Ever feel more like a construction worker hauling bricks in your data centre, when you’d like to be a visionary architect? You’re probably not the only one. Let’s consider a typical data centre of today. It’s likely we’ll find compute, storage and networking resources, each sitting in its own silo, merrily doing its own thing. This is a hardware-defined model, where many appliances have a fixed function that can’t be changed. Despite virtualisation helping to make managing compute servers more efficient and improving flexibility, management of other resources, and of the data centre overall, is generally manual and slow. Like building a house, it requires time, cost and heavy lifting, and results in a fairly static edifice. If you want to add an extension at a later date, you’ll need to haul more bricks.
At Intel, we envision an architectural transformation for the data centre that will change all this. This is the move to software-defined infrastructure, where the private cloud is as elastic, scalable, automated and therefore efficient as your public cloud experience, which I described in my last blog post.
I’d say today’s data centre is at an inflection point, where compute servers are already making inroads to SDI (a virtual machine is essentially a software-defined server after all). Now we need to apply the same principle to storage and networking as well. When all of these resource pools are virtualised, we can manage them in the same automated and dynamic way that we do servers, creating resources that fit our business needs rather than letting the infrastructure define how we work. It’s as if you could move the walls around within your house, add new windows or remove a bathroom, whenever you liked, with great agility and without any additional costs, time or labour.
A Data Center for the Application Economy
So how does SDI work in practice? Let’s look at it from the top down, starting with the applications. Whether they’re your email program, customer-facing sales website, CRM or ERP system, applications are what drive your business. Indeed, the application economy is apparently now ‘bigger than Hollywood’, with the iOS App Store alone billing $10 billion on apps in 2014. They’re your most important point of contact with your customers, and possibly employees and partners too, and they have strict SLAs. These may include response times, security levels, availability, the location in which their data is held, elasticity to meet peaks and troughs in demand, or even the amount of power they use. Meeting these SLAs means allocating the right resources in the data centre, across compute, storage and networking.
This allocation is handled by the next layer down – the Orchestration layer. It’s here that you can automate management of your data centre resources and allocate them dynamically depending on application needs. These resource pools, which are the foundation layer of the data centre, can be used for compute, networking or storage as required, allocated on-demand in an automated manner. Fixed-function appliances are now implemented as virtual resource pools, meaning you can make them into whatever architectural feature you like.
Big Changes, Bigger Savings
Oh, the possibilities! While this big change in data centre operations may be daunting, the benefits that SDI can bring in terms of driving time, cost and labour out of your business make it worth the effort. Orchestration optimises infrastructure and will reduce IT admin costs and enable your valuable team to focus more on strategic projects; while software-defined storage and networking cut your infrastructure hardware costs. Intel estimates that this could result in a relative cost saving of up to 66 percent per virtual machine instance for a data centre running full orchestration with SDI, versus one just starting virtualisation. With IDC predicting data centre operational costs to more than double every eight years, procrastination will only result in more cost in the long run.
As with any ambitious building project though, it’s important to plan carefully. I’ll be continuing this blog series by examining the four key architectural aspects of the software-defined data centre, and explaining how Intel is addressing each of them to equip clients with the best tools. These areas are:
- Transforming the network
- Determining and building infrastructure attributes and composable architectures
- Unleashing the potential of your SDI data centre
Check back soon for the next installment and do let me know your thoughts in the meantime. What sort of data centre renovations would you make given the freedom of time, cost and grunt work?
My first blog on data centers can be found here: Is Your Data Center Ready for the IoT Age?
1 Source: Intel Finance, 2014. Individual IT mileage may vary depending on workload, IT maturity and other factors. SDI assumes future benefits. Projections are extrapolations from Intel IT data. Private cloud model based on actual datacenter operations. IT DC based on Intel finance estimation for typical enterprise costs. Hybrid cloud model based on forward looking future benefits and market cost trends. Results have been estimated based on internal Intel analysis and are provided for informational purposes only. Any difference in system hardware or software design or configuration may affect actual performance or cost.