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Data centres get redefined with software-defined approach


CIOs see more of OpEx over CapEx benefits by going the software-defined data centre (SDDC) way

Software-defined data centre (SDDC) is the most talked about term among enterprises today. Coined in 2012, with factors like mobility, cloud and digital led organisations, SDDC is going to decide the future of data centres. This evolution of IT infrastructure and architecture represents a complete paradigm shift from today’s standard operating procedures for architecting and provisioning IT services. Segments like telecommunications, retail, large financial services, healthcare organisations, utilities, and communications have a heavy focus on SDDC. This future of the data centre is still in the debate stages; but enterprises, in their pursuit to be future-ready, can be seen gradually treading towards adopting SDDC. For CIOs and CTOs, it is absolutely necessary to understand its impact, potential risks and expected benefits before they embark on their journey of implementing it.

Sharing his views, Nitin Mishra, EVP (Technical) Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN), says, “The software-defined everything is rapidly becoming the new normal. Hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) facilitates moving to SDDC architecture as gradually or as quickly as a company is willing to pursue the transition. Currently, GSTN has two data centres in Delhi and Bengaluru, in addition to two more near data centres.”

In SDDC infrastructure architecture, the software programmatically controls and matches dynamic workload requirements of critical business applications. SDDC blocks the need to be holistically integrated with everything in the infrastructure including physical, legacy facilities. Such level of integration requires third-party vendors and plug-ins to provide the interfaces.

Sankarson Banerjee, Chief Technology Officer, Projects, National Stock Exchange of India, where he manages transformational projects for one of the world’s largest stock exchanges, says, “At NSE today most of our data centres are software defined. In a hardware-based data centre, it invariably means over-provisioning, which creates idle capacity and wasted resources in case of greater need tomorrow. At NSE, all infrastructure is virtualised and delivered as a service, with the control entirely automated by software. To fully realise the potential of the software-defined data centre, all infrastructure disciplines must, therefore, be virtualised, and put under automated control. This creates a separate, more strategic motivation for software-defined storage. Clearly, the hardware driven data centre is well on its way to becoming an IT relic.”

“Conversely, by deploying SDDC on HCI appliances, we have gained the ability to buy storage, network and compute resources based solely on the current needs. The extra capacity required today can be added quickly and easily if and when we actually have a need in the future, allowing for pay-as-you-grow spending. Hence, the multi-tenant platform can also eliminate the need for complex integration scenarios since all applications can run in the same environment,” he continues.

Similarly, Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services sees several benefits by taking the software-defined approach. Suresh A Shan, Head – Innovation & Future Technology, Business Information & Technology Solutions (BITS), informs, “We don’t have to spend significant money on hardware, facilities, utilities and other aspects of operations. With traditional computing, we can spend millions before it gets any value from its investment in the data centre. With SDDC, our subsidiary companies had reduced the size of their own data centres – or eliminate our extra data centre footprint altogether. The consolidation of information and infrastructure has major reduction of the numbers of servers, the software cost, and the number of staff had significantly reduced IT costs without impacting our internal IT capabilities.”

With a hardware-driven data centre, the operational costs (OpEx) can be sky-high; it’s been found that a software defined data centre can give organisations a streamlined and automated data centre that can lower costs by as much as 56 per cent.
According to a large section of CIOs, geographically dispersed data centres used to require either dedicated staff or IT administrators with robust frequent flyer accounts. With SDDCs powered by HCI appliances, IT departments can view all operations through a single pane of glass from a central location.

“Powerful management and orchestration software automate many common admin tasks, freeing up IT professionals for more important work. Automation, combined with end-to-end visibility, allows enterprises to maintain optimal data centre operations, keeping systems running smoothly while responding rapidly to the changing IT needs,” Banerjee points out.

Innovations through software-defined
In the last two decades, Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services has been working towards leveraging technology as best as possible to address the evolving needs of rural customers. It has created unique architecture which is empowered with centralised storage with distributed data capture through available and affordable technology. It has built robust platform, inbuilt cluster patterns, to execute rigid fallback support solutions deployed in through different channels to capture and ensure 24/7 availability.

“Rural India has especially three major concerns, like electricity, connectivity, and last-mile resource availability. This has to be supported and ensured through the design so that reliable and sustainable concept to address the issues and concerns faced became a motivation to continue to innovate in all the desired areas. Our business expectations have taken this challenge and worked tirelessly in leveraging the technology for enhancing each of the last mile issues replacing with customer experience components. Such method and models resulted in ensuring the timely services and deliver the value to our clients in remote rural India, irrespective of the spread. The current architecture is centrally stored with distributed data capture, in alignment with the current digital needs, the same is going to get distributed state-wise in alignment with the data centre,” Shan explains.

There are several challenges in mainstream adoption of SDDC that the industry needs to overcome. Unlike startups, large data organisations like NSE and Mahindra believe the SDDC stack needs a mechanism to identify legacy infrastructure, physical infrastructure and intuitively create a controlled environment to integrate them. Usually, an enterprise data centre has different infrastructure maturity standards which makes it more difficult. Moreover, there is a possibility of vendor lock-in due to converged infrastructure and products from OEM vendors. SDDC needs an all-inclusive management and monitoring tool as well as building management systems, a tightly-coupled automation and orchestration solution.

“In a software-defined environment, IT becomes simplified through open standards, as well as responsive to shifting requirements and adaptive through policy-based automation. Such an environment is developed by automating infrastructure across server compute, storage, and networking resources,” opines Mishra
of GSTN.

Management and security: a new bet
There still remains one of the most important aspects of operating a data centre: management. The traditional data centre used SNMP-based managed objects. Those systems are still in use, but data centre management is evolving too. Along with device management and the FCAPS network management model, analytics, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies. Super convergence makes it easier to see everything in a single pane. CIOs need to keep up with advances in IT management as well as other areas of the data centre.

CIOs must approach security strategically, making it an integral part of their data centre transformation strategy and roadmap. “Choosing a solution that can safeguard hybrid cloud workloads while preserving the benefits of the underlying SDDC infrastructure is critical. This way CIOs can sustain or improve their organisation’s security posture in the hybrid cloud without negating the virtues of operational efficiency, agility and performance, which prompted the decision to invest in SDDC in the first place,” narrates Shan.

SDDC provides a vision for today’s data centre solutions and most importantly provides great opportunity in channelising the existing data centre solutions to provide agility, scalability, app-centricity and programmability, which resonates with what is required from today’s businesses.

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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