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Data Center Decisions: Business Owners Have Many Choices

16 Oct 2015 by Shay Moser

The concept of data centers — one large mainframe with infrastructure and storage elements kept in a room — has been around since the 1960s. These days, data centers are extensive, high-tech centers with rows upon rows of powerful computers, colorful cords and blinking lights. And choices abound for data center architecture options.

There are alternatives to the traditional IT infrastructure, which is usually made up of technology silos, such as experts in networking, storage, systems administration and software. Today’s virtual environments don’t depend on an in-house expert. Depending on what your business needs, everything needed is included in the infrastructure you choose — from converged, hyper-converged or OpenStack, to hybrid and software-defined data centers.

While each of these data center alternatives have benefits, they’re not all created equal. Business owners have big decisions to make — after all, data centers house their organization’s sensitive, confidential information. That’s why we asked Insight’s Vice President of Data Center Specialty Sales, Cameron Bulanda, for his help navigating the variety of IT infrastructure design.

What is a converged infrastructure?

Converged infrastructure is also known as integrated systems or unified computing. It’s the natural evolution from traditional IT infrastructure, including a mix of grid, cloud, utility, on-demand and shared computing services. Converged systems combine two or more hardware-focused components — storage, servers and network — into a pre-configured solution for your data center.

For instance, VCE and Hewlett Packard offer best-in-class storage-, compute- and network-converged systems solutions combined through software. This gives a single vendor the support for multiple components. VMware vSphere is the server component, Cisco UCS the hardware piece and EMC the storage, hence the VCE acronym. Add a dashboard and reference architecture, such as HP Cloud Maps and Flexpod, a NetApp-Cisco offering for common applications like Microsoft SharePoint, and you’ve got the full Intelligent Technology™ package.

Each of the components can be separated out for use as they’re intended — the server separated and used as a server, the storage separated and used as functional storage.

Why is hyper-convergence all the rage now?

It’s the next step in a more effective and easy-to-manage converged infrastructure, particularly for small to medium businesses and remote offices. That’s because hyper-converged infrastructure is software-defined. This means the servers, storage and networking are all integrated in a single box. Take our hotel client, for example. It uses a hyper-converged infrastructure to provide locations across the U.S. with local computing. Each hotel has the technology components it needs in one box, which can be scaled and managed remotely by the corporate IT staff.

What is OpenStack?

First, let’s define OpenStack. According to Rackspace, “Essentially, OpenStack is an open source cloud operating system driven by a thriving community. OpenStack now powers open public and private clouds — in our data centers or yours ... It makes once-complicated tasks like deploying applications much simpler; and it helps our customers avoid lock-in.”

In the past, if an application was made for an IBM operating system, users could only run it on an IBM platform. With OpenStack, customers migrating to cloud have more options when building out their infrastructure. The challenges with this open source cloud: security and compliance.

When should businesses choose hybrid cloud?

Most companies have concerns about migrating their entire IT operation to the public cloud. Hybrid cloud allows you to keep your most demanding services and sensitive data on private systems while using the public cloud for running applications. With a hybrid system, vast amounts of confidential data can be kept internal on the private cloud. Also through a hybrid set-up, your business will have an on-site infrastructure that is accessible directly rather than having to route it across the public Web. 

At different times in the year, businesses have busy periods and quiet periods. Hybrid cloud allows you to scale services up and down accordingly — boosting business agility. Hybrid cloud also offers private, in-house cloud infrastructure a way to cope with regular demand. Then when demand increases during peak months, it’s easy to ramp up public cloud service when computing demand exceeds that of your private cloud infrastructure.

What are the advantages of a software-defined data center?

The Software Defined Data Center (SDDD) means that all of the key components in the data center — servers, networks and storage — are centrally configured in software. In one place, administrators can define a virtual server while defining the virtual networking and storage that goes with it. If the virtual server is moved from one host to another, its configurations follow it automatically. Even if a server is moved from your enterprise’s own data center to a data center run by a private cloud provider, all the component configurations move, too. Besides having this flexibility, the SDDC creates faster data center value, reduces IT and infrastructure costs, creates redundancy for data storage and doesn’t lock your business into legacy hardware that doesn’t meet your needs.               

What does the Dell/EMC deal mean for clients evolving their data centers?

When you bring separate offerings from separate companies, it gives more cohesive solutions — in this case for servers and storage. The infrastructure components from Dell and EMC are going to be built and written to work together more effectively, making them faster and more cost-effective. 

And by partnering with Insight, you can get your arms around the entire data center today and beyond. It’s our job to vet and provide new capabilities from all of our data center partners.