they become available at SoftLayer.

It is possible you may have highly customized niche devices or appliances, and you may have special requirements tied to those. For every piece of functionality required for enterprise applications, SoftLayer either has an alternative offering out of the box, or there is a way to use a virtual edition of the device. SoftLayer also provides an option for you to co-locate your own custom devices, as long as they fit into the highly standardized data center design at SoftLayer.

There is yet an additional option available called “Direct Link,” whereby your existing data center network can be linked to the nearby SoftLayer data center or network point of presence (PoP), so that you are able to take advantage of the standard offerings of SoftLayer while continuing to utilize your on-premises, non-standard infrastructure.

You may have a signed SLA with your customers preventing you from offloading your data center management responsibilities to a third party. You can assure your customers that they will be in good hands with SoftLayer, now backed by the IBM brand as well. SoftLayer publishes a SSAE 16 reporting standard of type SOC-2 annually, and you can get permission to share it with your customers to alleviate any concern they may have about security.

Lastly, how should you plan the migration of your enterprise application out of the existing data center into a SoftLayer data center? I suggest the following five steps to get started:

1. Ensure you have the complete architectural decomposition of your application. What are all the essential components of your application? What are all the deployment requirements? Who are all the actors and what are their interaction profiles?

2. Ensure you have all the financial considerations worked out. What has your current IT budget allocated to managing the infrastructure? What is your budget for the migration? What key performance indicators (KPIs) are associated with your enterprise application infrastructure?

3. Lay out your application and infrastructure requirements.

4. Map out the capabilities between your existing data center and SoftLayer data center. You may have one-to-one mapping or you may have an alternative option at SoftLayer to which you can map your existing system capability.

5. Finally, make sure you have developed your systems architecture within a SoftLayer data center. Plan out your primary and secondary data centers or design your deployment as active across multiple geographically dispersed data centers. Plan your security, backup, archiving, disaster recovery and business continuity strategy.

As you can see, there are some very compelling reasons to move your enterprise application out of your existing data center into a SoftLayer data center. In the next article in this series, I will explore the financial benefits in terms of the total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) in undertaking such an exercise. I hope this article was beneficial in your understanding of SoftLayer offerings and will be helpful in your consideration of SoftLayer as your data center as a service provider of choice. Watch out for the next article in this series!

You may follow me on Twitter @rahatm to discuss this article and more.

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