On 27 May 2010, Bull in conjunction with French IT magazine 01 Informatique held a seminar dedicated to IT infrastructures. Several of Bull’s major partners including EMC, Intel, Schneider Electric and VMware, as well as CIOs from many of its key customers. The aim of the event: to take stock of how far the Data Center is going to evolve, and metamorphose. In a series of round-table discussions and facilitated debates, the participants explored the fundamental changes currently happening and looked forward to prepare for the future. An overview of the event…
Virtualization, consolidation, automation: the number one challenge for the Data Center
All those taking part agreed that the main challenge is the formidable growth in Data Centers, as information systems become the main driver for competitiveness – even the main driver for the whole business – among privately-owned enterprises and public services in today’s digital economy. The inevitable result is an explosion in infrastructures, especially in the world of standard servers. From around five million such servers in 1996, there are now around 45 million in the world with the growth in distributed infrastructures! This virtually exponential growth poses some critical problems for organizations today:
– How do they manage complexity effectively, not only at the technological level, but also in terms of operating costs and security requirements
– How do they control the explosion in energy expenditure, which calls for a regulated approach that takes into account not only the environmental but also the financial impacts.
The figures speak for themselves. Nowadays, administration costs represent 50% of company’s Data Center costs, energy costs account for a further 25%, and hardware costs (servers, storage) only make up 25% of the total!
As a result, IT Departments’ desire to drastically cut costs is leading them to consolidate, virtualize and automate their distributed servers as far as possible. This means the pendulum has swung back towards more centralization of information systems, after the rather anarchic growth in distributed IT. This process is already well under way in the Unix world (where virtualization and consolidation are natives to most systems, especially those running under AIX ®), but it is really taking off in the Intel world. The advantage is much better cost control; as the Infrastructure Director at the mail division of La Poste in France highlighted in very real terms, having virtualized some 600 servers with the help of Bull and VMware and achieved a return on investment in just three years with major improvements in operational effectiveness and agility: “What used to take days now only takes a matter of hours, even minutes!”
Data Centers: towards dynamic information systems?
If virtualization is progressing very rapidly, with around 25% of servers now equipped with virtualization environments and 30% of all enterprise applications having been virtualized, the goal of general acceptance has not yet been achieved. Why? Sometimes it is down to organizational factors: some business functions are still reluctant to delegate the running of ‘their’ servers; often there is need to review business processes and no longer argue in favor of individual servers, but rather services… But also, and above all, IT Departments still have some misgivings about virtualizing critical applications, either because of a lack of support from some software publishers – although the majority are evolving positively in this direction – or because they are waiting for mainframe-class functionality (in terms of performance, extreme reliability, scalability…) which will guarantee transparent virtualization of even the most sensitive applications. A fundamental and cost-effective change since, as the Marketing Director of VMware points out: “If your critical applications are not virtualized, you loose 60% of the benefits of virtualization.”
The next step in virtualization seems to be towards the widespread virtualization of critical applications: a change that Bull – as a long-term player in the Unix world – already offers with its Escala™ servers and related offerings. Bull is now the first IT maker on the market to offer a dedicated solution for the x86 world, with its new bullion™ family of enterprise servers. A range of servers featuring native virtualization for critical applications, built around industry standards but also capitalizing on Bull’s extensive expertise in the large-scale, high-end enterprise servers to offer unique functionality: native virtualization with the VMware hypervisor, a high degree of flexibility to adapt rapidly to changing needs, simplification of infrastructures and powerful administration functions (improving service quality while also cutting the total cost of ownership) and high availability (with HA 999-type support).
This is an innovation that will further enhance Bull’s comprehensive Bio Data Center™ offering, a dynamic approach to the Data Center, ensuring its management like that of a living organism, equipped with innovative consolidation, service delivery and energy management tools. The result? A Data Center that is capable of dynamically aligning itself with the organization’s strategy, that is adaptable, responsive and delivers a high return on investment, and acts as an optimum driver for competitive advantage.
The next step: enterprise Cloud computing?
Agility, flexibility, scalability, power on-demand… all attributes that are in line with a promise and a growing vision in the world of information systems: that of Cloud computing. So will the Cloud be the ultimate step for the Data Center? Although the big players in public Cloud computing like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are busy promoting the simplicity and attractive total cost of ownership of their model to senior executives, the downsides of lack of business expertise, security and sovereignty mean that the Cloud is not yet appropriate for the vast majority of organizations’ critical information systems, even if it could be considered for some applications. Nevertheless, it is an interesting technological model. There are many different approaches: IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service)… But CIOs all agree: the Data Center of the future will almost certainly be sited at the confluence between the two worlds, maintaining the vital benefits of business expertise, security and sovereignty associated with today’s Data Centers, but also exploiting the technologies and ways of managing and paying for computing power inspired by the Cloud.
Privately-owned, hybrid and even community Clouds (shared between different organizations, for example in a particular business or industry sector, possibly at a dedicated service-provider or outsourcer’s premises): are they the future of the Data Center? Attendees at the seminar were all in agreement on this point: “It’s no longer a question of whether we are moving towards a Cloud-type approach, but when”. Even so, they also stressed that the transition will be very gradual. There will be no ‘Big Bang’ when it comes to Cloud computing, especially given the massive legacy of the past and the extraordinarily diverse application portfolios of today’s businesses. On this point, and more than ever before, the participants highlighted just how clearly that virtualization now seems to be the logical first step in this evolutionary process, enabling existing applications to be put into a kind of Cloud, without the need to rewrite a single line of code. Another illustration of the relevance of the Bio Data Center and solutions like bullion, which really are essential building blocks in this kind of transition.
As Daniel Le Coguic, Deputy General Manager of Bull France, pointed out in his summing up at the end of the event, the metamorphosis of the Data Center is following hard on the heels of the rapid metamorphosis of IT more generally. Tomorrow’s challenges are impressive. From ‘fat clients’ to smart phones to intelligent objects, it is expected that some 50 billion devices will be connected on the Web by 2020, requiring increasingly powerful processing facilities that are true ‘computing power plants’. Cloud, nanotechnologies, Extreme Computing, Open Source… disruptive technologies and models for innovation are on their way.
More than ever, as a major IT player in Europe’s digital economy, Bull is at the heart of that transformation: in the world of the Data Center itself, and in the world of Extreme Computing, the facilities where the new equations of the future computing power plants will be solved. Tera 100, designed by Bull and CEA and the world’s third most powerful supercomputer with a theoretical computing power of 1.25 Petaflops, is an excellent illustration of this. And Bull and Intel are already working on the design of the Exaflops-scale technologies of the coming decade, which will be 1,000 times more powerful than the the world’s most powerful servers are today. The metamorphosis of the Data Center is under way. It is not going to stop any time soon. More than ever, Bull is planning to play a major role in this revolution.