Transforming the Data Center

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Rahul Neel Mani

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CIOs today are faced with the challenge of transforming their data centres to stay in sync with changing business needs. In conversation with Rahul Neel Mani, Hubert Yoshida, Vice President & CTO, Hitachi Data Systems, provides insights into how Hitachi is aiding this transformation.

Q: The data centre and IT services have become instrumental in almost every business in this age, yet many are still being powered by legacy infrastructure. The goal is to create a virtual, flexible and mobile infrastructure which is able to deliver services ‘On Demand’. How is it possible?

A: IT is challenged today to re-energise the data centre to readily accommodate changing business requirements and demands for always-accessible information. The challenge lies in making information both available and secure. The transformation of the data centre infrastructure initiates the creation of agile virtual flexible infrastructure which enables ‘On-demand’  services.

It is more than just automation and virtualisation. Rather, it is a combination of dynamic provisioning, virtualisation and cloud computing, which is successful in arresting escalating storage operational costs and transforming the data centre to be agile, sustainable, and business-oriented. We will continue to help customers transform their data centre into an information centre that is virtualised, automated, cloud-ready, and sustainable.

Q: What are the pressing challenges regarding this transformation in the data centre? How should a CIO be responding to these challenges?

A: The complete transformation of the data centre can only be achieved when the infrastructure fosters cooperation among server, network and storage assets, and relies on a single platform for all data and delivers application transparency so that it can be synchronised with business objectives.

A CIO’s approach towards data centre transformation is to optimise many types of virtualisation methods to consolidate resources, technologies and applications, thereby reducing the complexity of years of ‘bolting on’ and building-in future flexibility. A key enabler for agility and transformation is virtualisation which provides an abstraction of IT resources, so that it can be viewed as a common pool of resources which can dynamically create or change IT services to meet changing business requirements.

Storage virtualisation separates the application and server view of data from the physical storage infrastructure so that we can change and transform the physical storage infrastructure without disruption to the application.

Q: What are the most important steps organisations should take when transitioning to the new data centre model?

A: The first thing is to understand that storage virtualisation separates the application and server view of data from the physical storage infrastructure so that we can change and transform the physical storage infrastructure without disruption to the application.

The first step to do is to transform your legacy storage infrastructure without the need to rip and replace. Most virtualised storage systems will see an increase in performance just by sitting behind the large global cache of the USP V/VM.

However, if one needs more performance, one can wide stripe his volumes or move them onto tier-one storage in the USP V/VM and do both. If you are converting servers or applications as part of this transformation, you can create  non-disruptive clones of the data for conversion, extract/translate/load, development test on lower cost tiers of storage, or dynamically spin up new allocations of virtual storage to support virtual servers.

Not only can storage virtualisation protect your applications and servers from changes in the physical storage infrastructure, but it can enable your applications and servers to change and grow dynamically.

Q: In this approach two things are visible prominently. These are virtualisation and cloud computing. What should organisations think before they plan for virtualisation and cloud?

A: In the current transforming IT scenario, CIOs need a truly end-to-end data centre. Considering the next wave of virtualisation and cloud storage, organisations should focus on application and server-centric strategy instead of focusing on a conventional storage-centric view.

Q: What are the focus areas of storage efficiency improvements that can have a positive impact on the data centre?

A: As infrastructure becomes more disruptive and resource intensive, aging IT systems and infrastructure create a burden on maintenance. We believe the transformation of the data centre starts by designing flexibility and efficiency into the architecture with a priority on data and its storage.

To achieve this, we are bringing together innovations in storage virtualisation, dynamic provisioning and archiving. We also offer proven methodologies and human resources to help customers implement IT in a new way that offers predictability and adaptability for the future. The result is a data centre that is highly responsive to changing business and economic conditions, enables the ability to access and make sense of data in a moment’s notice and accommodates unpredictable bursts of transactions.

In many regions, affordable power is becoming scare and companies are forced to relocate to continue operations. Substantial power savings can be achieved through replacement of power hungry legacy systems and more efficient utilization of current systems.

It’s important to have awareness about the tools that are available to transform legacy systems. These could be virtualisation and system management tools that link business objectives with infrastructure performance and provide a return on your total assets. Some companies are doing this today by using virtualisation to seamlessly migrate off peta bytes of legacy storage systems and recovering 40 percent or more of existing storage capacity through dynamic provisioning.

Q: While we talk about other things, Hitachi Data Systems last year also announced the new high-end platform - the Virtual Storage Platform.

A: Yes, recognising the importance of a transformed data centre, Hitachi Data Systems launched the industry’s first three-dimensional scaling platform. It enables organisations to scale up, out and deep for unprecedented levels of agility and cost savings in their virtualised data centres.

The Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) introduces a platform that can scale up to meet the increasing demands of virtual servers and high performance data bases. The VSP is the only storage virtualisation platform that can support VMware VAAI across internal and external, virtualised storage, providing improved VMware scalability and performance while preserving investment in existing storage assets.

In conjunction with the new VSP storage platform, Hitachi Data Systems has also introduced new management software, the Hitachi Command Suite (HCS), which provides closer integration with applications and virtual servers and provides a common management tool set to manage block, file, and content data across heterogeneous storage systems. The VSP and HCS management suite provides one platform for all data to automate, simplify, and protect heterogeneous storage resources.

The VSP is the first enterprise storage system that has converted to Serial Attached SCSI for faster, point-to-point, performance and availability over conventional FC Arbitrated Loop disk connections and introduced small form factor 2.5 inch disks which consume less than half the power of conventional 3.5 inch disks.

This, combined with a new design in packaging and front to back rack mount cooling, reduces data centre footprint to less than half that of competitive storage frames. These power and space saving features are particularly important for Asia Pacific data centres where power consumption is growing faster than in Europe or the Americas.

Q: The core message behind VSP is the notion of 3-D scaling and management. How will this gel with virtualisation and cloud?

A: A couple of years back, Hitachi Data Systems had decided that that it will help the customers to build the infrastructure on cloud. And this particular platform provides the perfect environment for organisations to build their infrastructure on cloud to provide information services and infrastructure service.

Because of the unique capability of this platform to service block file and content data, we will help customers in integrating the content on cloud in the infrastructure cloud as well. And over a period of time, customers can bring in a whole lot of intelligence in transition through the information cloud. This platform provides an ideal environment and with this announcement we will help increase operational efficiencies.

Q: What are your other plans with regards to virtualised storage and cloud?

A: Hitachi Data Systems is continuing to grow using virtualisation as a core competency. It will continue to invest in innovation to enable its clients to attain competitive business advantage.  We would love to see huge Hitachi storage implementations across verticals and turn our customers’ data centre to an information centre and translate that into business growth.

Hitachi Data Systems India plans to expand on solution selling and focus on Government and Healthcare Verticals. This aligns to the company’s global vision that data centre transformation is to have a single, virtualised platform for all data with the ability to manage multivendor environments.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum

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