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Data Center and Cloud

Last week in part 1 of this blog, I used the analogy of the Winchester House to start the discussion on why an architecture-led approach should be a strategic imperative for your IT architectural evolution and transformation.  In this part 2, I’ll give some industry data points, and use some examples of the complex network-based solutions you are implementing, to illustrate why you should adopt the architectural-led approach over the point product minefield.

The Winchester House - A Case for Architectural-Led Evolution and Transformation

Why Architectural-Led?

The opportunities outlined above, in particular the emergence of cloud computing, are generating radical alternatives to traditional IT service delivery requirements.  These, along with the rapid proliferation and adoption of rich content-capable mobile devices, have significant implications for the corporate data center.  Quite simply, the typical data center, which, again typically, is in the middle of consolidation, cost reduction and other transformational programs, now has these additional demands placed upon it, which are straining the data center capabilities:  It’s a tough job being a data center manager!

Why Desktop Virtualization Requires Architectural-Led

Take, for example, the rapid projected adoption of Virtual Desktop Infrastucture (VDI) – Gartner has projected a $65 billion market by 2013.   This is key to enabling desktop PC cost reduction, increased application and data security, together with corporate application access via tablet devices.  Some IT vendors would have you believe that VDI implications were constrained to choosing the appropriate compute resources, or selecting the appropriate combination of hypervisor and connection brokers.   Others would have you believe that a “good enough” network switch will save you money without looking at the longer term costs, and without understanding your demanding requirements such as the implications of business video support.

This positioning conflicts with both Cisco experience in such deployments, as well as industry analyst projections.  In our customer engagements, we are seeing seemingly simple issues such as firewall placement, operating system “golden image” design, network bandwidth availability, and QoS design, each having implications on VDI rollouts.  On the analyst front,  Gartner, for example, cites in their recent report entitled “Is Your Network Design the Weak Link in Cloud Computing?”, that “…. through 2013, at least 60% of enterprises will experience slow or inconsistent application performance issues from externally placed applications due to improper network design. ”  Clearly there are already growing implications for the data center.

Why Cloud Requires Architectural-Led

Let’s now consider the implications of the new cloud computing models, IaaS and SaaS – yes, further implications for the data center and your IT architecture.

From an IaaS perspective, Cisco IBSG research indicates that each of the following application areas will be (by 2013), $Bn market opportunities in their own right, as many enterprises consider transitioning to these new approaches: Disaster Recovery into the cloud, consolidated, cloud-based, software application development and test environments, compute as a service (particularly “cloud burst” support for ERP applications with seasonal demands), desktop virtualization, and storage as a service. Reinforcing this research, the 2010 Cisco Advanced Services customer cloud demand survey, with over 700 respondents, indicated that disaster recovery as a service, compute as a service, and storage as a service, were the 3 priorities from a use case perspective (across multiple market segments).  From the practically commoditized compute as a service, to higher value services such as disaster recovery into the cloud, which rely on much tighter SLAs, again there comes a series of implications and impacts for the corporate data center: how can the data center evolve to handle these new and often quite radical approaches to IT service delivery?

From a SaaS perspective, again there is substantial evidence to indicate that enterprise and public sector organizations are investigating these as options to fulfil IT requirements.  A 2010 survey by Mimecast reports that “the well known fears with cloud computing appears to be at odds with reality”.  Mimecast go on to show how Email, CRM, Email archiving, Sales Management, and Desktop applications (in that order) are the applications most likely moved to a SaaS model.  While this frees up in-house compute infrastructure, challenges remain – for example, what about network impacts, what security and data storage requirements arise, and how do you re-deploy the now free infrastructure?

Possibly the most important aspect of architectural-led is basing your IT architecture on proven design blueprints and best-practices.  Take desktop virtualization for example.  Is it sufficient to select your connection broken and run at your design?  Or do you need to consider network and compute implications as well as the software capabilities?  Do you need to have the assurance that the components you select as part of the design have already been designed to work together, and are tested together?  Or are you happy to be the systems integrator for your various vendors?  Key to our architectural-led approach in Cisco is our substantial investment in Cisco Validated Designs.  Do you want to take the risk in deploying, for example, a Desktop Virtualization architecture, without such a proven design blueprint?  You can find out more on Cisco’s validated design guide for desktop virtualization here btw!

Quite clearly, strategic shifts in IT direction, driven by availability of new network-based devices and applications, have wide ramifications for your IT architecture.  It is no longer sufficient to consider point-product insertion to solve some of your IT challenges.   It’s no longer sufficient to consider your network without assessing your compute server challenges, or the demands your applications place on your infrastructure.  There is therefore becomes a strategic imperative that businesses take an architectural-led approach to design to their entire IT architecture.   Only then can you consider the full range of implications for your data center, for your LAN, for your wireless network, and for your business video architecture.  The question is – how is this best achieved, given the demands upon the existing IT organization?  This is where a professional services partner such as Cisco Services can help you make step functions of progress towards supporting your IT architecture transformation.  Our architectural services start from a discussion of the business needs, and work through to implications for the entire IT architecture, ensuring that the implications discussed above are catered for.   I’ll discuss more of what “architecture-led” means to Cisco Services in the next part of this blog.  Meanwhile, let me know what you think “architectural-led” means to you, and what experiences you’ve had that tell you this approach is key to your IT architecture evolution and transformation.

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