The (Re) Distributed Data Centre

The fundamental concept of the data centre is changing rapidly and dramatically. Primary data centre elements including applications, servers, infrastructure and storage are being virtualized and redistributed in order to lower cost and complexity, improve asset utilization, and operational efficiencies.

Hosted applications, software as a service (SaaS), server-based appliances, grids and utility computing are becoming ubiquitous. Small and medium companies now routinely utilize server virtualization and network storage technologies, large enterprises are rapidly consolidating Tier 1 assets and operations, while growing branch office and remote production facilities. A recent article in a prominent IT publication stated that more than half of a company’s data and servers reside outside what we consider to be the data center.

The sheer number of remote branch offices (ROBOs) with servers and applications requiring IT management is astounding: over six million branches and over 8 million small businesses, with 27% of all businesses having branch offices, and an estimated 97% of large enterprises having branch office facilities.

In addition to ROBOs and large scale geographic distribution of IT assets requiring 24/7 management, small scale campus and building IT infrastructure deployments are becoming increasingly interconnected, and have identical uptime and information availability requirements as the Tier 1 enterprise and ROBOs. According to a recent study, educational institutions are increasing spending on internetworking solutions to take advantage of the cost benefits offered by sharing resources amongst geographically distributed institutions.

This has been cited as the number one top trend in higher education for networking between various branches and locations using LAN, WAN, external access, and the Internet. Meanwhile, IT professionals are spending more time managing security and other day-to-day challenges.

Even as IT assets become more distributed and interconnected, it is impractical for IT professionals to be similarly redistributed. It is still more cost effective to maintain centralized teams of professionals to provide IT support and management. The result is a lack of IT staff on-site and ‘at the rack’ for remote and branch office locations.

With an absolute requirement to maintain system and application uptime everywhere, a primary administrative challenge continues to be how to cost effectively deploy, manage, maintain and troubleshoot geographically distributed servers and their applications with limited and centralized IT personnel.