Cloud gets complicated and architecture trumps technology

by

11 November 2015
Anand Sanghi of Emerson Network Power

Data centre technologies are emerging and evolving at an astounding pace. Our customers in Asia are investing in upgrading their legacy infrastructure while driving innovation to deliver more value added services. Bimodal IT, software-defined networking, and the Internet of Things are impacting traditional system architectures and we are seeing changes at both the core/cloud as well as the edge of the network.

We have also seen rapid adoption of modular and containerised data centre solutions by telecom operators seeking agility; as well as growing demand by hyperscale and co-location customers for high-efficiency power and cooling infrastructure and data centre infrastructure management (DCIM) to optimise performance.

Below are five trends shaping the data centre landscape in 2016 and beyond:

1) Cloud gets complicated
Most organisations are now using cloud computing to some degree. The evolution from SaaS to true hybrid environments, in which cloud services are used to bring greater agility to legacy facilities, continues to advance as more organisations move to a bimodal architecture. Rather than stabilising, however, cloud could get more complex. The latest server utilisation research, conducted by Stanford’s Jonathan Koomey and Anthesis Group’s Jon Taylor, found that enterprise data centre servers still only deliver, on average, between 5 and 15 per cent of their maximum computing output over the course of a year. In addition, 30 per cent of physical servers are “comatose,” meaning they have not delivered computing services in six months or more. The push to identify and remove comatose servers will continue to build momentum and is an essential step in managing energy consumption; however, the potential for unused data centre capacity to become part of a shared-service, distributed cloud computing model will also be explored, enabling enterprise data centres to sell their excess capacity on the open market.

2) Architecture trumps technology
While data centre technology plays an important role in ensuring efficiency and availability, data centre operators are focusing less on technology and more on the architectures in which those technologies are deployed. We are seeing more customers who in the past would have defaulted to a traditional Tier 3 or Tier 4 power architecture coming to us and asking for help in defining the right architecture for their environment. They have confidence in the technology – that has become a given. What they are looking for is a system architecture - increasingly a non-standard architecture - that is tailored to their requirements for flexibility, availability and efficiency. They value expertise and experience more than technology.

3) Data centres find a common language 
The Internet of Things will not only impact future data centre architectures by increasing the volume of data that must be processed, it will also change data centre management - and the latter sooner than the former. Today’s data centres include thousands of devices that speak a host of languages, including IPMI, SNMP, and Mod Bus. This creates gaps between systems that limit efforts to manage holistically. That limit will cease to exist as Redfish, an open systems specification for data centre and systems management, gains traction. Redfish will create interconnectivity across data centre systems, enabling new levels of visibility, control and automation. Its adoption will also help establish best practices for effective use of IoT in other applications.

4) Social responsibility makes its presence felt
The industry has been dealing with efficiency since at least 2007, but the focus has largely been financial. Now, some businesses are shifting their focus from efficiency to sustainability and viewing their data centres through a social responsibility lens. Data centre operations - including carbon footprint, alternative energy use and equipment disposal - are now being included in corporate responsibility statements, creating greater pressure to make advances in these areas. The impact of this trend will not be limited to on-premise technology decisions. To be meaningful, reporting must include the full data centre ecosystem, including colocation and cloud providers. As this practice grows, sustainability will rise to the level of availability and security as must-have attributes of a high performing data centre.

5) The neighborhood data centre moves in
The growth in digital content consumption and data collection is challenging the centralised data centre model. While large data centers will continue to provide the majority of computing, they will increasingly be supported by edge facilities, or neighborhood data centres, that provide low-latency content and applications to users or data processing and logic for IoT networks. As these micro data centres, operating as satellites to a central facility, proliferate on corporate campuses and in high-density residential areas, their success will depend on the use of standardised, intelligent systems that can be remotely managed.

At the heart of all these new trends is the growing need among businesses for speed, flexibility, efficiency and sustainability in the data centre to cope with disruptive technologies, while remaining competitive. It is all the more critical for businesses to have agile IT infrastructures to address these developments.

* Anand Sanghi is president of Emerson Network Power in Asia