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Day3 Reshaping the Data Center
Continuing my coverage of the Data Center Conference 2009, we had a keynote session on Wednesday, Dec 2 (Day 3) that focused on the key technologies to watch for the data center.
It seems like every session this week mentioned Cloud Computing. It is service- based, scalable and elastic both upwards and downwards, uses shared resources and internet standards, and can be metered by use. There are three focal points related to Cloud Computing:
Consuming Cloud Services offered by other providers
Developing cloud-enabled applications and solutions
Implementing an internal "Prviate Cloud"
The analyst used the term "service boundary" to distinguish between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud service models. For those still confused, here is how I explain Cloud Computing, using that analogy of transportation as an example.
You buy a car to get around town. You need to have a drivers license, carry liability insurance, and have a place to park your vehicle. You get to pick the make, model and color. You need to come up with thousands of dollars up front, or arrange some form of financing for monthly payments. It could take days or weeks to purchase, as you test drive different ones, research online, and check out feature comparisons between car dealers. You can drive wherever you want, whenever you want.
The same is done in the data center, you buy servers, storage and network gear, build a data center floor to hold it all, and hire server, storage and network administrators to manage it.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
You rent a car from a local Car Rental Agency. You still need a drivers license and carry liability insurance, but often you can get the insurance for the days or weeks that you are renting the car. You have limited choices of make, model and color. You don't need thousands of dollars, just enough to cover the daily or weekly rate. The rental process can be done in minutes.
IaaS providers have their own data centers, so you don't need your own. They can rent you floorspace and equipment on a monthly basis. Your server, storage and network administrators manage these remotely. Your OS choices are limited to the types of hardware available, typically x86 servers, SAN and NAS storage.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
You take a taxi. Since you are not driving, you do not need a drivers license nor need liability insurance. The vehicle is typically a yellow four-door sedan. You don't need thousands of dollars, just enough to cover the ride, often metered by the distance traveled. Getting a taxi takes minutes, just a matter of calling the cab company, or hailing one streetside. Depending on the cab company, you can tell the taxi driver where to go, how to get there, and that you are in a hurry.
PaaS providers have data centers with servers, storage and networking gear. Your options are often Linux or Windows with some middleware web serving and database already running. You may still need some of your own server, storage and network admins to manage things remotely. Usage is metered, you pay for bandwidth, CPU and storage used. Typical rates for Cloud Storage, for example, is 25 cents per GB per month.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
You take public transportation, like the subway. You are not driving, so no need for license or insurance. The vehicle holds hundreds of passengers, and you have no options on the make, model or color. You only need enough to cover the cost of the ticket, which is often based on the distance traveled. You have to get to the subway station nearest you, and it takes you to the subway station nearest your eventual destination, so other forms of transportation may be required if this does not completely meet your requirements.
SaaS providers offer you the application already running in their data center on their servers. You are charged per employee per month that uses this application. You won't need server, storage or network administrators, but you might need your own software developers to customize the application, or compensate for its lack of functionality with surrounding applications if it does not exactly meet your needs. Google Gmail and IBM LotusLive are two examples of this.
Virtualization for Availability and Business Continuity
No surprise here, virtualization has proven quite useful to improve both high availability and continuous operations within the data center, as well as multiple site configurations for disaster recovery and business continuity. P-to-V is used to refer to the concept of running applications on physical servers at the primary location, but have these as virtual servers under VMware or Hyper-V at the disaster site secondary location to minimize the cost of standby equipment.
Reshaping the Data Center
Data Center facilities design is going modular, with design for server/storage/network "pod" and contained "power zones".
IT for Green
This is not making the IT department itself more environment-friendly, but using IT to make the entire company more environment-friendly, including using sensors to monitor input and output, reduce carbon footprint and monitor energy consumption per employee.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) is changing the way employees use IT services. Rather than having to maintain a full OS and application stack on each employees PC, using VDI and browser-based applications can help centralize and take back control, minimizing help desk costs.
Business Intelligence and Operational Analytics is taking off. In the past, decision support systems were limited to just the highest levels of executives and analysts that work for them, but now the technology is reaching a broader portion of the company, allowing knowledge workers to have more information to make better business decisions. We have seen this transition from employees working off fixed rules of thumb that apply to all situations, to decisions supported by market data, to now a more predictive analysis.
FLASH memory (Solid State Drives, SSD)
Solid State Drives and advances in memory will impact the storage world in the data center, much as it has in consumer electronics.
Reshaping the Server
This last prediction seemed far-fetched. The analyst felt that we will begin to see server components to be separated between CPU, memory and I/O support, so that you can seemlessly add or remote each from running servers. Some of this has happened with blade servers, with some components shraed by multiple servers that are hot-swappable.
Certainly, an interesting list of technologies to watch.