The Raritan Blog

Data Center Infrastructure in a Software-Defined and Virtualized World

David Wood
December 13, 2017

When asked about the technology used in your daily business environment the things that typically come to mind are virtual, non-physical aspects. This is because businesses have become increasingly digital in recent years. However, IT will always rely on a strong foundation of hardware in order to support the software needed to virtualize IT resources. Thorough management of IT infrastructure is necessary to control operational costs and mitigate security risks. The following are aspects of technology that will continue to have a physical presence in data center infrastructure:

  • Technology economics
  • Business risk
  • Operational scale
  • Agility and innovation
  • Security and compliance

Data center managers can serve their organizations more effectively by addressing these physical factors while pursuing the advantages of a virtualized infrastructure.

Technology Economics

The cost of acquiring and maintaining IT infrastructure has historically been a relatively small percentage of a business’s operational expenses. However, those costs have become more significant as more business functions are performed with specialized software, including sales, marketing, and support services. Due to the use across many different departments these costs aren’t restricted solely to the IT budget. Those departmental duties continue to drive the costs of maintaining physical infrastructure through their use of IT resources such as servers, storage, and network capacity, which tend to affect the IT budget in the end.

Business Risk

The risks of hardware failures have become more significant as businesses become more dependent upon technology. A business’s financial state is now reliant on the continual uptime of its data center operations. In addition to the loss of productivity, data center downtime prevents a business from earning revenue, jeopardizes customer relationships, and may even damage its brand. The most significant threats to a data center include power failures, loss of internet connectivity, and a network’s inability to recognize devices.

Operation Scale

Most business leaders generally consider growth to be beneficial, but growth can create its own challenges when it occurs too fast. Rapid growth requires data center managers to quickly scale the capacity of their infrastructure to accommodate the increase of demand for IT resources. However, the scalability of physical infrastructure is limited by factors such as floor space, power distribution, and cooling requirements.

Agility and Innovation

Businesses must be able to adopt relevant technologies quickly in addition to rapidly scaling their operations. For example, new technologies such as solid-state storage can dramatically improve a data center’s performance. Furthermore, specialized security appliances and converged systems can increase the integration between computing, storage, and network components. Agility is most closely associated with scaling up, but it may also require a business to scale down. A period of reduced infrastructure utilization requires IT, staff members, to detect such a condition and act on it quickly to reduce operating costs.

An IT department must be able to accommodate the increasingly rapid introduction of new technologies to their data center. This requirement places additional pressure on the data center manager to support supplementary hardware. The current trend towards converged infrastructure is particularly challenging since it increases the data center’s floor density.

Security and Compliance

The increasing reliance on IT makes security a central concern for all modern organizations. A breach can disrupt business operations and cause irreplaceable data loss. It can also permanently damage customer relationships and brand reputation if the breach becomes public knowledge. However, IT leaders fail to address physical security issues that leave a data center vulnerable to equipment theft, compromised data, and sabotage.

Physical security is also a requirement for many types of regulatory compliance. Auditors often require documentation when employees enter the data center to ensure that any unauthorized personnel hasn’t accessed sensitive information. This documentation can also establish that a business has exercised due diligence to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information.

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