How to Optimize Data Centers for the Automated World

The demand for data center agility has never been greater. With an exploding volume of data that is transmitted, processed, stored and managed and faster turnaround times demanded by businesses in this era of Internet of Everything, organizations are under tremendous pressure to keep the data center agile and ensure that the infrastructure remains optimized throughout its entire life cycle. Traditionally, infrastructure and software upgrades in a data center are time-consuming, require maintenance windows that take the IT systems offline, and risk outages due to incompatibilities. In a world that values speed, data centers can become a huge competitive advantage for businesses in the automated world.  

Enterprises require agility and flexibility for applications or services to be run quickly, managed efficiently and securely. Automation is the bedrock upon which organisations are focusing to increase network agility and reliability while controlling OpEx and CapEx. Besides lowering costs, it will also free your staff to do more strategic work, making them more proactive than reactive. The network will also operate more efficiently, with fewer human errors. According to a recent survey by Juniper Networks, 80% of businesses experience network errors caused by human mistakes on a regular basis, while the number of errors averaging in a month is 5-6 in a non-automated network.  

Data center automation enables automating the servers, network and other data center management tasks like scheduling, monitoring, configuring, patching, updating and reporting. So, how can companies optimize their data centers using automation? Let’s find out:

Infrastructure Automation: Enterprises today waste more than 50% of their IT budgets on inefficient application workload placement, configuration, and management. Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) solutions can help bridge the gap between the network and the data center’s physical infrastructure layer. AIM solutions provide information about the current state of the physical infrastructure by collecting specific information through intelligent cables and patch panels. They function as key providers of information to Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) products by feeding the data through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Such solutions provide assistance to monitor both the software and the hardware. The benefits range from a centralized database, controlling and tracking of changes, optimized use of installed capacity to real-time physical connectivity monitoring, automatic database updates and alerts on any unsolicited changes for greater security.

From a hardware standpoint, intelligent power distribution units (iPDUs) and KVM-over-IP solutions enable automatic and remote control of the data center. Besides distributing power efficiently and reliably, iPDUs provide more compute and memory power to support new applications and help gather and analyze data on electricity used by IT equipment, available power capacity in data centers, and cabinet environmental health. They also have more sensing and infrastructure data collection points. KVM-over-IP features lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), multi-vendor support, enhanced security and flexible user management, among other cost savings.   

Integrated Systems & Hyperconverged Infrastructures: Use of Integrated Systems and Hyperconverged Infrastructures (HCI) will continue to rise. Integrated Systems increase IT agility and speed to deployment by delivering infrastructure services via automated, near-real-time allocation/reallocation of pooled resources. Gartner predicts that Integrated Systems will shave off up to 25% of combined spend on servers and storage by 2020. Data centers are increasingly adopting Integrated Systems for optimized time to production, cost savings and simplified operations.

The use of HCI can also substantially lower overall infrastructure costs. It can make the organization more agile by reducing the complexity associated with adding new technologies and creating a single, integrated, responsive infrastructure that scales easily with minimal administrative overhead. According to Forrester analysts, the core value of HCI is Virtual Machine (VM) storage management simplification and cases that require rapid resource allocation should benefit from HCI.        

Cloud Automation & Orchestration: As more organizations move to the Cloud, providers are finding ways to create a fully automated Cloud environment. Although still emerging, there are already very large organizations deploying platforms like CloudStack, OpenStack, and OpenNebula for their cloud automation. It is essential for competitive companies to create powerful cloud automation services to replicate, secure and quantify the data. True cloud orchestration is being driven by open-source technologies such as Puppet from Puppet Labs or Chef from Opscode, which automate functions that previously required a lot of manual intervention. Sophisticated cloud automation software makes it easy to provision the resources the organization needs at any given moment, without getting bogged down with where the servers are.

Agile data centers will not just need automation, but also orchestration—the ability to abstract tasks into a concert of workflows. Cloud orchestration is a higher form of Cloud automation because it is concerned not just with simple or lower-level tasks, but with control and coordination of multiple component automation tasks. Orchestration in a dynamic data center begins with an understanding of the areas involved and the integration of DCIM and automation tools with cloud infrastructure software, such as OpenStack so that all elements can be managed in a harmonious manner.

Hybrid Technologies: Gartner predicts a massive shift towards hybrid infrastructure services. Analysts say that by 2020 cloud, hosting and traditional infrastructure services will come in more or less at par in terms of spending and hence organizations who are seeking more agility and flexibility in operations will shift towards industrialized, less-tailored options. Hybrid technologies offer the best of both the Cloud and the traditional data center. Companies could employ several strategies for a hybrid approach like renting data center space, or moving some applications to Cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider, or virtualizing their own data center infrastructure. According to Gartner, Cloud infrastructure-as-a-service will exceed traditional data center outsourcing spend in India during 2017. By 2021, the cloud IaaS market in India will exceed $2.1 billion in end user spending, nearly three times that of traditional data center outsourcing in India. 

Network Automation: It has been challenging for most organizations to integrate the network into the automation workflow. Network automation will help data centers enhance agility, accelerate deployments, increase reliability and improve the performance of critical business applications. Network automation is also the fundamental driver of software defined networking (SDN), which on integration with other parts of infrastructure enables orchestration of virtual machines, networks and storage in a coordinated manner. Data centers are in transition and are moving towards solutions and models that enable IT departments to be more responsive to the needs of the business and network automation is an important link in that transition.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), IT managers stated that they spent over 50% of their time on manual, time-consuming management tasks versus only 21% of their time on innovative, strategic initiatives to help accelerate the business. Automation is not just about managing and automating the workflow and processes of a data center. As modern data centers become an important part of a company’s customer experience strategy, automation can help businesses achieve customer needs holistically and in real time.