The fast route up the scalable ladder is to purchase entire data centre modules from one of the big players such as Microsoft or HP, but this - not surprisingly - comes at a price. And you may not need a module with hundreds of servers. Alternatively, there are companies that can offer a module which consists of multiple racks or as little as a quarter rack.
Companies also need to think about when to invest in servers and how many they will need. Spikes in demand need to be addressed but it’s not easy to predict when these spikes in demand will occur and what to do when you don’t need that extra capacity. There ultimately needs to be an elastic capability. In other words, companies need to be flexible and on enough of a sure footing to be able to scale rapidly or scale down to recover IT resources. Data centres are able to add, move, or remove virtual processors and memory when spikes occur or when maintenance is required. You only have to pay for a portion of the full cost of processors and memory up front.
In terms of data centre scale, a traditional file storage system can be limiting. Take the case of a new social network. It may only have a few hundred users at first, which is perfectly manageable. Ramp this up to a few million users, along with countless images and videos, accessed by multiple users and the storage system will not be able to keep up. The solution lies in object storage and a simplified ID system for files. The ID crosses multiple storage volumes and refers to where that object is stored. Metadata is attached to the file to make it more searchable across volumes. Object storage is a single storage management system which will create clusters of data that scale as a company grows and is far easier to manage.
For many, outsourcing their need for data centre capacity to colocation partners is the best solution to the scalability question. It means companies retain control of their ICT infrastructure while taking advantage of the state-of-the-art technology, scalability, security and availability that third party data centres provide. In turn, this gives businesses the scope to focus on their core business operations. By colocating ICT infrastructures in a third party data centre, businesses can quickly achieve the flexibility, scalability and cost-effectiveness to effectively support business plans. Outsourcing data centres, rather than retaining an in-house operation also means companies avoid owning depreciating IT hardware assets.
A concern over outmoded ownership has led to a growing feeling in-house data centres might soon become a thing of the past in the same way mainframe appears to have had its day. But there are a number of factors which ought to encourage companies to retain their facility, such as legacy applications that are business-critical but are not cloud-ready, or when customers demand dedicated IT. Experts appear unanimously agreed on the most successful method for in-house IT storage. It relies on enterprises having just one data centre in every region or, at the most, a couple for high-availability and redundancy.
But the initial issue for any IT-dependent business is knowing when to scale up its data centre, and when to scale down. A data centre manager will need to automatically adjust storage as application needs change. Auto-tiering will analyse actual app data frequency of use, opting for the lowest cost storage option by matching legacy data, rather than keeping it on faster drives too long.
Fast growth for a company should be a positive. These new technologies enable companies to ramp up quickly and efficiently and remove the effort of having to expand a data centre at high capital costs which would offset all that new revenue.
Ashley Sterland, Communications Director at The Change
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Ralwel