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Editor’s Question: How can CIOs optimise their data centre infrastructure and reduce costs?

Editor’s Question: How can CIOs optimise their data centre infrastructure and reduce costs?

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Data centre infrastructure (DCI) is the convergence of IT and building facilities functions within an organisation. Industry pundits share with Intelligent CIO Africa how CIOs on the continent can succeed and optimise their data centre operations.

The goal of DCI is to provide administrators with a holistic view of a data centre’s performance so that energy, equipment and floor space are used as efficiently as possible.

Data centre infrastructure management started out as a component of building information modelling (BIM) software, which is used by facilities managers to create building digital schematic diagrams.

Sevi Tufekci Director, Sales Engineering Emerging Markets, EMEA, Citrix, said: “In the Middle East and Africa (MEA) market, we observe that many customers are developing their existing capacities to fulfil Business Continuity needs and move some of their services to the cloud. Hosted data centres have become the model of choice for small to mid-size companies.

According Tufekci, organisations continue to invest in data centre infrastructure primarily for security and compliance reasons. “But due to cloud evolution, some customers are shifting to hybrid cloud infrastructure using private cloud data centre infrastructure and integrating the systems with public cloud infrastructure,” she said.

Tufekci pointed out that CIOs can minimise the data centre footprint by using hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) and rely on cloud-based applications and virtual desktops delivery instead of high-end PCs with high energy needs.

“Virtualisation (for servers and networking) presents several tangible benefits, such as reduced operating cost, improving application performance, minimising downtime and reducing heat build-up,” she said.

Paulo Pereira, Senior Director, Systems Engineering, METI at Nutanix, said in order to optimise their data centre space and cost, CIOs should be looking at the use of hyper-convergence as the foundation of their data centres. “For several years some big IT vendors have minimised the capabilities of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and continued to do it until they were able to come up with their own HCI offering,” he said. “There is no denial that HCI represents a major leap in the architecture of the data centre offering unmatched benefits. It is time to stop listening to the noise and start digging deeper into the benefits, compare solutions, test them and see first hands how much your organisation would benefit from this.”

Pereira added that HCI converges the entire data centre stack, including compute, storage, storage networking and virtualisation. “Complex and expensive legacy infrastructure is replaced by a distributed platform running on industry-standard commodity servers that enables enterprises to size their workloads precisely and to scale flexibly as needed,” he said.

Antoine Harb, Team Leader, Middle East and North Africa at Kingston Technology, said in the coming years, capacity planning will no longer be just a process aimed at forecasting hardware needs. “It will be the key to understanding and optimising the cost of running business services through platform selection,” he said. “In the past the IT infrastructure and operations professionals were given the choice of platforms for running an application or business service. This traditional approach is no longer acceptable because it is component and not business service-oriented, and it doesn’t take costs and value into consideration.”

Harb explained that the capacity planning of tomorrow supports internal as well as external choices, virtual as well as physical alternatives. “The new capacity planning organisation is no longer part of the IT infrastructure and operations department — it has to be part of an overall management group reporting to the CIO,” he said.

PAULO PEREIRA, SENIOR DIRECTOR, SYSTEMS ENGINEERING, METI, NUTANIX

In order to optimise their data centre space and cost, CIOs should be looking at the use of hyper-convergence as the foundation of their data centres. For several years some big IT vendors have minimised the capabilities of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and continued to do it until they were able to come up with their own HCI offering. There is no denial that HCI represents a major leap in the architecture of the data centre offering unmatched benefits. It is time to stop listening to the noise and start digging deeper into the benefits, compare solutions, test them and see first hands how much your organisation would benefit from this.

HCI converges the entire data centre stack, including compute, storage, storage networking and virtualisation. Complex and expensive legacy infrastructure is replaced by a distributed platform running on industry-standard commodity servers that enables enterprises to size their workloads precisely and to scale flexibly as needed. Each server, also known as a node, includes x86 processors with SSDs and HDDs. Software running on each node distributes all operating functions across the cluster for superior performance and resilience.

By converging the entire data centre stack into multiples of a single physical unit that is a server, it simplifies the data centre to the maximum. All that you need to build a data centre is an ethernet switch and nodes. Setting up such a data centre is extremely fast and adding capacity is simply performed by adding more nodes, at any time, without the need to touch any other infrastructure.

Given that all of this is 100% software-driven, it also provides unlimited flexibility to add capabilities in the future. With all of this in mind, without any doubt, HCI should be the foundation for new data centres.

Converged infrastructure (CI) on the other hand is just legacy infrastructure re-packaged by vendors to appear friendlier, but given that it is built out of the same legacy architecture used in older data centres, it comes with all the same limitations: difficult to build, operate, upgrade and scale.

The solution to this problem has many angles, the most fundamental one being the use of virtualisation, however if we just limit the solution to apply virtualisation on top of a legacy architecture all the complexity will still remain. By using HCI, you first simplify the physical infrastructure to the maximum and enjoy the benefits of embedded virtualisation. Further to this and because not all HCI offerings in the market are the same, in the case of Nutanix, we offer our customers full flexibility in the choice of their hypervisor.

SEVI TUFEKCI DIRECTOR, SALES ENGINEERING EMERGING MARKETS, EMEA, CITRIX

In the Middle East and Africa (MEA) market, we observe that many customers are developing their existing capacities to fulfil Business Continuity needs and move some of their services to the cloud. Hosted data centres have become the model of choice for small to mid-size companies. Organisations continue to invest in data centre infrastructure primarily for security and compliance reasons. But due to cloud evolution, some customers are shifting to hybrid cloud infrastructure using private cloud data centre infrastructure and integrating the systems with public cloud infrastructure.

In this regard, CIOs can minimise the data centre footprint by using hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and rely on cloud-based applications and virtual desktops delivery instead of high-end PCs with high energy needs.

Virtualisation (for servers and networking) presents several tangible benefits, such as reduced operating cost, improving application performance, minimising downtime and reducing heat build-up.

Given this progress with converged infrastructure (CI)and the benefits it brings to organisations, this type of infrastructure is the future of data centres.

Converged infrastructure comes with several benefits over traditional data centre infrastructure for organisations such as scalability, reduced time-to-production and reduced operational overheads. CI and HCI also reduce deployment risk and speed time to application deployment, bringing new services to market rapidly. Due to the numerous advantages of HCI, it is experiencing exponentially growth in the MEA region.

Add to that, a software-defined data centre is the key to optimise server infrastructure while delivering high-density data centre deployment, along with converged/hyperconverged infrastructure solutions and infrastructure management, monitoring and automation solutions, to allocate the required resources according to demand. Dockers and microservices must also be considered by CIOs.

That said, the top challenges in the data centre space include: burgeoning costs related to operational overheads, high maintenance cost, end-to-end monitoring and capacity issues.

It’s important that CIOs ensure a secure network, especially with the evolving and growing threat landscape, maintain high availability with minimal downtime and push for the development of intelligent data centres to support current and future technologies.

Due to the many advantages, HCI would be in high demand in 2021. Similarly, NVMe storage compatible with legacy servers will be sought after as organisations look to ramp up their capacities to meet the rising demand.

Aside from that, CIOs tackle the skills challenges in the MEA market data centre sector head-on.

In the short-term, the quick fix for CIOs facing skills challenges is to migrate to the cloud or to hosted data centres. For the long-run, the team should be encouraged to add new skills by engaging people with new technology skills such as virtualisation, HCI and networking. Most importantly, do not limit teams to

maintaining and monitoring their data centre only.

ANTOINE HARB, TEAM LEADER, MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA, KINGSTON TECHNOLOGY

The data centre infrastructure market share in Middle East and Africa (MEA) is expected to grow due to growth in Internet penetration, growing broadband connectivity, increasing number of smartphone users, social media usage, high demand for colocation services and Smart City initiatives across the region to improve digital economies. The investment in the data centre market in MEA is growing significantly, pushed and helped by the construction of data centre facilities by telecommunications providers, enterprises, government, cloud and colocation service providers.

The demand for Big Data, cloud and Edge Computing, is likely to emerge as a prominent driver for data centre development in the MEA region.

When it comes to data centres, the three main features CIOs need to keep in mind are performance, reliability and durability. Understanding these key features can be an effective means of reducing and managing the risk of downtime in demanding and often critical business environments.

CIOs will experience an increased switch to flash-based storage or all-flash-arrays. SATA/SAS technology based on high performance configurations, could be replaced or complimented with equally performing NVMe-based configurations with much lower footprint and a great upgrade in actively removing bottlenecks. Due to this adaption, it is foreseeable, that NVMe will become more common with the adoption rates on the rise, with benefits in terms of performance, power consumption and reduced part count. In addition, DRAM will also experience a growth with higher densities/capacities and bandwidth.

For example, Saudi Arabia has strong fibre connectivity in the MEA market that is connected to several parts of the world. Due to higher demands from Internet users to access fast Internet connections, Saudi Arabia is investing into expanding the instalment of fully functional 5G networks. To reduce latency and therefor enable the 5G network to run at its fastest, cities are also investing in Edge Computing devices to process most the produced data at its origin, leading to a rapid growth in data centre investments.

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