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January 30, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 2:04pm

Prepare for data centres of the future in 3 easy steps

Fundamental data centre changes are a must, according to Joy Gardham, regional director, EMEA West, at storage networking provider Brocade.

By Duncan Macrae

Technology is evolving faster than ever, with trends such as Big Data, cloud and pervasive mobility driving major transformations, both for business and consumers. The one thing that underpins all these changes – from cloud-hosted business applications to mobile gaming – is the data centre. In both our work and personal lives, our dependence on data centres has never been greater; and it is only going to increase.

Businesses, therefore, need to ensure their data centre is ready for the future. A scalable and flexible datacentre infrastructure is already business critical,with any downtime likely to prove hugely costly. Such issues can impact a business’ profitability long afterthe technical faultis resolved. The damage to brand and reputation can be irreparable; just consider the impact if your bank or mobile operator’s online services suffered prolonged outages.

As such, data centres can no longer just try and sweat the most out of legacy infrastructure.Fundamental changes are needed to prepare for the future. Data centre owners and business leaders need to embrace innovation… now.

In order to understand what will be needed in the future, businesses (and their IT departments) need to recognise the four key drivers accelerating datacentre evolution:

– Virtualisation is now prevalent in the majority of data centres and requires a much more elegant and robust network topology to provide the raw performance and management flexibility needed

– The advent of faster networks, more (virtual) data centre capacity and higher security requirements means network resilience is critical. As companies empower mobile working, the need for a secure and reliable network is paramount

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– The adoption of cloud-based services, either on an application-level (such as CRM tools like or by outsourcing entire IT requirements to hosting providers, has meant the need for 24/7 network accessibility and resilience has never been greater

– Modern data centres have to deal with more volume -servicemore users, applications and data. This is a trend that will only increase and will require a highly flexible and scalable data centre infrastructure.

Data centre of the future

The question is: how should data centres, now and in the future,respond to these trends and developments? CBR teamed up with Brocade regional director, EMEA West, Joy Gardham, to help explain the three key steps businesses should consider:

1. Solid foundations

At the heart of any data centre is the physical networking infrastructure, one that provides the connectivity between applications, servers and storage. A fabric-based networking topology is required for businesses that want to embrace a highly flexible and agile on-demand model as it provides the ability to build scalable cloud infrastructures that also reduce cost. A fabric-based network, both at the IP and storage layers, will simplify network design and management to address the growing complexity in IT and data centres today.

For example, Brocade has been working with London-based cloud managed service provider Oncore IT; one company that has already upgraded to Ethernet fabric. Oncore IT didn’t want to just improve performance – it wanted to go a step further and guarantee it, in order to deliver a truly exceptional cloud experience. While the market is still buzzing with interest around the cloud, some concerns do remain and Oncore IT recognises that service providers must take total responsibility for their cloud solutions to ensure the highest possible service levels. A solid foundation, based on Ethernet fabric,has helped them to achieve this.



2. Virtual Infrastructure

On top of the physical infrastructure will be a virtual or logical layer. This is well-established in the server domain with hypervisor technology. The same concepts are now being applied to both storage and IP networks, with technologies such as overlay networks enabled through a variety of tunneling techniques. These allow the provision of IPv6 services over existing IPv4 or multiprotocol network infrastructure.

Next we will see network services virtualised, thanks to the introduction of virtual switches and routers. "NFV", or Network Function Virtualisation, represents an industry movement towards software or VM-based form factors for common data centre services. Customers want to realise the cost and flexibility advantages of software rather than continuing to deploy specialised, purpose-built devices for services such as application delivery controllers. This is especially the case in cloud architectures where these services want to be commissioned and decommissioned with mouse clicks rather than physical hardware installations and moves. We are already seeing a shift towards open, more flexible, efficient, highly programmable and elastic network infrastructure solutions with key initiatives such asOpenStack and the Open Daylight Project making a big impact.



3. Orchestration frameworks

Finally, the entire data centre environment must be managed by orchestration frameworks that allow for the rapid and end-to-end provisioning of virtual data centres. OpenStack, for example, allows customers to deploy network capacity and services in their cloud-based data centres far quicker than with legacy network architectures and provisioning tools.

Looking further ahead, technologies such as Software-Defined Networking (SDN) looks set to radically transform the datacentre. SDN refers to the separation of the part of the network that is responsible for routing and directing traffic (known as the control plane) from the part that carries the traffic itself (known as the data plane). The goal is to allow organisations to respond rapidly to changing business requirements. By simplifying how network resources are deployed and managed, SDN gives businesses far greater control of their data and applications and makes network management simpler and faster.

SDN is still in its infancy but its potential is vast; IDC has predicted it will be a $3.7 billion market by 2016. By making networks smarter and simpler to manage, it will facilitate innovation throughout the enterprise, helping businesses to develop and deploy new applications and respond to changing market forces faster than ever.

To prepare for the data centre of the future, and take advantage of SDN and other emerging technologies in the years to come, businesses need to combine the most valuable aspects of the physical and virtual layers. Adopting the steps outlined above will give organisations the ability to flexibly deploy data centre capacity – compute, networking, storage and services – in real-time, whenever and wherever they need it, delivering much improved ROI and helping businesses to turn their data centre into a real competitive advantage.



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