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.
So now, let’s look at some simple and effective ways to improve data center scalability:
- Be on the edge – Edge computing has emerged as the next major development in data management and data architecture, and it offers organizations fantastic opportunities to better manage and compute data. Since it involves computing data t close to the source of the data rather than loading the core cloud center, it makes it easier for an organization – especially a large one – to spread out its data load and scale faster. The result is a system better equipped to do more with almost the same amount of investment.
- Bring in SDN – Software-defined networking (SDN) is another great technology enabling data center scalability. Using SDN in a data center allows an organization to smartly distribute its data storage needs, because with SDN users can access data from many more points on the network. This means that instead of one large, expensive data center, IT teams can distribute the load over a more manageable spread of smaller data centers.
- Build a ‘muscular’ network – Bulk up your data center with stronger devices like edge servers, gateways, and other tools, so that the endpoints are robust enough to meet growing demand. While technologies like SDN and edge computing will distribute the load, eventually the endpoints will need to be ready to accommodate the growing load.
Scale Up/ Scale-Out – Scaling your cloud up (also called scaling vertically) refers to adding more CPU, memory, or I/O devices to the existing data center infrastructure, or maybe even replacing the existing server with a bigger, more powerful one. In Microsoft Azure for instance, vertical scaling can be done by changing the instance sizes or replacing older equipment with better systems. Scaling out (or horizontal scaling) involves adding more servers – i.e. more instances instead of larger instances – and sharing the workload between these servers to control the number of requests on an individual server. Organizations usually prefer scaling horizontally because it is easier to accomplish with minimal/ zero downtime.
Data center availability and scalability are key to accommodating growing demands from business. A truly scalable network should be able to handle exponential growth in data exchange and any large spikes in traffic, without the IT teams worrying about application unavailability or potential downtime. Imagine what would happen if Amazon or Facebook – two brands that deal with spikes in data load on an hourly basis – did not have robust and scalable data centers?
To improve the scalability of your cloud data center, get in touch with us at Xencia. Our data center services and proven expertise in the field helps improve your data center from the ground up and make it more scalable and ready to meet your business demands.