A data center in the cloud

A data center in the cloud

Cloud computing is the next major paradigm evolution in information and communication technology (ICT). Today, contemporary society depends more than ever on the Internet and cloud computing. We've seen cloud computing adopted and used in almost every domain of human life, such as business, research, scientific applications, healthcare, and e-commerce, to name a few. In a recent interaction with the Editor of Siliconindia, Puneet Gupta, VP & MD, Marketing Services, NetApp India & SAARC, shared his insights on the driving growth in cloud and data center. 

Share your thoughts on how a cloud data center is preferable to a physical data center.

Apart from the oft-cited advantages of cost of ownership and agility, a key transformative force that cloud infrastructure brings to bear is that of scale. And while pandemic statistics flow fast and free, they’re sobering reminders of where we stand in the tech continuum -- McKinsey & Company found that, by June 2020, e-commerce grew faster in that one season than it had during the past 10 years. This would simply not have happened in the way and speed that it has, if we did not have cloud data centres and infrastructure. The pandemic lockdown experience would have been much, much worse for everyone if we did not have the ability to scale massively in a short time.

To be specific, here are many of the key advantages that cloud data centres bring to a solution:

Scalability: In an on-premise data center, resource scalability is limited by the infrastructure that the company has purchased and deployed. In the cloud, additional resources can be quickly and easily spun up as needed.

Flexibility: Resource flexibility is limited by the need to acquire, provision, or update appliances in an on premise data center. In the cloud, a customer can spin up or take down resources quickly to meet business needs.

Cost: In the cloud, resources can be shared, and service providers can take advantage of economies of scale. For instance – NetApp and Spot have joined forces to help companies make applications and cloud infrastructure work together seamlessly.The result: improved performance, increased agility, and up to 90% reduction in infrastructure costs, whether you run on Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or AWS.

Availability: In an on-premise data center, an organization has complete control over their infrastructure, which can be both good and bad. In the cloud, availability is protected by service level agreements, which may provide better guarantees than an organization can, in-house.

Security: In the cloud, the service provider is responsible for securing a part of an organization’s infrastructure stack and is likely more practiced at doing so. However, some customers may need additional security that are not natively provided by the provider.

Accessibility: In an on-prem data center, the organization has complete control over the systems that it deploys and uses. In the cloud, the organization is limited to what is offered by the service provider.

Enlighten us on the various technologies that address cloud data center development.

As cloud data centers become the de-facto choice for many businesses, there is an increased focus on the technologies leveraged. In a typical set up, these comprise the following technologies and components:

  • Storage Virtualization- Virtualization enables enterprises to perform regular backups on the cloud, and makes it simple to store data.
  • Standardization and Modularity- Cloud computing standardization aims to make cloud-based systems more scalable, interoperable, and secure.
  • Automation- Data center automation is a critical step in achieving the business results enterprises need to succeed. It automates IT activities in physical and virtual environments across the computer, network, and storage layers.
  • Remote Operation and Management- In a cloud data center, a majority of the operational and administrative tasks are commanded through networks via remote consoles and management systems.
  • High Availability- In distributed systems, high availability and reliability have long been a fundamental problem. In cloud computing, providing highly-available and reliable services is critical for retaining client confidence and happiness as well as avoiding revenue losses.
  • Security-Aware Design, Operation, and Management- In a cloud data center, mission-critical operations are defined by their security layers, design and structure of the platform, tools, software, infrastructure, and best practices that exist within the architecture.

What are the anticipated challenges of deploying a data center in the cloud?

In our experience, organizationsmayencounter three primary challenges as they set out on their quest to deploy a datacenter in the cloud:

  1. Retrieval of legacy data - Dark data, cold storage, floppy disks—we’ve seen it all. In essence, your unruly data has contributed to a build-up of inefficiencies that have barnacled to your systems. In addition, your organization might have technical debt (or “code debt”). This results from hurrying to code a solution in the most expeditious manner, rather than bringing in more efficiency to the process. For example, if developers inherit the legacy code of a hastily programmed feature; after a couple of years, that code will probably be incomprehensible. If the thinking behind the original code isn’t clear or isn’t sufficiently clean, the move towards a more functional, standardized data management model is an uphill battle. When the code gets messy, refactoring is often involved. These attributes make it more expensive and difficult (the “debt” in “technical debt”) to move to a standardized data architecture.
  2. Cost/budget constraints - Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to get infrastructure funding. Back-end issues don’t have an equal seat at the table, and other business initiatives often take precedence over projects to optimize storage. As a result, misguided funding can stymie cloud adoption, critical upgrades, and your long-term competitive edge. Rather than receiving infrastructure investments that will make future improvements quick and easy to implement, IT departments often do not get the support they are looking for. Each new tactical improvement built without best practice cloud architectures adds to technical debt, which means extraneousness and delays in building anything cool in the future.
  3. To hybrid or not to - Do we put “cloud” in the data center or “data center” in the cloud? As infrastructure becomes programmable, IT and operations’ leaders are ceding responsibility for key aspects of infrastructure to software developers; with organizational fissures inevitably resulting from this move. Why? Because software developers are, well, singular—in a good way. A stronger developer role in infrastructure decisions leads to choices that might seem unorthodox, and IT leaders might not immediately understand those choices.

What is the future of various IT and non-IT industries in terms of cloud data center?

In the context of IT or IT-enabled businesses, cloud data centers are going to be the de-facto choice going forward. Cloud infrastructure allows us to solve logistical, hardware problems using software. This fundamentally transforms how we solve for speed and scale, and will enable many of these companies to do what was previously considered impossible.

A key example is that of digital banks. Banking is a traditional, highly-regulated enterprise with unique constraints posed by regulators. With advances in technology, building a digital-first bank has never been easier. When a leading private bank with over 1,500 employees, and annual revenues of ~ USD 1.6 billion took a strategic call to transition their workloads to the cloud from their on-prem data center, one of their key asks, was that the transition be seamless. The bank also required that a consistent data fabric was maintained, in order to allow data to flow seamlessly between their storage resources.

Not only does cloud infra and data fabric implementation enable new, instantly provisioned services for customers, but also pays handsome dividends in storage compliance as well.

Similarly, other traditional industries are also witnessing transformational benefits from cloud infrastructure, now that the move to cloud data centers is inevitable.