Create A Thriving Adaptable Data Center
You have heard all the famous quotes:
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein
“It is not the strongest or most intelligent that will survive but those who best manage change.” – Leon C. Megginson, often attributed to Charles Darwin
“A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” – Chinese Proverb
“Change or die.” – Alan Deutschman
The data center, like life, is no different. New IT models are created and find markets and proponents every day – Cloud, Hyper-converged, Software Defined, XaaService, Flash storage and on and on. We are asked by our clients daily to help them increase their “adaptability quotient” so they continue to thrive.
To respond to our clients thoughtfully, CMI has developed the “Adaptable Data Center” reference model to assist in understanding the issues and how the many different pieces fit together. There is no special magic to the model, rather it is an approach to add disciplined insights when making important decisions regarding data center architecture and design.
Below is an infographic of the model with a brief narrative for different components that go into Adaptable Data Centers.
Service Level Agreements (SLA)
Everything starts and is measured by the SLAs. A strict definition of SLA would be a service that is well defined and the delivery components (time, performance, resources, outcomes, etc.) are measured. In practical application, SLAs can be also internal and unwritten, though still measured, for example email delivery, or external and managed by contract, for example, outsourcing, co-location and public cloud. Whatever is agreed to, regardless of how it is delivered or measured, IT is accountable for the SLAs.
IT Service Management (ITSM)
ITSM refers to the activities and processes, often directed by policies, which are performed to deliver to the SLAs. Focus is placed on the implementation, quality and efficiencies of the services and the appropriate mix of people, process and technology required. ITSM is often aligned to standards-based practices and frameworks like ITIL and COBIT. As public cloud delivery is simplified, increasing pressures mount for the same delivery efficiencies from on-premise assets.
Applications / Composite Services
Applications run on top of operating systems and infrastructure and perform functions aligned to fundamental and complex business processes. Applications can be either systems or user invoked. Applications can be hosted and delivered on premise as is traditional or served as a service hosted by the vendor provider. Many organizations are going through an application segmentation process to determine which model best suits their particular business need.
Other trends in applications include mobile, where the app runs on a hand held device, and increased workload portability with containers. Mobile applications reflect generational differences and bring new challenges for user experience and security. Application containers like Docker on Linux help abstract the operating system-level virtualization process. This gives administrators greater control over provisioning services, greater security and process restriction and even more intelligent resource isolation.
As applications and environments continue to virtualize and be exposed as discrete patterns or micro-services, the agility of the organization is demonstrated through the ability to quickly create new composite applications and business services.
Abstracting / Pooling / Automation / Management
As we move towards Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), infrastructure elements – networking, storage, and compute – are virtualized and delivered as a service. IT as a Service (ITaaS) represents an outcome of SDDC. Virtualized IT assets are pooled and made available as required; efficiencies are gained by policy-based automation and managed as services rather than separate capabilities. Services are provided by self-service catalogs and manual intervention is greatly reduced or eliminated in some cases.
Transitioning to a SDDC model is an on-going process and is generally driven by cost, speed of delivery issues and the ability to unlock the constrained value in the traditional processes. Automation standards supported by the majority of market leaders are emerging, like Open Source’s OpenStack. The implementation of virtualization and automation sets the foundation for building on-premise private clouds that deliver the efficiency of the public cloud model.
Orchestration aligns and implements business requests with the applications, data and infrastructure to achieve a planned result. Orchestration is the business process management mechanism that defines the policies and service levels through automated workflows, provisioning and change management. This creates a business process: an application-aligned set of services that can be scaled up or down based on the needs of each business process. Orchestration also provides centralized management of the resource pool, including billing, metering and chargeback for consumption. Orchestration can be used for simple tasks like hardening servers to complex undertakings of deploying large ERP development and test environments.
Today’s on-premise infrastructure comes in many varieties: physical, virtual, siloed, and converged. Many data centers have a mixture of traditional delivery through siloed compute, storage and network with growing transformation to public cloud-like constructs of IT delivered as converged services.
The data center also is undergoing an ever-increasing shift to virtualization beyond compute to storage and network. As virtualization becomes more pervasive and we transition to software defined, we see a shift away from branded infrastructure to commodity. Web-scale architectures are relying more on the overarching software abstraction than the individual system capabilities. This commodity based, software driven model is emerging as hyper-converged, web-scale architectures. Lastly we are seeing an increased interest to free up manual processes by automating and orchestrating services. This provides agile provisioning of simple and complex services to maintain pace with the off-premise, public delivery capabilities.
This is the big snowball rolling down hill, gaining mass and momentum, and the clear leader is Amazon Web Services (AWS), with a host of other players including Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer, VMware vAir chasing after. Public cloud offers simple and fast provisioning, de-provisioning, cost accountability, on-demand, self-service, and great efficiencies.
You can also deploy virtual private clouds from a public provider that furnishes greater control and autonomy. In a public cloud model, your data center is delivered in an Op-ex model instead of the traditional Cap-ex. Most born-in-the-web companies use public cloud exclusively. Emerging use cases for the traditional enterprises include DR, dev/test and peak season bursting.
Cloud can be viewed as revolutionary for the data center or simply another delivery model to deliver to the SLAs.
API Service Bus
This is the most commonly used mechanism for delivering the hybrid enterprise. Using a model from the SOA, the API service bus designs and leverages API-led integration, connecting it from point to point for linking applications, data and devices. The result is to connect anywhere, on-premises or in the cloud and achieve full flexibility with a hybrid architecture and extensibility to connect future technologies. Emerging solutions leverage policy and templates to simplify and streamline integration so workloads are transparent and mobile. Maybe we can find a way to all get along.
Monitored / Managed / Available
Every data center has a set of utilities used to monitor and maintain the health and resiliency of the services delivered to the SLAs. Clients are looking for that single pane of glass that will monitor all services, the automated cockpit from which we can manage the services based on policy and the high availability of systems so services are consistently delivered. This becomes a more distinct reality as we move towards a software defined data center and as systems become self-healing. However, most NOCs would demonstrate that we a long way away from this dream.
Governance / Risk Management / Compliance / Security
IT Security is taking an increasingly critical and pivotal role within every organization today. IT Security has become a prominent consumer awareness issue – it is in the media and affects our lives almost daily. Security is now a cornerstone to most organizations’ risk management programs as it cuts to the core of an organization’s profitability and brand.
Organizations are responding to IT security and risk management with a dual focus. The first is the traditional technology response, which is designed is to make sure data, identity and assets are secure using a model of prevent, detect, respond and recover. The following fall within this area: identity management, access management, access governance, Secure Information and Event Management (SIEM), end-point management, application vulnerability management, penetration testing and management and compliance auditing and reporting.
The second focus is Cyber Safety programs that assist organizations in identifying and improving the social and organizational impacts on security and risk management. Many attacks come from non-technical vulnerabilities exploited through processes and/or people. A comprehensive risk management program addresses these exposures in a disciplined approach that brings measurable value.
The inclusionary wrapper to the adaptable data center is governance, risk management and compliance (GRC) with inclusive security programs from perspectives of technology, people and processes.
Adaptable Data Center
The adaptable data center is one model for strategic planning. We continue to test this model with our clients and partners to advance our thinking and experiences. We welcome your perspectives to add to this model as we increase its maturity and relevance.
In future blogs we will extend this model by providing design components that identify traditional and emerging solution sets for the various layers. We will expand further through business scenarios and use cases to demonstrate how to use this model can be used as a planning tool for your organization.
As Meggisnson expressed, “It is not the strongest or most intelligent that will survive but those who best manage change.” We welcome your feedback to add to our Adaptable Data Center. Contact us today to add to positive change.