The demands on data centers are greater than ever, with advances in technology such as video, Big Data and mobile computing increasingly taxing IT infrastructures. To address these demands, many IT organizations are engaging in what the research firm Gartner has identified as “bimodal IT,” a trend in which enterprises bifurcate their data center operations.
This means the enterprise maintains a traditional data center architecture that allows it to conduct typical, day-to-day operations. However, they also deploy next-generation technologies to deliver faster, more agile results to keep up with the ever-greater demands of users and line-of-business stakeholders. Innovations such as hyperconverged infrastructures, webscale IT, cloud computing, flash storage and software-defined data centers are among the technologies adopted as part of bimodal IT strategies.
These technologies deliver benefits that help IT organizations improve their speed, agility and flexibility, while enterprises also maintain efficient traditional data center operations:
1. Web-scale IT
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others with global web infrastructure have something to teach performance-minded enterprises everywhere — web-scale IT. The concept provides IT managers with a framework for designing and maintaining data centers that can quickly expand computing resources and business services as new business challenges and opportunities arise.
One way to do that is to free up IT talent for strategic activities by reducing the burden of routine tasks via advanced automation. For example, instead of manually patching tens of thousands of servers, create scripts and templates for applying updates.
Horizontal scale-out techniques are also important for webscale IT. The key is to standardize IT resources so organizations can create repeatable building blocks of computing, storage and networking units that get plugged into data centers as additional demands arise. Standardization offers an additional benefit: Organizations significantly reduce IT complexity when they limit the range of vendors and technology platforms they must manage.
2. Hyperconverged Infrastructures
Converged infrastructures — pre-integrated packages of server, storage, networking and systems-management resources — have benefited data centers for years. They reduce IT implementation and management overhead as well as help organizations quickly launch new computing power to fuel the latest business needs. So it makes sense that innovators would try to squeeze even more value from the concept.
Enter hyperconvergence. Rather than creating packages of IT resources using standard components from multiple vendors, the newer approach achieves convergence with purpose-built units designed to work in a converged environment. Storagemanagement nuances, such as deduplication and enhanced data management capabilities are also included.
By using building blocks engineered with hyperconvergence in mind, IT managers can reduce management complexity, scale performance linearly and optimize the infrastructure for individual workloads. Hyperconvergence can also cut costs: A Taneja Group study found that organizations that move to hyperconverged environments can save $1,000 a month in energy costs.
3. Cloud Computing
As cloud computing matures, IT managers are increasingly embracing its scalability and ability to deliver new services faster than traditional on-premises implementations. Today, 35 percent of IT services are delivered totally or partially by cloud, according to the CDW 401 Cloud Report.
“Bimodal IT is closely aligned with cloud computing,” says Paul Schaapman, principal data center solution architect at CDW. “Business users within enterprises are consuming public cloud resources, as are programmers responsible for developing new applications for the organization. In both cases, it comes down to how fast clouds are for spinning up new environments so people can do their work and get their desired results.”
IT managers are also blending public clouds and on-premises resources to balance performance and agility. Hybrid cloud adoption has grown by 9 percent since 2013; more than a quarter of organizations worldwide have deployed a hybrid cloud, according to a study by EMC Corp. The research indicates that adoption rates may grow significantly in the coming years, with 64 percent of IT decision-makers saying their organizations need hybrid clouds because of their agility and security benefits.
Clouds support bimodal plans by giving IT teams additional resources to respond to changing business demands in a more controlled way, negating the need for shadow IT.
4. Flash Storage
Modern solid-state drives (SSDs) offer high-quality performance and increased flexibility for storage systems in a way that’s becoming economical for mainstream data center applications. Flash technology has long outpaced spinning disk drives, but SSDs’ steep prices relegated them to niche status.
Now, as prices drop, IT managers can financially justify SSD use in hybrid storage arrays that mix and match the two storage options, or in some cases use flash-only storage in mission-critical areas. To understand how much more economical flash technology is becoming, consider this: At the beginning of 2014, SSD costs averaged about $1 per gigabyte. In 2015, SSDs are available at approximately $0.40– $0.65 per GB, depending on brands and capacities.
Using SSDs in a bimodal operation allows organizations to manage fewer hard drives to support IT operations, which further enables technicians to focus on more strategic initiatives.
5. Software-defined Data Center
Software-defined data centers (SDDCs) round out the playbook for increasing agility in modern enterprises. SDDCs are created by virtualizing computing, networking, storage and security resources, with the ultimate goal of creating on-demand services that business users can tap as needed. When that happens, end users get their desired services without enduring the drawn-out acquisition cycles of traditional IT practices. At the same time, IT managers control the environment to ensure that every department adheres to important security, governance and spending policies. New research quantifies the economic benefits of SDDCs: The consulting firm Deloitte recently reported that mature IT organizations can reduce spending on some systems by about 20 percent.
To learn more about these five elements, download the white paper, "A Dual-Nature Data Center."