Why the software-defined data centre matters to the CIO?

19 June 2018

Despite all the fanfare about the cloud, there is no question that a public cloud environment is not for everyone. Factors such as industry verticals, regulatory compliance regulations, privacy requirements and technical needs may prohibit certain organizations from deploying on a public cloud.

This leaves an on-premises or a private cloud deployment as the only option for some, which often necessitates a deployment within a data centre. So what are some important requirements that CIOs need to watch out for here? Would any data centre do, and what does a software-defined data centre mean to them?

To answer these questions and to highlight why the software-defined data centre matters to the CIO, we take a closer look at the evolution of the data centre and the next-generation capabilities found in a software-defined data centre.

The evolution of the data centre

The earliest roots of the data centre could probably be pegged to when microcomputers “servers” began replacing mainframe computers in the early 1990s. This transition was hastened with the rise of the dot com in the mid-1990s. Enterprises started to establish server rooms for round-the-clock operation, which quickly gave rise to larger facilities for the housing of hundreds or even thousands of servers.

Housing so many servers at the same location represented an opportunity for cost savings, but was also a risk in terms of the wattages involved and the sheer amount of heat generated. Better equipment aside, this necessitated dedicated monitoring equipment to detect potential circulatory hotspots or power brownouts, as well as the ability to quickly make configuration changes to avert disaster.

The situation ultimately gave rise to DCIM, also known as data centre infrastructure management, a category of solutions created to extend the traditional data centre management function. Aside from the ability to locate and visualize key physical assets within the infrastructure on a “single pane” view, data centre operators were also able to better forecast and optimize their cooling and energy consumption for significant savings.

For all its capabilities however, it is worth noting that most traditional DCIM approaches typically do not extend down to individual racks. Though some solutions do take a stab at addressing the server hardware, the dichotomy between the data centre operator’s focus on infrastructure and reliability, versus the more IT-centric needs of the enterprise has resulted in the latter often being left to rollout their own control and monitoring systems.

Taking it further

The rise of the software-defined data centre, or data centre 2.0 promises to change that. What is different in the software-defined data centre pertains to how operations and systems in the entire facility are completely virtualized. This includes storage, computing, network and security, all of which are now treated as another component in an interdependent stack that can be managed dynamically.

Much like the difference between having to juggle the physical servers of yesteryear and the fully virtualized server environments of today, this makes it significantly easier for IT managers or system administrators to scale up or down, greatly improving their reaction times and ability to support business processes by negating costly and error-prone site visits to configure individual equipment.

And instead of sitting on hair-trigger alert or having to pore through complex reports and analytics, administrators can instead spend their time further improving the efficiency of their systems, yet be instantly alerted of potential issues with warnings and alerts sent directly to their smartphones. Moreover, have a consolidated view of their infrastructure also makes it far easier to pin-point and fix problem areas should they emerge.

Ultimately, the capabilities and flexibility offered by the software-defined data centre directly translates into greater ability for the IT department to move quicker – and help bring the business to the next level.


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