From cable to service


29 August 2014
Oliver Lindner

Cloud computing and the emergence of triple play – the provisioning of data, voice and video services over a single network connection – are having a significant impact on the way data centre resources are managed. Today, data centres need to have the flexibility to stream video services on-demand whilst meeting specific quality-of-service (QoS) requirements, allow businesses to move data and applications to public or private clouds, and increase bandwidth dynamically to support the download of data to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

It is no longer possible to use traditional data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) tools to deal with these challenges. Instead, two distinct aspects of data centre management will have to be addressed – the management of infrastructure within the data centre, and the management of services to ensure that the desired QoS is maintained at all times.

The management of services requires a service architecture to be developed based on a pre-defined product or service portfolio. For example, the service provider may want to offer a suite of video services that include IPTV and video-on-demand (VOD). The IPTV offering could include live streaming services (multicast services: single sender, multiple receivers), while VOD (single sender, single receiver) content could be movies or prerecorded TV shows that users select individually. In addition, these services could be offered in a choice of resolutions, for example, high definition or standard.

The service portfolio is then used as a basis for developing a service architecture which addresses the functionality and technical requirements of the offerings. The architecture defines the minimum requirements for the IT and network infrastructure over which each service will be delivered. It will also have to address factors that affect QoS, such as latency or channel congestion that may result in packet drops.

The next step would be to project the service demands onto the data centre. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that the services can be adequately supported in the data centre. This applies not only to VOD and triple-play offerings but also to business applications such as office productivity suites or customer relationship management applications that are streamed to users from the cloud.

To do this effectively, it important to consider the capacity of physical systems that are required to support these services. This includes the server and storage systems, networking hardware as well as other infrastructure components such as cooling, power supply, and building management systems.

This is where service management dovetails with traditional DCIM. A robust DCIM platform will manage the infrastructure components of the data centre including power supply, climate control and building services. It will monitor devices at the system level and collect real-time data such as power consumption, CPU temperature and server system temperature. This data can then be used for data centre infrastructure optimisation.

Looking ahead, the integration of service management into DCIM will become even more important with the growing virtualisation of IT resources to support new emerging services.

The provisioning of services on virtualised platforms requires accurate knowledge of the underlying physical layer from network cabling and physical server and storage capacity to maximum rack density and the limits of the climate control system.

A combined DCIM and service management platform will also be better able to support the trend towards bundling cloud-based services hosted in different data centres as part of all-in-one service packages.

In addition, it will be able to support developments such as software-defined networking (SDN), which disconnects the physical network infrastructure from the plane on which data packets are transmitted. This creates enormous flexibility when it comes to assigning network resources to individual data streams and therefore services. However, it also means that the underlying physical infrastructure will have to be managed more precisely in order to support increasingly dynamic resource requirements. 

A modern DCIM tool, therefore, is no longer merely a simple facility monitoring instrument. It will need to incorporate service management in order to support new developments such as virtualisation and SDN, which in turn enable the provisioning of new emerging services such as cloud computing and triple play.