The New Data Center

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No longer their stodgy, sprawling selves, data centres continue to evolve in tune with the consolidation and agility efforts of enterprises

By Jasmine Desai

A number of Indian and global players are making strategic investments in building world-class data centres in India, accelerating the data centre transformation scenario in the country. Enterprises themselves cannot escape transformation of their data centres due to the new levels of services they are expected to provide.

According to ?ata Centre Landscape in India,a recent report released by NASSCOM, current technological trends like DC consolidation, green computing, and virtualisation are impacting the landscape, while emerging trends like DC automation, DC-in-a-box and network convergence are expected to be game changers for the industry.

Says Chandrashekar Gangadhar, Country Manager – Network & Mobility, HP India, ?ata centres will reach an unsustainable point in the next five years; the average enterprise will see data capacities grow more than 800%. Enterprises need to be able to manage this exponential growth in data while introducing new applications, such as big data and analytics, using delivery models such as virtualised infrastructure and the cloud.”


The transformation landscape

There are myriad transformational opportunities available in the data centre space. According to Shaheen Meeran, Managing Director of Schnabel, a DC consulting firm, ?ulti-tiering of data centres to address actual application availability needs, modular design for deferring or avoiding extra capex, industrialisation of data centres for pre-integrated and speedy deployment, use of Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM), tracking and improvement of energy usage, responsible site selection, use of renewable energy, and data centre certifications are a few of them.”

According to Forrsights Budgets And Priorities Survey, Q4 2013, 67% of the respondent interviewed in India (out of total 201) said that their hardware spending (including both operating and capital budget) will increase in the next 12 months. In the same period, 43% respondents said that their software-as-a-service spending will increase as well.
The key business drivers in data centre spending include business continuity and disaster recovery, and the need to make businesses more agile.
CIOs are looking forward to new technologies to effectively manage data centre growth. They are also considering options like consolidation, colocation and even outsourcing data centres. According to Meeran, ?here is a growing awareness of the importance of standards-compliance in data centre planning in India as an ?nsurancetowards business availability. Also, there is a growing need articulated to have a single-portal view of the operations and management of all layers of a data centre.

In addition, the Indian market has been a cost-savvy one that has believed in doing more with less. Enterprises have also begun to focus on optimising energy and other operational costs in the data centres. Says Sony Anthony, Director, KPMG India, ?hile virtualisation plays a key role in all consolidation efforts, migration to the cloud is becoming one of the most important solutions. Most Indian CIOs are keeping a hybrid consolidation approach in their minds.”

According to Girish Rao, CIO, Marico India Pvt Ltd, ?here is no transparency when it comes to services in India. Most of the services are based outside India especially when it comes to cloud. Data centre service providers will eventually move onto cloud providers. From our perspective it is going to be about compute power, memory and disk. Organisations like ours are still adopting on-premise kind of servers.”
Marico has 20% of its applications on private cloud and 10% on public and the rest in its co-located data centre. Says Rao, ?nce cloud concerns go away, in the next 4 to 5 years, organisations like ours will not even think of owning any servers. Basically, we would like to convert our capex into opex. By that time, technology would have matured and there would be a clear model for charging and monitoring these kinds of services.

Presently, Marico is undergoing the second phase of virtualisation. Marico? central data centre is located at Tata premises in Mumbai and the DR is in Hyderabad. Earlier, there were 60 servers? number which was brought down to 18.  According to Rao, through virtualisation, the organisation wants to bring down the server number even further to 10, as the technology gives more value in terms of higher system utilisation. Around four to five years back, there were 4 to 5 racks of servers, but now it is just one-and-a-half rack. The aim is to bring it down to just a single rack.

What is more, the total utilisation of resources in terms of power, CPUs, etc., is well optimized compared to the situation earlier. Consolidation has definitely given the organisation more value in terms of usage of the systems and has in turn simplified their DR strategy as well.
Sudhanshu Bhandari, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research, says, ?his year has already brought new server and CPU offerings from vendors like Intel, IBM, HP, Dell and Cisco. CIOs should plan server upgrades accordingly. For the same floor space, rack space, or power budget, organisations will be able to perform approximately 50% or more work than what they currently do.

They should also harness the benefits of converged infrastructure. Rather than purchasing technology infrastructure from various vendors and integrating these components, CIOs should use converged systems that deliver server, storage, network, and management tools in a box. This will enable them to show faster returns on investments and yet, at the same time, improve performance and simplify the management of technology infrastructure, he says.

The transformation story is different for every organisation but there are several things in common when it comes to data centres. According to Arun Gupta, CIO, Cipla Ltd, ?ata centres are the basic foundation for any business or industry using IT. The evolution is consistent with others and not in any way different.Cipla underwent data centre transformation last year when it decided to colocate the data centre with a third-party service provider (Netmagic). With change in the application landscape and increased use of IT, the company wanted higher efficiency and improved utilisation levels.

Since data is growing very rapidly, a lot of opportunity exists in the space of automation and application-aware storage. Says Amit Malhotra, Senior Director, Storage Sales, JAPAC, Systems Division, Oracle Corporation, ?n a data centre, not all applications behave similarly and not all storage can be similar to the application. Organisations should focus on applications which are storage-aware and storage which is application-aware.

One step at a time

Enterprise innovation is constrained by the complexities of outdated IT. Organisations must optimise and modernise infrastructure in order to deliver a new style of IT that accelerates revenue generation, drives innovation and reduces business risk?ll while reducing overall costs. According to Anthony of KPMG, ?ndian CIOs are hindered by legacy infrastructure. The company? growth demands new technology to be applied in the data centre, but the legacy environment makes this task for the CIO very hard to achieve. For example, running a legacy application may not be compatible to the new environment/technology and the cost of replacement of legacy applications may be high, forcing the CIO to stay with the legacy environment.

According to Bhandari of Forrester, ?n order to support new business initiatives, companies will need to constantly optimise their existing technology landscape to maintain the budget balance.In order to do so, CIOs need to be on the right side of the equation and put these I&O technology-led initiatives into context of larger, organisational constraints and realities.

Bhandari believes that by 2020, there will be a significant shift in the role of I&O professionals from the builders of systems from the ground up to ?rokers of technology.And CIOs will face a big challenge in bringing about that cultural change. According to Gangadhar of HP India, ?o deliver real business outcomes, transformation requires a change in people, processes and infrastructure.He cites the example of telecom major Bharti Airtel, which migrated to HP? high-end Superdome servers for their entire network data centre infrastructure, to cope with increasing loads on data centre operation network backbones. He claims that the new IT platform, combined with HP? mission-critical support, increased network availability and reliability.

Says Bhandari of Forrester, ?endors have strong maturity to do transformation that involves non-disruptive P2V (Physical to Virtual). However, there is more maturity needed on open standards and software defined environments in the Indian market.”
According to Meeran of Schnabel, space and capex optimisation, as a part of the design and planning process, allows the company? clients to take a more compelling value proposition to their customers in turn. ?or all clients, we help lower operational costs towards energy by making the energy efficiency metric PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) a design outcome,she says.

In spite of consistent challenges and changes, is there a perfect state that can be reached in the data centre world? According to Rao, ?he ideal data centre as I see it, will be in which physical space gets reduced further and further with consolidation. Once the limit has reached, then there could be a push towards private cloud, with better monitoring facilities within servers. Right now, even with virtualisation, resources are fixed within the virtual system. But once the private cloud is mature enough, organisations can get elasticity between servers also.”

In the next two to three years, several constraints for data centres are expected to go away or be tackled more effectively, so that enterprises can take better advantage of new opportunities supported by mobility, cloud, and high-performance networking. According to Anthony of KPMG, data centres will no longer be constrained by one specific site. Instead, organisations will have multiple sites and stay connected by high-performance networks, with the ability to move workloads to where it is less risky and more secure for the business.” Gupta of Cipla does not believe that there is an ideal state for a data centre. In fact, continuous evolution will continue to define the data centre space for many more years to come.

jasmine.desai@expressindia.com


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