Thursday, November 23, 2017

Why it’s important to have a hybrid data centre strategy

by Jackson Lee, VP of Corporate Development at Colt DCS

This year, global cloud computing revenue in all its guises will grow 18 per cent to $247 billion. The number of connected ‘things’ is also forecast to grow significantly. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2017, around 8.4 billion devices will be in use worldwide.

The ripple effects of these market forces will be felt by data centre providers in several ways. The mainstream larger cloud service providers will continue to build more compute capacity, networking and storage. This will be in the form of hyperscale server farms, designed to accommodate growing data demands and workloads.

To appreciate the scale of transactions today, consider that as I write this, Twitter is handling over 500 million tweets a day. Meanwhile, payment network provider Visa is capable of processing more than 24,000 transaction per second.

We’re also seeing hyperscale demand expand into new areas as cheaper compute power and sensors drive adoption of digital technologies in emerging markets.

In industries such as manufacturing, machine-to-machine interactions directed by the Internet of Things (IoT) are creating new hyperscale segments. A good example is engineering giant General Electric (GE).

A pair of its jet engines on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner generate a terabyte of information per day.


Creating a competitive edge

On the opposite side of the same coin is the evolution of edge computing and micro-data centres.

When applications and data are moved from centralised points to the outer layers of a traditional internet hubs, the distance between users and that data inevitably narrows. It makes delivering the right information at the right time to the user or the device quicker and more efficient.

The increase in interconnectivity between machines, applications and other IoT-based devices using cloud providers is directly tied to this trend.

As virtual reality (VR), the connected home and driverless cars emerge as mainstream products and services, a latency-centred product that sits closer to the user is key.

Today, almost every company and user requires near-instant access to data in order to be successful.

This might explain why edge computing has been publicised as the next multibillion-dollar tech market. Organisations across the board are increasingly looking to double-down on customer experience through the delivery of services, content and data in real-time.


Enter the hybrid generation

The growing adoption of digitalisation has given rise to new forms of competition and lifestyle improvement for end users. However, more digitalisation also presents significant resource and data processing challenges.

Firstly, a data centre strategy that combines hyperscale and edge computing into one, or chooses one over the other, is neither cost effective or competitive. It is no longer practical for every connected device or application to use the cloud in the same way smartphones do.

Consider the millions of connected artificially intelligent devices, medical equipment, manufacturing robots and VR headsets in use today.

The strain on network bandwidth and speed that these devices can pose soon makes sense. In short, it is highly likely that the user experience of such devices will rapidly deteriorate if congestion and latency is not addressed.

This is why a hybrid strategy – one that welcomes both full hyperscale (centralised) and edge (decentralised) computing – is so important. If the type of product or service offered is not latency or bandwidth-driven (e.g. the billing process after a transaction has been made on Amazon) it makes more sense to host it in the server farm that sits out of town away from the user. Low-level processing, backup or storage are other examples to mention.

However, technologies such as drones, driverless cars and connected fridges are latency-sensitive they require more “edge” locations so that the information can be distributed quicker and the distance between device and data narrowed, thus improving the end user experience.

These products produce too much data for it to be processed in a location far away. In order to function effectively and meet the demands of the user, the products need immediate results. This is particularly true of driverless cars.


In the end…

Edge computing will continue to grow in importance over the next decade as the world of “connected things” continues to unfold. These data centres will play a key role addressing issues including availability, latency and bandwidth.

However, these edge nodes will be no more important than large, centralised server farms that allow organisations to continually scale the IT load to meet user demands.

The future is undoubtedly a hybrid one where organisations have the best of both worlds: the separation of edge and hyperscale data centres so that workloads and content demands are shared and distributed based on enhancing the customer experience with your brand.