What's new in the data center? Last year, the buzz was around "fabric data centers" as organizations began to worry about costs. Did it make sense to have dedicated and expensive network, computing and storage resources around applications even if the IT infrastructure was outsourced? Could IT infrastructure costs be brought down? CIOs were under pressure – and continue to be – to rationalize IT infrastructure costs. Now, they have a new way of doing it using Fabric Data Centers.
Traditionally, data centers have been organized around performance. With cost becoming important, fabric data centers have been gaining attention. Gartner in 2010 had identified "Fabric-Based Infrastructure and Computers" as one of the Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011. This year, "fabric" has been showing the way to creating end-to-end Next Generation IT enterprise infrastructure architecture. By 2013, expect fabric data centers to be all the rage as they stitch together high-performance computing systems, scalable storage/ backup, networking and bandwidth. The outcome: the end of complex, expensive and inefficient infrastructure.
The dirty secret
The dirty secret that not many are willing to discuss is that utilization of servers is often below 30%, for storage it is about 30 to 40 % and network utilization varies from 3 to 30% depending on the network. At the very minimum, there is strong evidence to suggest a case for better utilization.
That's one reason why data centers will increasingly move away from being server centric to a lightly glued fabric of resources such as servers, storage, networks and switches. The fabric is expected to bring greater flexibility, catering to continuously changing factors such as workload, application portability, and time of day. By connecting a number of data center resources across buildings or even geographies, the fabric will be able to ensure that connectivity between physical devices makes the system behave like a single logical device, allowing application portability, improving utilization, reducing latency, decreasing the number of switches, lowering capital expenses, shrinking space requirements, and bringing down maintenance, cooling and energy costs.
The rise of fabric data centers has been a parallel phenomenon to cloud computing, virtualization and IT resource pooling. Organizations that have become comfortable with consuming IT as a service and their complex mobile and security needs have been pushing data centers towards this major transformation.
The transformation, many will agree, is long overdue. Remember that most data centers are creaking at their foundations. Many of them are more than a decade old, designed for an era when data traffic was low on media due to bandwidth costs. This is why your data center relies on Layer 2 (switching) and Layer 3 (routing) equipment. This infrastructure was built to manage email, fundamental enterprise supply chain information, accounting data and for maintaining records (HR, sales, inventory, legal, etc.).
The new generation data center
Today everything has changed. Thanks to mobile devices and dropping bandwidth costs, networks are humming with media-intense traffic. There has been a sea change in the needs for storage and cluster computing to manage the vast amounts of data generated by voice networks, images, video and device data.
This has necessitated that data center infrastructure becomes flat, ensuring that data transfer, storage and processing/consumption is made possible on a single converged compute, storage and network fabric where resources are instantly available and are completely elastic.
If you are planning to refurbish or overhaul your data center, now is an ideal time to consider the option of outsourcing your IT to a fabric data center. This holds true for businesses that are dependent on collaboration and where resource requirements constantly fluctuate or for those that need continuously changing compute resources (such as CAD and CAM) .
Fabric data centers present numerous advantages:
- A standards-based, end-to-end infrastructure
- Scalability and on-demand functionality – can scale to thousands of nodes
- Lowered cost of operations – resources requisitioned based on requirement
- Lowered capital costs
- Reduced downtime
- Lowered energy consumption – greener management
- Superior business models
The emerging models of tomorrow's fabric data centers are getting rid of legacy multi-tiered network architecture in favor of flat, single-layer networks that reduce costs and offer greater flexibility. Several industry observers have suggested that over the next few years, the phrase "tree to fabric" is likely to gain currency as data centers move away from their tree structures to open, multipath networks.