David Eichorn, AVP and Global Data Center Practice Head, Zensar Technologies, has more than 20 years of experience in IT and telecommunications.
Just a few years ago, “Software-Defined Data Center” was thought by many to be the next buzz term in the IT industry. Since then, the “software-defined-everything” movement has taken off with the realization there is value not just in the hardware, or in the product, but in the software itself. In fact, industry research firm Enterprise Management Associates named 2014 the year of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC). How will the industry evolve this year? I predict organizations will seek new solutions to manage this type of data center, ultimately leading to increased operational efficiencies.
The Evolution of the Data Center
Let’s take a look back at how the adoption of software defined data centers began. Over the last several years, there has been a significant shift toward converged infrastructure. Traditional servers, storage, and networks were distinct products managed separately by multiple management platforms. We then saw the emergence of converged systems, such as Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). However, these systems were still cabled together by multiple components and systems from various product vendors.
The next evolution of the converged system was a move toward the software defined model. As such, each component (servers, storage, and networks) are not just a compilation of components from various product vendors, but managed as a single unified framework; thus, enabling the organization to tap into compute and storage resources more gracefully. Organizations could now add more compute and storage power through software, rather than by adding systems. Ultimately this provides increased performance, resiliency, and ease of management.
In the software defined data center model, the management of the converged data center is handled by software. As a result, organizations are benefiting from the optimization and pooling of resources to improve efficiencies, ensuring that servers are never over- or under-utilized, and taking advantage of the full expanse of the data center’s physical assets.
Organizations can also reap the benefits of the cloud while maintaining their legacy applications. They can more easily complete the migration to, and management of, hybrid cloud environments. This enables them to lower costs by reducing the infrastructure resources needed, providing scalable infrastructure, and enabling the efficient roll-out of software upgrades. In addition, Open Source technology prevents the organization from being locked into a particular vendor or protocol by providing a more malleable platform. Open Source also allows for access to multiple technologies, which can all be managed under one umbrella, resulting in increased productivity and decreased costs.
Managing the Software Defined Data Center
In order to take advantage of the software defined data center, it is necessary to take a holistic view of the various layers that make up the data center stack; i.e. virtualization, software, middleware, database, and application layers, as well as the hardware and cloud environments in which everything connects. All of these components should be operated and centrally managed on a common software based management platform.
However, it is not easy to manage this complex of a system while maintaining the integrity of every layer within the SDDC. For example, if a glitch occurs in one layer, it can impact other areas of the data center environment. It is important to understand the interdependencies between the various pieces of the data center in order to seamlessly manage the environment and solve any problems that may occur.
Working with a Managed Service Provider
Many organizations turn to infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service vendors to help manage their data center growth. Typically, these vendors are not necessarily equipped to deliver the services associated with managing the software environments they host. However, managed service providers are not relegated to a specific technology and can help organizations manage their data center environments; therefore, removing the burden of managing IT from the business. Managed service providers can also help the organization significantly accelerate the provisioning of virtual machines and related core services.
When choosing a managed service provider, it’s important to look for one that can manage both hybrid IT environments and the associated hardware, OS, applications, and network layers.
It can be difficult to find a single managed service provider that does not rely heavily on subcontractors. Organizations should choose one that offers a single point of contact and maintains continuity throughout the entire process, from planning to building to operating the data center. The provider should also ensure that a wrapper of security is built around the entire SDDC environment. In this context, security should be viewed as a vertical layer that spans across every horizontal layer of the data center stack.
A Single Pane of Glass
Organizations can benefit from working with a qualified managed service provider that offers a unified framework and unified view into their data center operations. The offerings should be combined with proactive 24x7 monitoring of the complete environment even across multiple data center or geographies. This constant monitoring allows the managed service provider to remedy issues in real time and anticipate problems before they occur. This prevents bottlenecks and other IT holdups from impacting the end-user experience and helps keep the bottom line intact. When data centers are managed this way, organizations are able to move data much more quickly. For example, provisioning that would have previously taken days, can now be completed in just hours or minutes.
By choosing a managed service provider that can manage the data center holistically across multiple locations and environments, organizations can take full advantage of the benefits this data center trend offers, including consolidation efforts, and increased efficiencies that ultimately improve the bottom line.
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