07 Jan 2013
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Data centres: Powering your digital life

By Donovan Jackson

In the cloud computing era, the data centre has never been more relevant.

Whether the smallest one-man band startup, or the biggest of corporations, the data centre has something to do with everyone connected to the internet today. But not all data centres (or data centre services) are created equal.

Stace Hema, Md of Oxygen IT, says cloud is coming of age together with the increasing realization from businesses of every stripe that owning IT is no longer the capital intensive exercise it used to be.

"Cloud services are trustworthy, especially with the likes of gen-i, Jade and a few others providing them. Especially with smaller clients, we’re seeing a lot of companies becoming savvy about cloud - and the services they are using are all backed by a data centre somewhere.”

Hema says services like backup and archive are experiencing ‘massive increases in demand’ – and that is entirely owing to the power of a data centre that stands behind them, along with the solutions used of course.

“Think about it; smaller companies are very unlikely to have the levels of protection that a data centre provides, such as multiple fibre backends, diesel generators, upS systems, and so on.”

However, he says there remain some ‘dodgy operators’ in the market.

“A couple of guys with a bedroom filled with a few servers is not a data centre. Some operators pretend that they are more than they are; a true data centre should have multiple redundancies and meet appropriate minimal levels of infrastructure.”

Without that, Hema says any business with information stored in such a ‘data centre’ is at serious risk.Infrastructure developments: More integrated, easier to expand capacity Michael delAndre, professional Services and Systems Engineering director for netApp Australia, says the major thrust from a vendor perspective is the combination of the complex elements that comprise data centre infrastructure.

“Service-based architectures are emerging which allow for the rapid expansion of data centre capacity.

In turn, that provides for the ability to scale the services which the data centre underpins, with no interruption to end users.”

That’s because the on-demand environment is a reality. companies that need additional storage, processing or application capacity, expect to get the resources they need without delay.

“For vendors, the question is how to facilitate that; the answer lies in architectures that are more mobile and agile, which provide for the creation of secure multi tenancy data centres, across multiple environments and services, at a lower cost.”

Data centre operators, says del Andre, don’t want to be integrators of the storage, servers and networking required to create their value propositions, they want that complexity to be taken care of further up the value chain (by the vendors).

As a consequence, these vendors are forging relationships to create such integrated systems for rapid delivery and commissioning.

Innovation in the data centre

Such an environment of change is ripe for innovation, says Adrian noblett, Solutions Architect for ApAc at F5 networks.

He says the demands being made upon the data centre skews how infrastructure is applied.

“Instead of the data centre being about the equipment, today it is more about the application and the user. There is a distinct requirement to focus on services to customers, whether an enterprise or a managed services provider.

"For that, you need technology that tightly integrates and supports the way applications are delivered across infrastructure.”

Noblett echoes del Andre, saying that infrastructure providers need to build in core functionalities such as security, authentication and firewalling, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel when building services.

“It’s all about reusable architectures which can meet the unpredictable demand of the cloud era. The way data centres are built is shifting away from a combination of traditional devices, to the emergence
of preconfigured, packaged solutions that create the ability to provide services cheaply and easily.”

Smaller companies gaining the benefit of data centre rigour

Charles clarke, ApAc presales manager at Veeam, says the ability of the data centre to deliver the services we expect from them today is largely down to virtualization.

“For many smaller companies – and the business landscape of new Zealand is predominantly made of smaller businesses – the question was always ‘how to get into the data centre’, perhaps closely followed by ‘how or even will it provide guarantees of service in the event of an outage’.

Both these questions are answered; cloud services put any organisation in the data centre, while the christchurch quakes have shown that putting data responsibility in the hands of professionals meant better protection, and in some cases, faster recovery.”

Clarke says the announcement of new data centres such as datacom’s Hamilton facility, are a demonstration that ‘demand is there’.

“More than that, the availability of local data centres combined with the international nature of cloud services means end—users can answer the question around data sovereignty and price in any way they want; they can have it all local, or they can source internationally.

Or they can even tier data in accordance with governance requirements to store some locally, if required, and others offshore if there is a price advantage to be gained.”

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