It’s only within the last half decade that the design, construction and operation of data centres has became a widely-understood discipline. Many would argue that operational efficiency, metrics and accreditation, while gaining an increasing profile, still have ground to cover. The data centre, therefore, is an environment in which a lot can be achieved.
Since the heady days of the dot com boom, data centres have essentially been warehouses for IT resources. Significant increases in data centre efficiency have been driven by the need for enterprises to seek cost-saving models in the IT infrastructure, alongside a desire for highly flexible and scalable operations. And yet despite evolving so quickly, the monumental advancements made in data centres are not often given fanfare celebrations.
But thanks to cloud computing, the data centre and its potential are suddenly very much in the spotlight. The cloud is not necessarily a cause of these advancements, per se. However, we are seeing significant transformation in the data centre as the value of cloud computing is increasingly leveraged.
When we consider data centre efficiency we tend to think of environmentally-friendly design features such as water or air-cooling, or the PUE ratio that measures efficiency of power usage. And these very much have a role in the data centres that will drive the cloud revolution. But more fundamentally, cloud computing can accelerate this trend towards efficiency by increasing the yield from data centre assets and, more simply, by focussing attentions on data centre management.
If you want cloud to work, you need a data centre that works – efficiently and reliably. Because cloud computing is built on automation and virtualisation, demanding workloads can be moved to systems that have excess capacity, power can be automatically capped without impacting performance, and security updates and firewalls can be automatically set on user systems.
Cloud computing hence fits with virtualisation like a hand in a glove. The more virtualised servers you have the easier it is to manage applications in the cloud rather than on conventional physical servers. 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) has enabled yet greater efficiency in the movement of virtual machines within the data centre. Automation helps administrators carry out time-consuming tasks that would typically be handled manually, ensuring the best utilisation of available resources – be that compute power, power from the grid, or man-power.
This sort of practical thinking is what our work in the Intel Cloud Builders programme is all about. It helps bring together the building blocks of the cloud in such a way that produces real benefits for the business.
Despite the clear and resounding benefits these efficiencies bring, the cloud is not without its stumbling blocks – though many of these are perceived rather than real. Some enterprises for example see the cloud, by its nature, as something intangible and unaccountable - and who would want to put their mission-critical apps in such a place? But this perception is far removed from reality, as I have addressed in previous posts.
For now it’s worth focussing on the fact that cloud is helping to drive changes which make data centres fulfil their potential – as centres of efficiency which maximise compute output relative to the resources invested in them.