The race is on in the data center as IT operators struggle to keep up with the demands of the new world of digital work amid an environment that requires rapid change and flawless execution. Working at a frantic pace can result in errors, leading to frustrations and unintended destabilization of application services for the business.
To address this challenge, many organizations are embracing the cloud in their data center architectures because of its flexibility, scalability, agility, and ease of use. This approach allows them to overcome the perception that on-premises data centers are slow, complex, and difficult to maintain day-to-day. Yet, while easier operations are vital to success, many businesses still need tight control of their application deployment, data governance, and long-term budget forecasting, which are best-handled on-premises.
What matters now in the data center
To meet expected SLAs and achieve ongoing operational flexibility and cost savings, IT professionals need a data center solution that meets essential operational requirements and:
- Turns on services seamlessly and automatically as needed without creating instability
- Provides assurance and adheres to compliance rules
- Incorporates visibility and analytics to ensure operational efficiencies
The complex operational challenges that data centers face – from finding enough workers with the right experience to managing ever-increasing amounts of data and traffic volumes, particularly from the edge, without issues – make meeting the full set of essential operational requirements more difficult than ever.
Ultimately, the data center is the mission-critical, central nervous system of many businesses. Operators can't afford to fall behind competitors and to cope with increased demand from edge applications, including IoT devices, many have turned to cloud technologies as a result.
Cloudy with a chance of insecurity
The public cloud's ability to address some of these concerns, especially related to cost, makes it an attractive option. But it isn't without its drawbacks. While it eliminates the need to manage a data center directly, the cost of running applications in the cloud can grow rapidly as their use expands and budgets become harder to forecast. The cost issues can be mitigated to some degree with proper planning and an understanding of the application’s lifecycle, but cost isn’t the only concern.
A larger concern with public cloud has to do with governance and data management. For instance, compliance and governance rules often restrict organizations from placing sensitive company data in the cloud because of the potential security risk. Even if regulations don’t mandate an on-premises solution, security can still be a concern when a business is opening a critical application up to the public cloud. An application’s lack of cloud readiness may also preclude it from residing in the cloud.
One option is to run a hybrid environment where some workloads are on-premises, and others are in the cloud. This approach offers more choices, allowing organizations to retain control over certain workloads while providing the flexibility to scale up or down as application usage changes. Operators that have achieved success in the creation of this hybrid environment have one thing in common: They have architected their on-prem network with enough sophistication to scale out as their business grows while retaining the simplicity of the cloud.
The cloud you own – cloud agility and simplicity on-prem
Today’s data center isn’t like a legacy data center, which can be characterized as a combination of mixed equipment and tools requiring highly specialized operations. In contrast, any software can be run on any server or set of servers in modern designs. This is possible with common servers connected uniformly by a high-speed (CLOS) network. Further, the evolution of automation solutions has led to greater simplicity and assurance for on-premises data centers.
Business managers expect the same “push button, get network” functionality that the cloud provides. However, in today’s data center fabrics, there isn’t a ubiquitous design that’s the same for everyone. There are core architectural components—EVPN, for example—but at the edge, the data center is necessarily contextualized based on the servers, applications, and services it connects. Solutions exist that can provide flexible, consistent operations in a wide range of vendor environments, allowing operators to leverage the benefits of cloud technologies, easing the transition to the modern world of edge and cloud computing without sacrificing control, security, or customization.
Embracing the cloud data center model for on-premises operations eliminates the need for compromise and provides the flexibility to scale as business requirements change. This approach lets organizations choose where they run workloads based on their unique economic, compliance, and security requirements – so they can win the data center race no matter the twists and turns down the road.
Mansour Karam is VP of Products at Juniper Networks.