The Hybrid Data Center: Bridging Legacy & Cloud

A responsive, agile network will power a hybrid data center — and help pay for it

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Almost everyone is talking about digital transformation and its related technologies — cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics (BDA), mobility, social media, and security.

But the reality is that most organizations must devote the majority of their resources to keeping their legacy environments up and running. The C-suite understands the imperative of changing their IT assets quickly to meet new and emerging demands, that it’s a case of “go digital or die,” but they’re struggling with the how and the how-much-will-it-cost challenges. In most cases, the answer is loosely termed the “hybrid data center.”

"The move to hybrid, multi-cloud IT is accelerating with workloads migrating to cloud data centers at light speed,” according to Denise Shiffman, senior vice president, Juniper Development and Innovation, Juniper Networks. “Enterprises require agility and elasticity for applications or services to be spun up quickly, managed efficiently, and securely with limited resources.”

There doesn’t appear to be one definition of the hybrid data center, but it can include a mix of internal and external resources and capabilities such as:

virtualization; software-defined data center/networking/storage/whatever; colocation; private/public/hybrid cloud; software as a service (SaaS); infrastructure as a service (IaaS); and disaster recovery as a service.

Essentially, it is a mix of on and off-premises resources, and a growing segment of the total datacenter market, which is expected to expand at a CAGR of 10.72% during the period 2016-2020.

‘We continue to see enterprises taking a hybrid approach,” says Kelly Morgan, research vice president for services, at 451 Research. “Many larger enterprises will continue to rely on in-house data centers, particularly for legacy equipment and applications… [and] some enterprises will combine cloud with hosting and colocation services, particularly those with a relatively small IT staff.”

Hybrid IT simplifies the management of a mixed environment, offering greater automation and visibility into your resources, confirms Rhonda Ascierto, research director, 451 Research. Using software-defined networking, storage, and compute enables the best use of your resources — to establish rules that allocate and re-allocate resources automatically based on demand and workload requirements.

Datacenter spending is only a fraction of what will be shelled out for digital transformation (DX) technologies: more than $1.2 trillion in 2017, an increase of 17.8% over 2016, and heading to $2 trillion in 2020. The fastest-growing technology category associated with DX over the five-year forecast is cloud infrastructure (29.4% CAGR).

Some of this spending is being driven by the unrelenting growth in devices and data: by 2020 there will be 4.1 billion Internet users, 26.3 billion networked devices and connections, and datacenter traffic will jump 330%.

However, the other — and most significant — factor is the DX payoff: Companies going digital expect to increase annual revenues by an average of 2.9%, and reduce costs by an average of 3.6%. First movers, who combine high-investment levels with advanced digitization, “are far more likely to be forecasting both revenue gains of more than 30% and cost reduction of more than 30% at the same time.” That’s not just game changing, that’s what is called an extinction-level event, so upgrading the data center to support a digital-first economy is rapidly becoming critical.

The New Normal

IDC believes there are massive changes in store for the data center, starting with the prediction that the future “DX Economy” will require a highly accurate, fully automated, lights-out data center that uses predictive analytics to reduce downtime. Some of those forecasted changes include:

• In 2017, only 20% of enterprises will deploy software-defined data centers on schedule because capacity constraints in critical facilities delay transformation efforts.

• In the next two years, 30% of large and midsize businesses will suffer a service failure due to mismatches in power delivery and IT workload profiles caused by hardware obsolescence.

• Pay-as-you-go/use models will account for 25% of on-premises and off- premises physical IT and datacenter asset spending by 2018, strengthening business and IT partnerships.

• In 2018, 45% of enterprises’ Information and Communication Technology (ICT) spend will be in a mix of colocation, hosted cloud, and public cloud data centers.

• By 2019, 20% of on-premises infrastructure will support geo-dependent, next-generation workloads linked directly to public/hosted clouds through IaaS/PaaS stacks on integrated appliances.

This 45% growth in off-premises spending will result in an environment that will become more dispersed and sophisticated, notes IDC. The hybrid datacenter environment will continue to proliferate as the new normal.

A key enabler of a hybrid data center is “getting the network out of the way,” says Scott Sneddon, senior director, Cloud and SDN Global Solutions and Business Transformation, Juniper Networks. “If you build a network infrastructure that supports the hybrid data center in the right way, you don’t know it’s there.”

Enterprises today waste more than 50% of their IT budgets on inefficient application workload placement, configuration, and management, according to analyst Torsten Volk, Enterprise Management Associates. Most businesses (80%) experience network errors caused by human mistakes on a regular basis, and non-automated networks average five to six errors per month.

Automation and orchestration boost your ability to maximize IT resources and increase flexibility and agility. Automation is intended to help perform repetitive and expensive tasks; orchestration combines automated tasks into a workflow.

Automation can lower operational expenses by eliminating tedious and manual processes. In addition, many solutions automatically respond to network errors without intervention, improving business resiliency.

Automation is one of the core value propositions Juniper brings to data center and network transformation, according to network guru Ivan Pepelnjak. In his recent automation RFP requirements post, he identified eight critical elements, for which Juniper scored a perfect 100%, and was the only vendor to do so:

1. On-device APIs to read/write configuration and operational data;

2. Structured operational data for easy programmatic analysis;

3. Structured device configuration data for easy programmatic analysis;

4. Atomic configuration changes to avoid partial updates;

5. Configuration rollback to minimize risk;

6. Full configuration replacement that makes templates easy to use;

7. Configuration difference analysis to simplify manual approvals;

8. Industry standard data models for configurations.

Automation and orchestration are only parts of the hybrid data center, but they are important parts. Not only can a network that is responsive, agile, and easily managed power a hybrid data center, it can also help pay for it — for example, an average return on investment of 349% over five years and payback in as little as six months.