Reinventing the Data Center Stack

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    What Would Happen on a Day Without Data?

    Now that the cloud is becoming a common fixture in the enterprise, the IT industry is starting to look at how a cloud-facing, mobile-driven environment will affect that full data stack.

    Naturally, this is mostly conjecture at this point because many leading experts still do not know how the technology, user requirements, business models and even entire industries will be affected by this transformation. From an historical perspective, the current decade is very similar to about 100 years ago as utility-based electrical grids were first powering up: People are in awe of an amazing new technology, even though its full ramifications cannot be discerned.

    Still, there are those who are willing to give it a try, particularly when it comes to the all-software IT deployment capabilities that abstract architectures represent. MapR Technologies’ Jack Norris recently explored the potentialities of “re-platforming” the enterprise toward a more data-centric footing.  This will naturally require a new view of physical infrastructure, such as the current separation of compute and storage, but it also has implications higher up the stack, as in the need to maintain separate production and analytics architectures. This new stack will also require global resource management, linear scalability and real-time processing and systems configuration.

    From an operational standpoint, the new enterprise stack will lead to a more pattern-driven approach to management as software-defined architectures seek to compile the services, components and relationships between various elements, says IBM’s Biswajit Mohapatra. These patterns can exist on an infrastructure level where they can apply to multiple systems, or on the software and application side where they can harness the entire stack to address needs like scale and availability. A pattern-driven methodology will be better able to assess and develop available resource portfolios to deliver improved agility, repeatability and standardization.

    Companies that have embraced cloud architectures for key business applications are quickly finding that this isn’t the same old data center. A company called DrillingInfo recently shifted its oil and gas mapping database service to a SaaS footing, but had to scrap the program because its in-house systems could not adapt to the cloud. Only by moving to a fully cloud-native stack could the company gain the efficiencies and operational flexibility it was aiming for. And in a novel approach, the company actually created a cloud-facing start-up to compete with, and eventually subsume, its traditional model.

    Cloud Strategy

    This re-imagining of the data center won’t just be preferable in order to capitalize on new resources and capabilities, says Mesosphere’s Derrick Harris, it will be necessary in order to function in the emerging digital economy. When everything from mobile phones to refrigerators is an intelligent data device, applications will require an entirely new way to accommodate machine learning, sensor-driven data and traffic fluctuations that simply cannot be accommodated on traditional infrastructure. While this is leading to a raft of new developments, such as containers and microservices, it also requires enterprise executives to rethink the entire data stack and figure out how new configurations can best overcome the redundancies and inefficiencies that have plagued IT for so long.

    Human beings are alone in the animal kingdom in their ability to see things as they are and then imagine something completely different. The process does not always go smoothly, and many times the results do not conform entirely to the imagination. But on the whole, the new is an improvement on the old, and both the unforeseen benefits and consequences of what we do today will drive new levels of innovation and productivity tomorrow.

    Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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