It is official: the cloud is impacting data center design. More than just a facelift, the changes are occurring right at the infrastructure design and implementation process--and it is about time. 

Since the dawn of the first mainframe, businesses have been clamoring for better IT support for their business goals. With business velocity, cost efficiency and maximizing opportunities becoming key concerns, organizations are reassessing the value of IT. With the increase in mobility, IT consumerization and the demands of more tech-savvy line-of-business managers, IT teams are hard pressed to become more proactive. They strive to fine tune resource utilization and keep operational costs down. 

Enter “the cloud.” With a bag of real-world promises and proven answers that align with business needs, the cloud has transformed the value of IT to the business. Instead of trying to build software and procure hardware, IT now has free rein over how it wants to provision them on an on-demand basis or even procure them accordingly from today’s vast number of cloud service providers. 

The allure of the cloud has now forced many to relook at their data centers. But transforming them into cloud data centers may not be a walk in the park. Instead, consider the following design tips. 

Design tip 1: Standards rule

Not so long ago, data centers were wired up, massive real estate structures with towering racks sporting solutions from diverse vendors. It had a very simple purpose—centralized storage and bolster data security; however, the ad hoc addition of data center components from various vendors at different times has made management complicated and operational cost spiral out of control. IT teams saw their ranks grow with more expertise to manage each component within the center. 

Adding an additional rack was soon a complicated affair. Besides not knowing exactly how much storage you actually need, it also entailed wiring challenges, extra cooling costs and integration nightmares. All this meant was time lost—time that the business could have used to maximize new opportunities and improve their bottom lines. 

The cloud demands standardization and it can be a great normalizer. It is a feature that began with virtualization, and now being extended further with the cloud. As many businesses deploy private clouds in their data centers, their IT teams are increasingly relying on standard components to provide the visibility and flexibility to meet business requirements.  

Design tip 2: Don’t skimp on performance and reliability

Cloud data centers have to be designed around performance and reliability. The reason is simple: with services being provisioned on an on-demand basis, network downtimes or hiccups can result in higher liability and distrust. 

That’s what drove China Merchant Bank to look for a high-performance network that will last for more than a decade to support their vital online services. After an exhaustive search, the bank selected a copper and multimode fiber solution, which provided end-to-end 10G performance and was backed by 20-year warranties and application assurances. 

Design tip 3: Embrace the DCIM promise

Management needs a boost and to become granular. It is the reason why Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) has become a hot-button item. Industry research firm Markets and Markets says DCIM is becoming huge business and estimates that the global market sector will grow from US$307 million in 2011 to a whopping US$3.14 billion in 2017—a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 50 percent. Some proclaim that DCIM can remove “downtime” from the IT vocabulary. 

No matter the claim, DCIM starts with network intelligence, which in turn begins right at the component level. For example, today’s advanced panels offer a trace button and LED for every port, while next generation racks allow alpha/beta module polarity orientation to be auto-detected and reported to management software. 

Just ask financial behemoth CITIC Securities. The company deployed a flexible, high performance network infrastructure to keep up with demand driven by the rapidly expanding Chinese economy. 

Design tip 4: Get the right vendor

Building a cloud data center requires years of experience and the right expertise. With data privacy and infrastructure issues becoming a key concern in various industries, choosing the right vendor to support you during your cloud journey is important. You need to also ensure that they have a strong roadmap and fiscal strength to support you in the years to come. 

Beyond just expertise and experience, you also need to ensure that your vendor has the right stock levels in the right location—a salient point that many cross-border projects fail to consider. For example, CITIC Securities’ eventual selection allowed it to get 1,300 boxes of cables and related equipment that it needed onsite within a week allowing it to meet project deadlines. 

Conclusion

Designing cloud data centers requires IT to take a refreshing look at their current blueprint. The goal has not changed—to build an efficient data center that perfectly aligns with business needs and supports its business goals. With on demand availability, reliability and performance becoming crucial for success, it requires a hard look at how the various components are deployed and who is deploying them. Cloud data centers go further. They offer IT a chance to be seen as profit centers that enable business, not just support it. With the ability to provision and drive innovation quickly, it allows businesses view them as partners for their success.

About the Author

James Young

James currently serves as the Director of CommScope’s Enterprise Data Center division, overseeing strategy and providing leadership to product and field teams globally. Formerly James has been involved in a variety of roles including sales, marketing and operations for communication solutions working with Tyco Electronics/AMP, Anixter, Canadian Pacific and TTS in Canada. 

James has gained extensive experience in the sale of OEM products, network solutions and value-added services through direct and indirect channel sales environments. His sales experience includes electronic transmission components, telephony systems, network systems, LAN infrastructure products and fibre transmission system products. James has garnered substantial experience in OEM and channel marketing, as well as network operations as assistant director of CP’s computers and communications group. 

James graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Western Ontario.  He is a registered Communication Distribution Designer (RCDD) and certified Data Center Design Professional (CDCP).

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