Organizations are fast realizing the role that an efficient and omni-present data center plays in business growth and continued operations. They are relying more and more on using data to discover new patterns and insights and sharing that data to support real business decisions and problem-solving. With overall data load and consumption continuously rising, IT teams in organizations must be always ready to deliver by ensuring data center scalability and availability. If not, the consequences of not having data centers with sufficient compute or storage resources can be devastating, beginning with performance issues, followed by a tsunami of error messages, and then having applications shut down and lock users out.
The good news is that organizations using cloud computing technology, i.e., cloud data centers will find it easier to maintain scalability, be it adding or subtracting compute or storage resources. Physical or on-premise data centers are, in contrast, quite hard and incredibly expensive to scale, while also being harder to manage as they grow. Scaling up an on-premise data center involves buying new equipment like server hardware and disk arrays, which can take months to get delivered, unpacked and plugged in and hooked up.
Before we begin to understand how data centers in the cloud can be made easily scalable, let us first understand that scalability (in the data center context) is not synonymous with growth. That’s because, for an organization of any size the demand on data is not always steady. Even a large, thriving organization will face times when there is a huge demand interspersed by several instances of low demand. And these fluctuations can happen hourly or weekly. So does it make sense to have a data center large enough to manage peak loads and incure costs when it runs empty? Or should the space be added or subtracted seasonally to meet demand and maintain cost efficiency?
In our opinion, it is almost never a good idea to minimize capacity and provision just enough resources to accommodate the expected peak demand. To illustrate, an e-tailer would need enough computing resources to handle heavy traffic during the entire festival sales offer. Scalability of the data center in the cloud is the flexibility to construct and expand using simple, repeatable processes and components that can easily adjust to handle increased traffic or new devices without impacting the functioning of business operations, workflows or enterprise applications.
Now that we understand the concept of scalable data centers in the cloud, the other essential factor is the cost of scalability. Achieving a balance between maintaining a scalable data and controlling cost, involves several responsibilities for the IT manager:
- Scale up the performance of single systems
- Use open standards to extend the addressing of a network and accomodate workload mobility across increased geographic distances and larger data center facilities
- Scale the manageability and operational capabilities of the network infrastructure to make provisioning and managing of a higher load much easier
- Build better visibility into the network, APIs and the available devices
- Be able to provision and manage multiple devices without impacting functionality during the scaling of operations
- Build a portfolio of high-performance switching platforms with a consistent operating model
Eventually, successfully managing data center scalability starts with strategic development and collaboration between business and IT managers. IT managers need to understand business needs so that they can better forecast the future capacity needs of the data center and build scalability. After the initial investments, a well-planned and scalable data center saves costs in the long run.