The Simpler Things Get, the More Complex They Become

Arthur Cole

It seems everywhere you look these days, new enterprise systems and technologies are offering to reduce complexity by streamlining operations, infrastructure and whatever else that ails you.

But complexity is somewhat like universal energy: it cannot be created or destroyed, just changed in form. In the enterprise, this usually results in a digital game of "Wac-a-Mole" in which simplification and consolidation in one area increase complexity in another.

The cloud is a perfect example. Even as it simplifies tasks like provisioning, load balancing and resource allocation, it increases the challenges of data protection, disaster recovery and overall systems management, according to grid management specialist Sepaton. As enterprises grow accustomed to the cloud, expect to see increased incidents of data center sprawl, multi-protocol confusion and performance/capacity problems. This, in turn, leads to increasingly complex management stacks capable of reaching across multiple disparate platforms and environments.

You also need to keep on the lookout for additional power and cooling needs in the cloud, says Daniel Kennedy, data center product manager at Tate Access Floors. As hardware utilization rates edge ever higher, the need to rework electrical distribution and airflow will no longer be limited to movement, additions or changes to physical infrastructure. Potentially rapid increases and decreases in scale mean that the standard raised floor design will likely have to be replaced by a more flexible, and complex, system that can accommodate more rapid redistribution of energy and cooling loads.

Another key example is network consolidation. The promise here, as Presidio Networked Solutions' Vijay Swami points out, is that a single network infrastructure is much more efficient and easier to manage than separate systems for voice, data and storage. True enough, but it is also going to be a more complicated single networking capable of accommodating Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet and other protocols simultaneously. Your overall flexibility increases because a single switch can now scale according to the needs of each service, but it is a more complicated, and expensive, switch nonetheless.

In addition, it must be pointed out that even though convergence is taking place within the data center, multiple networks abound elsewhere says Interarbor Solutions analyst Dana Gardner. That makes for a more challenging environment for applications in that they now must deal with the traditional LAN, a cloud-optimized WAN and new wireless networks that are increasingly providing the lion's share of enterprise worker connectivity. The only way to accommodate these environments is through more complexity on the application and governance/policy levels.

This isn't to say technological development should be resisted at all costs-it's just that success is rarely total. Solutions for today's problems will likely produce their own difficulties down the road. The trick is to identify these issues ahead of time so that at least you can form a rudimentary plan on dealing with them when the time comes. The last thing you want to do is re-engineer yourself into a corner in which the only way out is through massive capital investment.

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