IT Focus Area: Data Center
November 18, 2016
Steps to the Hybrid Data Center
People thought it couldn’t be done.
Scientists said it was dangerous to the health of any athlete who attempted it.
The human body was simply not capable.
A person’s heart would explode.
Their lungs would collapse.
They would die on the spot.
This feat was merely unreachable.
No runner could run a mile in under four minutes.
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. His record lasted only 46 days. It was routinely broken after that.
Today, high school students can run the mile in under four minutes. It has become a benchmark of a serious runner.
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This analogy of the four-minute mile is being played out in the information technology (IT) world today.
Consider the following metrics:
- Supply chain from order to floor in 16 days
- Self-service provisioning in less than 10 minutes
- Utilization levels at 70 percent
- Power at 1.07 power usage effectiveness (PUE)
- Server to admin ratio at 5,000 to one
- The cost of server per hour at two cents
Like the four-minute mile, cloud providers like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Salesforce.com have completely leap-frogged industry standards and are delivering IT in an entirely new way. In the process, they have redefined how IT is being measured.
How did this happen?
Scale changes everything.
Cloud providers often manage workloads across hundreds of thousands of servers. At that magnitude, you have to run IT differently. And in doing so, these companies have developed an entirely new paradigm for delivering IT services to the business faster, with more flexibility and often pay as you go.
Not every organization can realistically meet these standards due to the heterogeneity of the workload. And in fact, they don’t have to. Their needs are different.
However, IT organizations are often compared unfavorably to cloud service providers. Taking one to three years to build a service is no longer acceptable, especially when you could buy these services with a credit card at a moment’s notice. At the same time, mission-critical applications and data need to be managed closely and carefully. Organizations have certain requirements that may not allow them to go straight to the cloud.
So what does this mean?
Research has shown that the business perceives IT as too old, too slow and too expensive. Business functions and lines of business routinely go outside of IT to purchase the services they need. IT is now asked to focus on brokering service delivery, which impacts organizations and skill sets dramatically. And more than ever, IT is inextricably woven with the business and must understand business strategy.
Does this mean that every IT organization should go full steam into the cloud?
Most IT organizations want the benefits of the cloud without the risks. They want cloud economics and cloud timing but could do without many of the challenges of cloud integration and cloud security. In fact, most IT organizations are best served by a hybrid data center model, which is today’s new model for IT infrastructure.
What is the hybrid data center?
It is a technology strategy, driven by application and workload placement. IT workload lives in three main areas:
1. Conventional enterprise IT or legacy systems
2. On-premise private clouds for mission-critical system
3. Third-party, off-premise infrastructures such as managed services, hosting providers and cloud providers
Many, if not most, established companies have these three elements. But the key is developing a highly sophisticated, mature hybrid data center model that can support or drive business transformation. Based on the business goals of a company, the hybrid data center will need to change and be adaptable.
There are six key steps in the hybrid data center model:
Reduce diversity and align workload to optimal, fit-for-purpose infrastructure. Standardize processes, infrastructure and procurement. This is where IT organizations can unlock capital to support the rest of the journey. Standardization will make every other step easier and more likely to succeed. Read The Ruthless Standardization of IT Services.
Consolidate and abstract physical infrastructure. This step is more than just compute, storage, network and security. It is about virtualizing the entire IT infrastructure. Read Thorough Virtualization of IT Helps Hybrid Data Center Projects Soar.
Deliver workload-balanced infrastructure. Converge is actually less about technology and more about people, organizational structure and services. Read How to Unlock the Power of Hyperconvergence: The Risks and Rewards.
Simplify and automate infrastructure management. IT organizations often fail at this step, usually because of non-technical reasons. It is important to break down talent and practice silos to form a new team with new roles. Read Enabling Services Through Effective Process Automation.
Simplify and automate service management. Orchestrating non-standard, un-virtualized infrastructure is costly and complex. To reduce cost and risk, IT organizations should focus on the first four steps—ruthlessly standardizing and virtualizing while making sure the proper organization and services are defined. At the same time, the orchestration technology stack is rapidly evolving, and companies can learn from the cloud service providers that are creating and deploying their own orchestration technologies.
Deliver workload-proportional infrastructure. Organizations have the right amount of IT, exactly proportional to the needs of the business.
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The Beginning Steps are Key
It is very important for companies to focus on the beginning steps of the hybrid data center to set a foundation for the later steps. Success in automation and orchestration is dependent upon success in the first two steps: standardization and virtualization. If standardization is not achieved, automation will be tougher to implement. Each step is vital in building the foundation for the next step. By mastering the fundamentals, IT organizations will implement subsequent steps of the hybrid data center at far lower cost and organizational risk.
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