Unavoidable Change in the Data Center and Information Technology Industry

Data Centers are being built at an accelerating rate!

We hear unbelievable emphasis all the time about “availability”, “how to build more availability in a single data center site or facility?”,  “N+1”, “N+2”, “2N”, and “2N+1” guidelines all relevant to site and facilities infrastructure.  But are we correctly addressing the issue of availability?  Are we defining availability correctly?  What are we trying to achieve via so much emphasis on such narrow and incomplete aspects of a bigger picture?  Are the notions of resilience and availability truly all that matter?

Every time I meet fellow colleagues, businessmen, engineers or technicians, the discussion centers around the benefits of cloud computing, yet the legacy standards don’t fully capture its efficacies and fail to integrate them into a meaningful bigger picture. 

We still see data center facilities being certified as 99.995% or 99.982% available by legacy certification bodies, and those metrics are good to know. But is it sufficient to only evaluate and measure a facility’s infrastructure design and capabilities without any indication of how that facility fits into the overall topology, or how well it’s design is aligned with application requirements? Do such certifications inform the business as to whether that design for that facility is the best option over other alternatives, or can it only evaluate the facility at hand? While a particular high availability facility’s architecture may serve the application sufficiently, perhaps a topology of facilities - each designed to a lower availability specification - would have produced the same or better overall result at a lower cost and with less operational complexity. Our existing toolsets have been ill-equipped to provide such guidance.

Further, The high availability site that is rated with all those shiny nines, with its golden fault tolerant UPS & generators may have deficiencies in its operational characteristics, such as SLA’s, SOP’s, documentation, governance, personnel competency, etc. that will negatively affect its availability, yet none of the actual standards have the ability to comprehensively evaluate all of those important characteristics both at a component level and as a holistic system when looking at an infrastructure.  The same thing applies to deficiencies in cyber-security, or an application’s robustness and resilience, and the many other factors that can introduce extreme vulnerabilities to the application delivery architecture and infrastructure.

Where are the metrics that identify, evaluate, calculate, weigh & show the exact score of an entity’s application delivery capabilities, globally?

Isn’t it as important to be redundant, yet remain efficient? What about sustaining capacity?  How can a facility be considered available, even in consideration of its redundancies, if it lacks the required capacity? How about safety & security? What are the prerequisites to design a 99.995% available data center “node”?

These are questions that industry professionals are still searching for the answers to.

There are many standards, each setting metrics for a particular technical domain, but not a single universal standard that encompasses all domains under its umbrella, with all their inherent interdependencies, to create a balanced & quantified macro-view of the data center, infrastructure, information technology and cloud platforms that converges to a unified grading scheme. That very scheme will be the absolute grade to compare apples to apples & not apples to oranges!

Often, we hear about PUE, and how some organizations are reducing it down to fantastic values. But how can we benchmark a PUE in Alaska and compare it to a site in the tropical climate of the Amazon? Wouldn’t such benchmarks be useless for comparison purposes? What about the data center facilities that are using renewable energy & innovative power generation? How do current efficiency metrics factor in such efficiencies?

The mindset that the infrastructure availability is everything has changed. The mindset that PUE is measuring the efficiency of a data center comprehensively and all we must do to save energy costs is bring our PUE down, is misleading. The mindset that power & cooling are the sole infrastructure elements is completely iniquitous.

We are now living in the era of modern information technology, the era of software defined networks, virtualization and cloud computing where everyone is focusing more and more on the end goal:  the delivery of the “APPLICATION”

Think about it!


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