SDN Journal Authors: Hollis Tibbetts, David Paquette, Jonathan Ring, Cynthia Dunlop, Elizabeth White

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
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
Effectively SMBs and government programs must address compounded regulatory compliance requirements. The most recent are Controlled Unclassified Information and the EU’s GDPR have Board Level implications. Managing sensitive data protection will likely result in acquisition criteria, demonstration requests and new requirements. Developers, as part of the pre-planning process and the associated supply chain, could benefit from updating their code libraries and design by incorporating changes.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their online busine...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining senso...
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, discussed how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technologi...
What are the new priorities for the connected business? First: businesses need to think differently about the types of connections they will need to make – these span well beyond the traditional app to app into more modern forms of integration including SaaS integrations, mobile integrations, APIs, device integration and Big Data integration. It’s important these are unified together vs. doing them all piecemeal. Second, these types of connections need to be simple to design, adapt and configure...
@DevOpsSummit has been named the ‘Top DevOps Influencer' by iTrend. iTrend processes millions of conversations, tweets, interactions, news articles, press releases, blog posts - and extract meaning form them and analyzes mobile and desktop software platforms used to communicate, various metadata (such as geo location), and automation tools. In overall placement, @DevOpsSummit ranked as the number one ‘DevOps Influencer' followed by @CloudExpo at third, and @MicroservicesE at 24th.
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Most of us already know that adopting new cloud applications can boost a business’s productivity by enabling organizations to be more agile and ready to change course in our fast-moving and connected digital world. But the rapid adoption of cloud apps and services also brings with it profound security threats, including visibility and control challenges that aren’t present in traditional on-premises environments. At the same time, the cloud – because of its interconnected, flexible and adaptable...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smar...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...