• 11/18/2013
    9:06 AM
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Cloud Computing: The Next-Generation

The staggering growth of cloud computing is driving today's IT infrastructure to new levels of efficiency through greater integration and convergence.

The modern cloud computing environment demands performance, resiliency, and scalability. The next generation of converged infrastructure is poised to provide exactly that.

Consider Cisco’s recent acquisition of all-solid-state array vendor Whiptail. This is really exciting news. By integrating flash and SSD-based components into the compute layer, vendors like Cisco are enabling a giant leap in cloud performance through converged storage, networking, and server systems. Let me break down what’s going on.

Storage. To be sure, traditional storage platforms are not going away. But by incorporating SSD and flash-based arrays, administrators are able to utilize converged systems more intelligently. In creating storage pools, for example, data can be positioned on the optimal type of storage. This means that heavily accessed data can be placed on flash arrays, while other data points that only require traditional storage can be placed on slower spinning disks.

Networking. The beauty of a converged system is the networking throughput it can deliver. Already we are seeing networking capabilities in the hundreds of Gigabit range. Switches and fabric interconnects allow data to pass through the networking layer with the least amounts of hops. Couple this with an overall improved converged infrastructure and possibilities for even greater performance optimization become quite achievable. The networking layer will continue to be a critical part of the converged system. As trends around cloud, user activity, and the data residing on the platform continue to increase, networking backplanes will need to handle more based on throughput demands.

Compute. The compute layer within the next-generation converged platform will continue to evolve as well. Already, blades are capable of utilizing several terabytes of RAM and quite a bit of networking throughput. The consolidation of the datacenter has resulted in super-efficient blade environments which are now directly integrated into the entire converged infrastructure platform. By connecting directly into a chassis backplane, blades are able to scale very quickly and deliver high levels of resiliency. Modern systems can handle multiple hardware failures while still providing a smooth experience to the end-user.

Combining the logical and the physical. This is where converged platforms really shine. Today’s cloud revolves around virtualization and modern datacenter technologies. Converged infrastructure systems aren’t only allowing for greater virtual platform controls, they’re virtualizing the entire converged system. By creating intelligent service and hardware profiles, organizations can create "follow the sun" datacenter models. This means that a service profile can automatically re-provision a set of blades or chassis to support users on a different side of the world.

Organizations are already actively adopting converged infrastructure platforms to them achieve greater amounts of infrastructure efficiency. Couple this with the resources presented on the actual converged system and you’ve got pretty powerful solutions that can:

    • Bring your cloud to the edge. Ever hear of the Fog? Edge computing -- also known as the Fog -- allows organization to deploy platforms closer to the end-user. Instead of delivering independent systems, organizations can deploy a converged infrastructure for specific purposes. Content streaming or caching, for example, allows IT shops to bring large amounts of data much closer to the user.
    • Create micro and branch cloud environments. Many organizations want to grow and expand either their network or their private cloud environment. One way to do accomplish this is to deploy a micro-cloud. Similar to a Fog setup, these small converged systems can be considered as a "cloud-in-a-box" that allow companies to scale their business out quickly and efficiently.
    • Deliver more applications and data. Converged systems carry quite a bit of resource power to virtualize even more applications and desktops. Virtual platforms sit squarely at heart of the cloud. Converged infrastructure environments will be able to deliver even more resources to virtual workloads, which will improve user density, performance, and the overall user experience. Traditional server environments will still stick around; future cloud and datacenter platforms will be built on next-generation converged systems.
    • Control big data. There is a huge initiative within organizations to develop better big data controls and optimize business intelligence. Converged infrastructure systems can be deployed specifically for this purpose.

As your cloud computing environment evolves, I encourage you to explore the capabilities converged systems offer. Also check out my video on convergence, and let’s chat about the possibilities in the comments.


Micro cloud?

Bill, can you explain a bit more about the micro cloud approach? Is this essentially distinct, small private clouds? What are the benefits of keeping small private clouds separate?

Re: Micro cloud?

@Laurianne - Great point of clarification! Micro clouds are just that -- smaller cloud-ready platforms capable of handling WAN-based traffic. These instances can be private or public. It'll all depend on what it's being used for. In some cases, there are micro-cloud big data repositories and in other cases - this environment is being used to facilitate fog computing. Take a look at one of my recent articles on UBM's The Enterprise Cloud Site for a bit more on fog computing.

VPNs in new guises?

Thanks for this great update, Bill. I got stuck a bit on the Fog and micro cloud concept. Can these be accurately compared to the old VPNs? If not, why not? Thanks

Re: VPNs in new guises?

Micro cloud !!! sounds interesting, is it some what near to PaaS cluster ??

Re: VPNs in new guises? ,

@samicksha - Solid reference and it's a pleasure to see you on the boards :) You can certainly have a PaaS model delivering an element of a micro-cloud. It can be applicaiton-based or an add-on to an existing facility. Micro-cloud platforms (and fog platforms) aren't tied to one cloud model or another. That's why a PaaS service could deliver micro-cloud components. 

Re: VPNs in new guises? ,

Thanx Bill, this calls me ask about some thing more on HaaS, will it help us in cutting the pressure on IT manpower or increased standardization.

Re: VPNs in new guises?

@MNJander - That's a great question! Don't think of it as old-school VPN technology. Although completely viable - that's used more for the creation of dedicated links between data center points. It can still be a part of the cloud process; but a micro-cloud resembles a larger cloud platform -- but it has specific purposes. I wrote an article recently looking at what fog computing is. Micro-clouds are being used more to facilitate edge-based computing to help bring public or private cloud data closer to the user. When incorporating this model -- you'll see other technologies in play as well. Things like WANOP, and next-generation security technologies help impact a micro-cloud (or overall cloud) environment as well. 

Re: VPNs in new guises?

Thanks, Bill. I see there are some subtleties here and definite technical distinctions. Like other elements of cloud, this calls for thinking along new lines. Thanks

New Opportunities

The proliferation of new technologies like 'hyperconverged infrastructure' creates an opportunity to pause and reflect on the way we've 'always done' things. As I look back, it seems as if the IT industry is in the latter stages of a 'bubble' of sorts. Seems to me that the 'white box' solution in the next few years is sure to rattle today's IT technology incumbents while delivering better value to customers with reduced complexity and lower costs.