Sunday, July 13, 2014

Blueprint: Distributed and Virtualized Data Center Architecture

by Vinay Rathore
Sr. Director Solutions Marketing, Infinera

While there has been a strong trend toward creating bigger and more powerful centralized data centers to meet end user needs, there has been another less notable trend toward pushing the data center closer to the end users for the same reasons.  Large data centers create efficiency through a centralized location that accommodates equipment that shares centralized resources (UPS, generators, HVAC, other networks, etc.).  The goal is to minimize cost and maximize functionality and reliability of the data center itself.  However, many end users find that they prefer certain mission critical elements of their IT infrastructure to be physically closer to their offices, rather than in a central data center that could be far away. This has given rise to the need for a data center solution physically closer to the customer (aka virtualized data center), which essentially comprise a network extension of the centralized data center into space that is physically closer to the end user, while still offering many of the traditional data center services.  For some locations, such as a remote business park, building a full service, but smaller scale data center may be justified; for others a virtual data center is the next best option.

Why centralized data centers don’t work for some enterprises

Today, enterprises are more dependent upon their IT infrastructure than ever before. Further, they no longer want the burden of managing IT complexity, a function typically far from their core competency. Instead, they simply prefer to move IT resources into a location where space, power and network access is abundant and can be managed remotely. For some enterprises, this model creates a dilemma. The question that arises is, “How should I treat certain mission critical applications in a data center that is 30 kilometers away, shared and in some case not easily accessible (physically, that is)?’ Some business applications don’t care about such parameters, like HR or CRM applications, but others, such as proprietary algorithmic trading or transaction-oriented processes, may suffer due to latency and need for control. The alternative is to keep an IT facility onsite, but ideally there is a preference for someone else to manage it.

Do enterprise users prefer virtualized data centers?

As more enterprise users move toward cloud-based applications, performance and speed of innovation (aka speed of change) become important.  This has driven the desire to have some portion of infrastructure be located in a high performance, controlled IT facility, while other portions can be operated over a public infrastructure, creating a hybrid cloud network.  This concept of a hybrid cloud is defined as having some portion of cloud infrastructure operating in a public cloud facility, and another portion operating in a private facility, usually to meet specific end user demands, such as security, location, accessibility, reliability, etc.. Many large enterprises, including financial and retail enterprises, can address this with a private infrastructure they build themselves,  or outsource it to a data center operator/integrator, who would own and maintain the space and connect it back to the main data center, where a rich set of other cloud services may be available.


Why would data center operators do this?

The concept of the virtual data center is about both revenue and opportunity.  By addressing a specific large enterprise, perhaps through a customized virtual data center solution, data center operators also create opportunity to attract larger, more profitable end users while establishing a footprint in a new market segment.  In fact, many Fortune 500 companies have already started to engage in such strategies by building their own private networks using leased space and contracting companies to manage the network.  This concept of the virtual data center has been shown to be popular in large metropolitan locations, where customers are spread out across larger distances.

Overcoming the network challenge

The key challenge is how to extend the central data center to a virtual location efficiently. In fact, there are several ways to overcome this network challenge, including technology, operational simplicity and ultra-high performance. All of the key operational challenges concern space utilization, power consumption and the need for a high performance network.  In this case, two key technological innovations that enable such solutions to become reality: photonic integration and optical super-channels.

The value of photonic integration lies in replacing multiple discrete components with a single highly integrated optical integrated circuit, also known as the photonic integrated circuit (PIC). A key value of the PIC is that it reduces space and power while ultimately providing higher performance network capacity.  It follows the same philosophy of integrated circuits in our laptops replacing discrete transistors that were much larger and consumed much more power. Ultimately the real value of photonic integration is that it takes the highest power consuming components (e.g., network side lasers) and integrates them into a small compact device that consumes significantly less power and space.

Optical super-channels

Optical superchannels are defined as a group of smaller, more granular optical channels that are bundled into a single, larger optical group that provides equivalent high performance, but also adds the simplicity of managing fewer circuits. For example, would you rather manage 50 x 10G fiber circuits or manage 5 x 100G fiber circuits?

If we agree that PIC based optical superchannels are the simplest and most cost effective way of deploying network capacity, the next question is one of reliability. Fortunately, PIC technology is so reliable that it features an expected Failure in Time (FIT) of more than 1 Billion hours (Source: Infinera).  This solution results in increased reliability with photonic integration and simplification with superchannels that deliver performance.

Conclusion

As the data center market continues to evolve, large centralized data centers and smaller virtual data centers that are closer to the end users will co-exist.  The concept of the hybrid cloud plays a role in that it addresses the need for large enterprises to keep certain mission critical resources close to them while locating other assets in large, more economical and centralized facilities.  This solution also creates opportunity for data center operators to offer value-added services, from the basic virtual storage and computing services to the fully outsourced IT solutions that make the operators more indispensable to the enterprise.  The critical element in this solution remains the network, which must be simple and efficient. From the technology angle, technologies such as photonic integration and optical super-channels will be critical to ensuring the deployment of simple, efficient and high performance virtual data center solutions.

About the Author

Vinay Rathore is Sr. Director Solutions Marketing at Infinera.

Mr. Rathore brings over 20 years of telecom experience across a broad array of technology. He has helped some of the world’s largest operators and suppliers including Sprint, Global One, MCI, Alcatel and Ciena build & market their newest solutions. His areas of expertise include network engineering, operations, sales & marketing in both wire-line and wireless systems as well as leading edge network solutions spanning Layer 0 to Layer 3. Mr. Rathore holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute as well as an MBA from the University of Texas.

About Infinera

Infinera provides Intelligent Transport Networks to help carriers exploit the increasing demand for cloud-based services and data center connectivity as they advance into the Terabit Era. Infinera is unique in its use of breakthrough semiconductor technology to deliver large scale PICs and the application of PICs to vertically integrated optical networking solutions that deliver the industry’s only commercially available 500 Gb/s FlexCoherent super-channels. Infinera Intelligent Transport Network solutions include the DTN-X, DTN and ATN platforms. Find more at www.infinera.com.

3 comments:

Nice Post Vinay. Suppose I should say Mr. Rathore. Clearly, you bring many years of experience and understanding to this situation. That said, it is important for businesses to look around before making this large commitment. Not all providers are good for all industries. When visiting a providers site, it is worth researching their strengths in order to have the best outcome. If you are in the Healthcare, Financial, SaaS, Legal, e-commerce, or marketing & advertising industries, visit Logicworks. You'll see case studies that illustrate the solutions they developed for these very different sorts of companies.

Lucas (sorry, Mr Oster), Thanks for the comments. I agree that different providers have different core competencies and different business models, and in the case of data center and cloud infrastructure they all vary a lot. The purpose of this article is to 1) highlight the change in network infrastructure that is being driven by many enterprise and 2) highlight how data center operators can respond. Optical networks are playing larger roles in cloud and data center infrastructure, and with the recent price wars for storage and compute services, the data center networks are growing faster than many operators expected, which is driving expansion of the WDM (Optical) infrastructure. That is where technology, like photonic Integration, that offers a paradigm shift from traditional discrete optical network equipment can really help.

Nice article Mr. Rathore! I agreed that centralized data centers are not preferred by all the enterprises as different enterprises have different core competencies. The main focus of data center providers must be on providing maximum functionality and reliable services with minimum cost. And as cloud technology and virtualization is the trend of today. Vendors are looking forward to jump into the cloud according to their need and budget they may choose virtual server, dedicated server, private cloud or public. private cloud provides better performance and deep compliance than public cloud.

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