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The ‘software driven’ data centre

04 Dec 2014

Software is driving the modern data centre, be it for telcos, or your standard Kiwi business, as Heather Wright discovers.

As virtualisation and ‘software defined’ takes over the data centre, the differences between telco data centres and other data centres has dwindled.

“The old days of telco data centres having specialist equipment have gone and a lot of telco data centres are exactly the same as standard data centres,” says Arron Patterson, EMC New Zealand chief technology officer.

“I can remember an early SMS black box appliance that cost $5 million. It was very expensive to purchase solutions in that space.”

Push-back on the client side helped spell the end to those higher costs, with clients demanding ‘smaller atomic pieces of software on standard servers’.

That commoditisation and simplification has led to cost benefits and furthered the move to virtualisation and software driven data centres.

“The biggest trend, which started 10 years ago but stepped up in earnest in the last five years, is virtualisation of data centres.”

He says data centres in New Zealand are continuing to become more heavily virtualised, driving higher levels of utilisation and efficiency.

Having already embraced VMware compute virtualisation, Patterson says many Kiwi businesses are now embracing network and storage virtualisation and accelerating towards ‘the truly software defined data centre’.

“This is being driven by increased reliance on IT to provide not only a reliable, dependable infrastructure to support business, but also to enable competitive differentiation and to unlock new business potential,” he says.

“We’re now seeing a strategy looking more like SDN.”

For telcos it’s a crucial move. With consumers no longer accepting 20-day turnarounds on deploying phone lines or new services, the more ‘software driven’ data centre offers improved agility and flexibility, not just for new deployments and rapid scaling, but for patching and refreshes – without taking systems down.

Kiwis are also leading the way with deployment of advanced management, abstraction and policy-based automation, he says, though he notes that the number of true private clouds ‘is still quite small’.

Adam Dodds, IDC New Zealand research manager for IT services, says virtualisation remains a critical aspect of the moveto cloud.

“It is a part of the maturity process.

“Virtualisation has created a language and a construct that allows businesses to understand how the cloud works and therefore acts as a foundation for transformation.”

On the cloud front, he says hybrid is the theme across the provider community.

“Understanding what workloads and information should be placed where, relative to security, costs and availability, will see a mix of the use of private to public cloud usage.”

He says 70% of the market are looking to their service provider to also have a relationship with a public cloud provider.

“The new gold is to own the platform that CIOs use to broker their use of off-premises solutions,” Dodds says.

“This platform is as much about technical optimisation as it is about financial optimisation. As businesses use more and scalability becomes a core requirement, the benefit of this optimisation becomes more important.”

On-premise dwindles

Dodds says 50% to 60% of racks are still on premises, leaving plenty of scope for providers to assist customers in moving off premise.

When it comes to moving off-premise, Dodds notes that security and architecture constraints are the main barriers.

He says IDC expects there to be zero growth in on-premise and adds that 60% of the market want a data centre that is close to them, while collocation is expected to grow at around 3% to 5%, whereas infrastructure-as-a-service – both private and public – will grow at around 30% CAGR out until 2018.

“There is room for providers to be unique in their solution and work collaboratively in some of the solutions that are taken to market.”

Dodds says there is arguably enough physical data centre space already available to support New Zealand’s needs.

“Infrastructure capacity/density per square metre will increase and, as long as providers invest accordingly we should be ok,” he adds.

“New Zealand businesses are showing a wide ranging maturity.

“It is one thing to take some workload requirements to the cloud, it is another to have a set of processes and policies for what you will take to the cloud.

“And there is still an issue with an organisation’s ability to manage cloud-based costs.

“The chief financial officers are still playing catch-up on this one,” he notes.

Despite the CFOs playing catch-up, Dodds says as businesses choose to become more customer-centric, they will realise the cost of having resources managing traditional infrastructure is high.

“Creating a more agile and dynamic organisation will allow businesses to pivot on their customers’ needs and approach new markets with a limited need for infrastructure duplication.”

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