Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quantifying Data Center Simplification

Ever read that marketing fluff that says "blah blah simplifies your data center"? Ever wonder what that means and whether there is any quantifiable measure?

Infrastructure & management simplification is more than simply reducing ports, cable counts, and more than simply virtualizing/consolidating. (In fact, if done improperly, each of these approaches ultimately adds management complexity)

To me, true simplification isn't 'masking' complexity with more management and abstraction layers. Rather, it's about taking a systems-style approach to re-thinking the componentry and interaction of items across both software and infrastructure. For example, independently-managed components (and management products) can consist of
  • Server/CPU status, workload repurposing
  • Server console/KVMs
  • Physical app management
  • Virtual app management
  • Physical HA/DR
  • Virtual HA/DR
  • Storage connectivity
  • I/O management
  • Networking & switch management
  • software systems Management
It's not just about reducing cables & ports!

Three observations I've recently made have driven this concept home to me.

1. The arising of true Infrastructure management: systems like PAN Manager which essentially manage all of the above bullets together as a true "system" (see my earlier post on 6 simple steps to take to managing IT infrastructure) Nowhere else will you see as many as 6-7 complex IT management functions reduced to a single console.

2. An average case-study of a PAN Manager user. For example take a major Online Grocer dealing with a storefront website (environment was BEA WebLogic, Oracle9i RAC, CRM, business intelligence, etc.) for delivery admin and payment processing. Complexity consisted of traditional systems management, and then the addition of clustering and the 1:1 duplication of server, network and SW tools.

With a systems-style management approach, ultimately, servers, ports, cables, NICs, HBAs, disks, recovery systems -- and most of all, admin time and OpEx -- fell dramatically with a PAN-managed, systems approach to simplification. That took componentry from ~1,500 "moving parts" down to under 200. To me, "elegant engineering" equates to simplification.

3. Major equipment vendors are offering similar infrastructure management products to those from Egenera. But the "systems" issue still persists, even if some of them have solved for the networking, I/O & switching parts. So, after a pretty detailed analysis I did, it's still obvious that multiple "point products" are still needed to operate these products. Those products still represent a non-systems approach, to me at least.

What would you rather manage? A bunch of point products that mask complexity, or a true system that re-thinks how data center infrastructure is run? I'm thinking the PAN Manager-run system :)


Mark Thiele said...

Sounds like a simple sales pitch to me.. Yawn!

Ken Oestreich said...

Well yes, Mark, that *is* my job :) But I always try to include some market education too.

And, to be honest, there are very few products out there that truly *reduce* the moving parts in a data center.... rather than simply masking them. To be sure, vitualization is another key simplification technology!