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How the Enterprise Cloud Computing Affects the Datacenter

Applications cost too much to develop, run and maintain

Adaptivity at Cloud Expo

There are a variety of applications that support numerous business lines across an enterprise. These applications exhibit a wide range of operational characteristics as they service the diverse business demands. That diversity is the key to business success, but it has consequences.

Ask an enterprise application architect about how IT should run a data center and you will find that the range of behaviours exhibited across the portfolio of applications cannot be run on one set of standard platform configurations. Most critical applications have extreme operational requirements that require specialised adjustments to operating environments.

Ask any data center manager about accommodating those different application behaviours and they will tell you the proliferation of platforms makes it impossible to contain costs, manage complexity or maintain reliability, especially for those critical applications.

Ask any business executive about how business is running and they will tell you that applications cost too much to develop, run and maintain. They cannot correlate growth to investment in IT.

Offering IT as a service requires a paradigm shift in technology, operational processes and thinking about how business demand – manifested by applications – affects the use of all data center resources. Enterprise Cloud Computing enables IT as a service and is the next phase in data center evolution to solve this spiralling dilemma. The question is, how does business successfully operate this expensive investment?

The Enterprise Cloud in Brief
The Enterprise Cloud combines a series of evolving and maturing technologies with associated techniques that make it easier to leverage the power of distributed processing while minimising the complexity and difficulty associated with such distribution. The location of compute, network and storage resources required to operate applications becomes transparent through virtualisation and dynamic allocation. Applications are serviced by pools of infrastructure services that do not have to be dedicated to an application. This fluidity is supported by advances in resource monitoring, advanced security and faster networking. The promise of cloud computing is providing significantly improved user experience, while balancing cost and efficiency – three critical pillars that must be satisfied for a business to succeed. But IT promises rarely live up to the hype, and the reason is simple: IT typically builds such projects with little input from the business on growth and general usage.

The cloud, even with all its new technologies, is not magic. It is an operating environment that needs to be designed to perform optimally. The design must start top-down, with business requirements taking into account:
• How the business operates;
• What are the peaks, cycles and key operating drivers; and
• How vital is availability, or processing massive throughput?

The typical IT response has been to design from the bottom up. In a sufficiently large enterprise, the answer will be yes for many requirements questions, but not for all the applications, nor for all lines of business. In the absence of that knowledge, the answer has been to design from the bottom up, resulting in an overengineered operating platform, which increases cost and complexity while causing data center sprawl to swell, thus reducing reliability.

Understanding Demand
There is nothing more important than servicing business demand properly, so the question is how to do so and what happens once you understand that demand? Despite the variety of applications that exist, they can all be categorised into a small set of workload characteristics.

Numerical processing intensive – Applications that process large data sets from many sources (dozens of sources, millions of records, gigabytes of data), involving iterative calculations, data transformations and data-driven matching. These applications typically run for many hours and must complete in tight operational timeframes (ie, statement generation and rendering, risk calculators, general ledger, etc).

Request/response – Applications that provide a large population of users’ business intelligence by making disparate data sources transparent.

Event driven – Users are presented with data changes every second that affect the models they are running. Users must make decisions frequently based on those models (for example, trading environments).

High concurrency/high throughput – Typified by internet-facing applications that must be responsive to massive fluctuations in demand while providing rich media content to end users.

Ubiquitous user – Typified by the need to allow a user multiple presences through different media (webcasts, telepresence, etc).

Getting the cloud aligned is imperative if the investment in this evolutionary technology is to be realised. Racing to implement technology without a proper understanding of the business demand it will service is a mistake. This is a cultural change across IT and business, so below are a few guiding principles to consider:
• Be specific about workload-type requirements by establishing the means to measure them through the use of defined qualities (response time, availability and opportunity cost).
• Challenge conventional wisdom about quality values and don’t accept broad statements about 24/7 availability without some business qualification.
• Don’t allow application owners to pigeonhole their applications into specialised classes. Owners of high-performing applications consider all aspects of an application to be unique. Make sure the work is decomposed well enough by workload type to challenge those assumptions.

Cloud is the long-term strategic delivery model that will enable IT as a service while reducing virtual sprawl in the data center – if firms design, build and operate it correctly.

More Stories By Tony Bishop

Blueprint4IT is authored by a longtime IT and Datacenter Technologist. Author of Next Generation Datacenters in Financial Services – Driving Extreme Efficiency and Effective Cost Savings. A former technology executive for both Morgan Stanley and Wachovia Securities.

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