Private cloud implementation aided by data centre convergence

Advice Nick Booth Feb 15, 2013

Shrinking data centre technology and putting it one box is a more efficient way of producing private clouds

It's about time someone took a metaphorical scythe to the data centre and hacked it back. Data centres are mushrooming out of all recognition and these resource-intensive IT factories are eating the planet. Convergence could stop them from consuming so many currents and coolants and stop belching out so much CO2.

Data centres are mushrooming out of all recognition and these resource-intensive IT factories are eating the planet

One new start up, Nutanix, promises to put the data centre manager back in his box by shrinking the data centre into one unit and making it more efficient. Doubtless it won't have this convergence niche to themselves for long. Here are six ways this convergence will change the dynamics of both the data centre and the cloud services industry

No more storage networks
Instead of having data silos on a SAN (storage area network) and connecting that with processing power across a series of links, each Nutanix unit packs them all into one box. When the data is stored next to the processors, as it is on a Nutanix box, it doesn't have to travel across fibre optic links before it can be processed but can be crunched almost immediately.

The unpredictable nature of the growth of information systems means that IT managers can never predict the way a database will evolve. As a consequence, there are bound to be congested areas across a data diaspora and these unplanned sprawls can become congested. Inevitably, when this data comes to be computed, its sheer volume creates traffic problems which lead to diminishing performance.

Having all the data and computing power in one place makes a lot more sense. When storage is kept closer to the computer, the systems are more scalable, claims Howard Ting, marketing VP for Nutanix. “When you have bottlenecks on the network, as you frequently do with SAN, you end up with diminishing economies of scale,” says Ting. 

No more monster storage bills
If Nutanix's business model is emulated by other vendors, the cost of storage technology in data centres will plummet. It uses bog standard Intel X86 server technology, rather than the ludicrously over priced SAN technology which has made many storage salesmen very rich. The combination of Intel processors, flash storage and Seagate commodity hardware will ensure that nobody has to pay a king's ransom for data centre storage again, promises Ting.

Better software
Instead of paying a fortune for SANs, this convergence will save money claims Nutanix.

Most importantly, the low capital expenditure needed means that, typically, a buyer can save around 50 percent on their investment in technology and 60 percent of their operations budget.

It's not a question of bundling the commodity hardware together however. The real value comes from writing software that allows you to create infinitely large clusters. Nutanix's boffins did it because they based their design on the principles on Google's design for scaling out up to ten of thousands of servers. It is the software that creates the necessary enterprise class storage features that data centres need, such as snapshots, cloning, replication, disaster recovery and compression. One layer of software stands between a scalable box and a forklift upgrade.

Politics
No matter how fast a technology runs, there are always people, processes and politics to slow them down. The sprawl of a modern data centre means it has three different systems that are controlled by three different people. The computing side of affairs is handled by the IT department, while the networking department and the storage team would also have control over their own affairs.

This is all as a result of the furious growth of the data centre and the spreading empires of the IT department. Instead of all sitting together in one room, the heads of department and their various support staff all have their own fiefdoms. As a result, the business process of getting IT resources allocated has become tortuous, says Ting, with people having to go cap in hand to three different IT department bosses before they can get a new system in place.