Reseller News

Datacentres: Home is where the infrastructure is

Brian Dooley looks at the eye of the cloud revolution, and asks how resellers can weather the storm that is still changing the way they do business
  • Brian Dooley (Unknown Publication)
  • 12 February, 2012 22:00

The datacentre is in the midst of an evolution toward consolidation, virtualisation and the cloud that will have widespread impact in the way IT services are consumed. What is up for grabs is how and where hardware is located and supported, to say nothing of how systems and services are sold. The good news for resellers is that while old markets are shutting down, new opportunities continue to emerge. It is more important than ever before to keep up with the changes that are going on in this critical area. IBM is involved with providing services from its own datacentres, as well as in building them for clients. “We have built a new datacentre at Highbrook [in Auckland], which serves as the foundation for provision of services to customers, and provides high availability, high reliability, green features, and scalability,” says integrated technology services manager, Paul Douglas. “We also help clients built their own datacentres, using our intellectual property and project management. The datacentre is the foundation, the integral cornerstone, for provision of cloud services.” “Cloud and virtualisation initiatives are dominating the datacentre space,” says Douglas. “As we move our own infrastructure from older installations to the Auckland datacentre, we ask what we can consolidate, and what we can virtualise. Virtualisation is a more cost efficient way of managing infrastructure and applications. However, it leads to greater density of computer resource, which in turn leads to greater power and cooling requirements. More complexity in the datacentre architecture also affects networking requirements. New technologies by Juniper and Cisco, such as QFabric and Nexus enable high speed connectivity between devices an servers. There have been significant change in the datacentre architecture. “ There are some interesting possibilities for local datacentres emerging from the ongoing evolution of cloud. Data sovereignty can be critical for customers, who may be asked to guarantee that data will be held onshore. It is also useful to note that New Zealand is recognised as one of the most trusted countries in the world, so can serve as a data hub. IBM has some discussions on possibilities of storing data in New Zealand for access in Australia and other locations. For resellers, opportunities are emerging in cloud and cloud-based applications. “We have a fairly significant roadmap of managed services rolling out through 2012,” says Douglas.” Resellers can take those services and integrate them into a client’s environment. One example is secure mobility, having workplace applications securely provided to bring your own device (BYOD) smartphones and tablets, to avoid putting the organisation at risk from insecure devices.” HP is another key player in the datacentre space. “After some years of minimal change datacentres are experiencing a surge of investment and replacement,” says chief technology officer David Eaton. “Most of this investment has focussed on upgrading the facilities of existing datacentres, or replacing existing datacentres with new facilities that offer higher degrees of resiliency and redundancy. The extent of investment required for this has also had an effect on the services that are offered. It is now rare to find simple hosting services offered in a Tier 3 datacentre. This is being replaced either by managed services on vendor or client-owned infrastructure, or by fully-managed and shared infrastructure using cloud computing.” Focus within datacentres has been on increasing technology to manage and monitor the infrastructure, so that the numbers of people required to run datacentres will continue to decline. “As organisations adapt their IT technologies to use cloud computing, IT technology will increasingly adopt Internet-style technologies,” says Eaton. “These technologies are resilient by design, and free IT from relying on hardware-based technologies that provide redundancy. Datacentres supporting resilient cloud computing applications can be separated by hundreds if not thousands of kilometres. Legacy application stacks tied to SAN-based redundancy will continue to require alternate datacentres within 20 to 50 kilometres of the primary centre.” Datacentre location, however, is not as flexible as the distance that can be physically spanned. “As cloud computing involves the sharing of services between clients, the location of the datacentre becomes more important to the vendor and the client,” says Eaton. “Client and vendor legal and regulatory responsibilities are important. As it is difficult or impossible for a New Zealand-based organisation to enforce New Zealand contract law or to protect the rights of data enshrined in the Privacy Act in another legal jurisdiction, the focus for New Zealand-based organisations will continue to be on using local datacentres and services.” Maxnet is a New Zealand owned ISP and datacentre services provider offering connectivity, hosting, online back-up and end-to-end virtualisation services to wholesale ICT providers and direct to businesses. “We operate a 200-rack high availability datacentre in our Albany, Auckland headquarters and a second 40-rack facility in Christchurch," says enterprise architect, Jeremy Nees. “Our Albany datacentre is the highest density commercially available datacentre in New Zealand. We have a strong focus on innovating in the datacentre space.“ For Maxnet, the key trends for datacentres are continual increase in power density and efficiency, as well as the virtualisation of systems . “We are now seeing a move away from hosting physical systems, and a focus on providing virtual storage and processing resources,” says Nees. “The other prominent trend emerging in this space is around smarter management of datacentres.” Cloud services are also advancing. “An increasing number of our customers are looking to use cloud services as ‘total solutions,’ as they see cloud computing as a viable alternative to owning equipment,” says Nees. “To get the most out of public cloud IaaS offerings, however, your systems really need to be designed to take advantage of the way those services operate. It is much easier to simply move private cloud services across to a cloud provider. Private cloud services also tend to provide a greater comfort level, with the recent Megaupload shutdown highlighting the risks of using a consumer-grade file upload service.” Maxnet sees the chief opportunity in this area for resellers in going where datacentre operators can't go, and using datacentre services to provide total solutions to their customers. Resellers can customise offerings and provide something a bit more unique or tailored to a customer’s requirements. “Assisting businesses with using local cloud services presents a fantastic opportunity,” says Nees. “There are a lot of people very interested in cloud services; they understand why they should be using them, but are struggling with the ‘how’ and ‘where’ when looking to progress further. Having a trusted partner guide them through this process, and then continuing to support them into the future, is definitely in demand. Resellers are crucial to ensuring the end customer is realising the best value from the service being delivered. This is all about spending the time to understand their true business requirements and adding value to various services to really make them a perfect fit. “ All Maxnet services can be resold through approved channel partners Oracle provides an integrated portfolio of servers, storage, software, and networking products. “These products have been engineered to work together to create what we believe is the next inflection point in datacentre economics," says senior sales manager, Mark Raos. “Customers typically spend 70 percent of their IT budgets integrating and running disparate pools of technology designed in isolation of each other. Oracle takes a much wider view of the datacentre, integrating all the way from the application to the disk. “ Today’s datacentre is migrating from a physical, static, and heterogeneous set-up, to a grid-based virtualised infrastructure that enables self service, policy-based resource management, and capacity planning. “With the continued evolution of the cloud computing model, Oracle’s view is that datacentres will move to a POD (integrated racks of server, storage, network and software) design optimised for service delivery rather than technology function,” says Raos. “With these designed on open standards interfaces, customers can then choose how they leverage datacentres across public and private infrastructure. “ Organisations are continuing to consolidate and virtualise their datacentres. “Big data is another major technology trend affecting IT infrastructure,” says Raos. “There is a potential treasure trove of non-traditional, less structured data: weblogs, social media, email, sensors, and photographs that can be mined for useful information. Decreases in the cost of both storage and compute power have made it feasible to collect this data. Many businesses have been caught off guard by the boom in ‘big data’ and are reacting to the situation with a short term increase in outsourced datacentre and cloud service use, while planning longer term to build their own in-house datacentre facilities.” In Australia and New Zealand, possibly the single biggest driver of datacentre consolidation for large organisations is cost containment, which is even more prevalent in Australia with the upcoming introduction of the carbon tax. Growth in the scope and power of the datacentre has significantly increased its energy consumption. IT teams are monitoring server and storage utilisation and must consider ways to raise utilisation levels so that IT hardware does not sit idle while consuming power and driving up ventilation and cooling costs. “Organisations have realised that their datacentres still have dedicated silos, where each application runs on its own middleware, database, servers and storage,” says Raos. “Each silo is sized for peak load and therefore there is a significant amount of excess capacity built in. Each silo is also different, leading to complexity and high costs to manage. Organisations are today moving from these silos to a grid or virtual environment with shared services, dynamic provisioning and standardised configurations or appliances. The majority of the organisations I talk to are engaged in some form of consolidation, though they may be doing this in only a portion of their datacentre.“ Many organisations will further evolve to a self-service private cloud offering the same flexibility and incremental cost advantages to end users as public clouds, but with less perceived risk and greater assurances of security and accountability. “In the meantime, we believe public clouds will continue to mature and eventually create a potent mix of private and public clouds, a hybrid cloud, which will run a single application, managed in a federated manner, through a single pane of glass. “Oracle President Mark Hurd is moving to simultaneously expand both Oracle’s channel sales and direct sales coverage by 25 percent,” says Raos. “He says the focus for partners will be on the hard-to-reach midmarket and SMB organisations. The new pay-as-you-grow software licensing flexibility for the Oracle Database Appliance is one of the many examples of how Oracle is adapting its channel programs.”