Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Johnnie Konstantas, Cloud Best Practices Network, Sarah Patrick

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Containers Expo Blog

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Data Center Architecture: Together and Apart

The datacenter represents a diverse set of orchestrated resources bound together by the applications they serve

The challenge in architecting, building, and managing data centers is one of balance. There are forces competing to both push together and pull apart datacenter resources. Finding an equilibrium point that is technological sustainable, operationally viable, and business friendly is challenging. The result is frequently a set of compromises that outweigh the advantages.

Logically together

The datacenter represents a diverse set of orchestrated resources bound together by the applications they serve. At its most simplest, these resources are physically co-located. At its extreme, these resources are geographically distributed across many sites. Whatever the physical layout, these resources are under pressure to be treated as a single logical group.

Resource collaboration - The datacenter is a collection of compute and storage resources that must work in concert in support of application workloads. The simple requirement of coordination creates an inward force pulling resources closer together, even if only logically. How can multiple elements work together towards a common goal if they are completely separate?

The answer is that they cannot. And as IT moves increasingly towards distributed applications, the interdependence between resources only grows.

Interestingly, the performance advantages of distributed architectures are only meaningful when communication between servers is uninhibited. If the network that makes communication possible slows down, the efficacy of the distributed architecture decreases. This means that datacenter architects must solve simultaneously for compute and storage demand, and the interconnect capacity required between them.

Resource availability - Building out a datacenter is an exercise in matching resource capacity to demand. But not just in aggregate.

Individual applications, tenants, and geographies all place localized demands on datacenter resources. If the aggregate demand is sufficient but the resources exist in separate resource pools, you end up in a perpetual state of mismatch. There is always too much or too little workload capacity. The former means you have overbuilt. The latter leaves you wanting for more, which oddly enough means you end up having to overbuild.

Combatting these resource islands requires pulling resources closer together. In the most simple case, this is a physical act. But even if resources cannot be physically co-located, there are entire classes of technologies whose primary function is to allow physically separate resources to behave as if they are in close proximity.

Of course this does not come without a cost. The complexity of managing the disparate technologies required to logically pool physically separate resources can be prohibitively difficult. Even the most skilled specialists have to invest time in creating a properly engineered fabric between sites that accounts for queuing, prioritization, load balancing, and so on. The number of protocols and technologies required is high, and the volume of devices over which they must be applied can be huge. The result is a level of complexity that makes the network more expensive to manage and more difficult to change.

Organizational process - Friction is greatest at boundaries. Whenever a task requires involvement across different organizations or teams, the act of human coordination imposes a tax on both effort and time. In larger organizations, the handoff between teams might be automated to reduce communication mistakes (as with a ticketing system), but the shift in context is still expensive.

This creates organizational pressure to pull together things that might otherwise be separate. If distributed resources can be logically centralized and managed within a common organization, it reduces the dependence on outside teams. The removal of boundaries from common workflows lowers organizational friction and makes easier the overall task of managing the infrastructure.

Physically separate

At the same time that forces are pulling things together, there are equally strong oppositional forces exerting outward pressure on datacenter resources.

Business continuity - For many companies, the datacenter represents a mission critical element of their infrastructure. For companies whose existence depends on the presence of the resources within the datacenter (be they data, servers, or applications), it is untenably risky to rely on a single physical site. This exerts an outward force on resources as companies must create multiple physical sites, typically separated by enough distance that a disaster would not meaningfully impact all sites.

Despite the operational desire to keep things together, the risk to the business dictates that resources be physically separate.

Natural expansion - As resources are added to a datacenter, they are typically installed in racks in relative close proximity to each other. When racks are empty, there is no reason to unnecessarily create physical separation between resources working in concert. Over time, adjacent rack space is filled through the natural expansion of compute, storage, and networking capacity.

As equipment expands, available rack space is depleted, and new racks and rows are populated. Eventually, the device sprawl can occupy entire data centers.

Imagine now that a cluster of servers occupies a rack in one corner of the datacenter. If that cluster is to be expanded, where does the next server go? If the nearby racks are already built out, that resource must be installed some physical distance away from the resources with which it must coordinate.

It is near impossible to plan for all future growth at the time of datacenter inception. Leaving enough space in adjacent racks to account for a decade of growth is impractically expensive. A sparsely populated datacenter suffers from poor space utilization, challenging power distribution, and difficult cabling. Thus, the mere act of expansion actually exerts an outward force leading to physically distributed resources.

Real estate - Sometimes, even when architects want to keep resources together, physical limitations create problems. There is no more immovable object than real estate (which serves as a proxy for all of space, power, and HVAC). In some cases, it is impossible to build out either laterally or even up. In other cases, there is no additional power to be had from the grid. Either of these scenarios forces an expansion to another site, which requires the physical separation of resources that might be expected to function in concert.

Additionally, as land rates change and technologies evolve, the best spots for data centers are not always known. It is difficult at best to predict with enough certainty how a physical site will evolve over an arbitrarily long time horizon. For example, not long ago, the thought of building cooling-hungry data centers in the hot desert was foreign. Today, Las Vegas is home to some of the most cutting edge facilities in the world. This means that geographical dispersion is likely a certainty for large companies. The forces pulling resources physically apart are unlikely to be neutralized.

Finding a balance

Given the strong forces working to keep resources logically together and the equally strong forces keeping them physically separate, how does anyone find a balance?

The price for balance is cost and complexity. You pay for reach directly, and control requires complexity. Both translate into higher carrying costs for the infrastructure. The push-pull dynamic in datacenters is not going away anytime soon. In fact, a move towards more distributed applications will only make harder the balancing act that already exists.

Newer technology offerings like SDN and datacenter fabrics offer some hope, but only insofar as they offer alternatives to the existing problems. Whatever the solution, architects will need to evaluate approaches based not just on the features but on the long-term costs of those features.

[Today’s fun fact: “Way” is the most frequently used noun in the English language. No way!]

The post Datacenter architecture: Together and apart appeared first on Plexxi.

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that (ISC)²® (“ISC-squared”) will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Two leading non-profits focused on cloud and information security, (ISC)² and Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), developed the Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) certification to address the increased demand for cloud security expertise due to rapid growth in cloud. Recently named “The Next...
Advances in technology and ubiquitous connectivity have made the utilization of a dispersed workforce more common. Whether that remote team is located across the street or country, management styles/ approaches will have to be adjusted to accommodate this new dynamic. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., focused on the challenges of managing remote teams, providing real-world examples that demonstrate what works and what do...
As someone who has been dedicated to automation and Application Release Automation (ARA) technology for almost six years now, one of the most common questions I get asked regards Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Specifically, people want to know whether release automation is still needed when a PaaS is in place, and why. Isn't that what a PaaS provides? A solution to the deployment and runtime challenges of an application? Why would anyone using a PaaS then need an automation engine with workflow ...
Recognizing the need to identify and validate information security professionals’ competency in securing cloud services, the two leading membership organizations focused on cloud and information security, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and (ISC)^2, joined together to develop an international cloud security credential that reflects the most current and comprehensive best practices for securing and optimizing cloud computing environments.
Predictive analytics tools monitor, report, and troubleshoot in order to make proactive decisions about the health, performance, and utilization of storage. Most enterprises combine cloud and on-premise storage, resulting in blended environments of physical, virtual, cloud, and other platforms, which justifies more sophisticated storage analytics. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Peter McCallum, Vice President of Datacenter Solutions at FalconStor, will discuss using predictive analytics to ...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
Father business cycles and digital consumers are forcing enterprises to respond faster to customer needs and competitive demands. Successful integration of DevOps and Agile development will be key for business success in today’s digital economy. In his session at DevOps Summit, Pradeep Prabhu, Co-Founder & CEO of Cloudmunch, covered the critical practices that enterprises should consider to seamlessly integrate Agile and DevOps processes, barriers to implementing this in the enterprise, and pr...
Sensors and effectors of IoT are solving problems in new ways, but small businesses have been slow to join the quantified world. They’ll need information from IoT using applications as varied as the businesses themselves. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Meike, Distinguished Engineer, Director of Technology Innovation at Intuit, showed how IoT manufacturers can use open standards, public APIs and custom apps to enable the Quantified Small Business. He used a Raspberry Pi to connect sensors...
Let’s face it, embracing new storage technologies, capabilities and upgrading to new hardware often adds complexity and increases costs. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Seth Oxenhorn, Vice President of Business Development & Alliances at FalconStor, will discuss how a truly heterogeneous software-defined storage approach can add value to legacy platforms and heterogeneous environments. The result reduces complexity, significantly lowers cost, and provides IT organizations with improved effi...
It's easy to assume that your app will run on a fast and reliable network. The reality for your app's users, though, is often a slow, unreliable network with spotty coverage. What happens when the network doesn't work, or when the device is in airplane mode? You get unhappy, frustrated users. An offline-first app is an app that works, without error, when there is no network connection.
Data-as-a-Service is the complete package for the transformation of raw data into meaningful data assets and the delivery of those data assets. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lakshmi Randall, an industry expert, analyst and strategist, will address: What is DaaS (Data-as-a-Service)? Challenges addressed by DaaS Vendors that are enabling DaaS Architecture options for DaaS
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint Systems, Inc., a provider of innovative web and infrastructure monitoring solutions, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit at 18th Cloud Expo New York, which will take place June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Catchpoint is a leading Digital Performance Analytics company that provides unparalleled insight into customer-critical services to help consistently deliver an amazing customer experience. Designed...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
When building large, cloud-based applications that operate at a high scale, it’s important to maintain a high availability and resilience to failures. In order to do that, you must be tolerant of failures, even in light of failures in other areas of your application. “Fly two mistakes high” is an old adage in the radio control airplane hobby. It means, fly high enough so that if you make a mistake, you can continue flying with room to still make mistakes. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...