To many, cloud computing and WAN utilization can be considered synonymous. More organizations are seeing the direct benefits of moving towards a cloud platform. Whether they’re trying to reduce their internal hardware footprint, or are trying to distribute their data; the data center infrastructure is very much a critical component of the entire process.
Business are trying to find ways to better deliver their information and continue to be more competitive in this “cloud-centric” market. WAN technologies continue to evolve as more bandwidth, better underlying infrastructure and optimization all create a more robust connection. As more organizations move to the cloud, they will increase their reliance on data center availability and technologies. This is where data center managers must look to the cloud to help them stay ahead of the curve and continue to offer great technology solutions.
The market will continue to grow and some leading data center providers are now actively looking at ways to enter the cloud and WAN markets. Even now, more data centers are finding new delivery models and services which not only help customer agility, but also drive additional revenue.
- Enhanced connectivity. Software-defined technologies have helped the data center become more distributed and robust. Multiple data centers across the country can span one logical network connection and deliver cloud services with very little latency. This type of advancements truly brings data centers closer together and creates numerous options for the customer. The ability to build a “business-in-a-box” becomes much easier since one single data center provider can effectively support the entire global organization. More bandwidth, better WAN optimization and more cloud platforms all translate into more opportunities for the data center provider community. With better links between sites, more data centers can open up their environments to a broader range of customers.
- New cloud services. Expansive data center resources mean new cloud services, whether data center providers are acting as hosting solutions for various cloud options or building entirely new cloud platforms for private, public or even community access. Right now, data center cloud architecture is on the rise. Just take a look at the recent cloud architect job trends. There are a lot of cloud options for data centers to dive into. Backup and recovery have been popular, as have been cloud offerings. Data centers are now trying to ramp up their WAN presence by increasing bandwidth and improving the underlying hardware. Cloud hosting, deployment and implementation services are definitely ways that data center environments can continue to help the industry grow – and generate additional revenue in the process.
- Better DR and recoverability. The increase in bandwidth and WAN control has given rise to cloud-based disaster recovery (DR). Data center providers can effectively, remove single points of failure by quickly replicating data over the WAN to hot or standby sites. Many organizations, especially in light of recent natural disasters, are looking heavily into business continuity. WAN optimization and faster links into the data center have created feasible and affordable disaster recovery methodologies for more organizations. DR and business continuity operations aren’t cheap. However, they have come down in price as the demand has gone up and the competition has increased. Now, organizations have the option of replicating vital VM or server information into the cloud. Then, in the event of an emergency – the data center provider can spin up VMs to allow an organization to connect into the data center. Using WAN optimization and calculate bandwidth utilization, users can continue to work even though their primary data center is down.
- Greater data center elasticity. With improvements in the WAN and cloud models, data centers have been able to focus on growth and expansion. Now providers are able to open more branch data centers to support more users. Internet and WAN speeds have increased as ISPs and providers try to keep up with demand. IT consumerization has created a “data-on-demand” end-user who requires connectivity and availability at almost all times. Not only can a data center utilize greater bandwidth resources, they can support more users and control the connections more granularly. All of this results in an expanding business model where data center providers can grow and provision new customer resources quickly. For example, a data center provider can offer burst WAN speeds during peak times – a travel agency for instance – so that the company can meet the demands of the visiting customer. Then once the peak times are over, the provider can dynamically de-provision those resources and return them to the pool. This creates a more robust and more elastic data center capable of supporting more users at any given time.
Cloud computing will continue to provide great benefits for those organizations which fit the cloud model. At the heart of it all sits the data center which provides connectivity and data delivery for many cloud components. Now, more than ever, data center administrators must look to WAN technologies to help not only optimize their offerings, but to increase the benefits of working with a WAN-based, cloud ready environment.
Cisco Cloud Data Center Building Blocks
Cisco brings an important set of technology building blocks at the foundation of the cloud architectures. They are
described as follows.
10 Gigabit Ethernet
A cloud data center is designed with the high density of virtual machines coupled with a high processor core count. From a networking perspective, the increase in virtual machine and processor core density promotes a transition to 10 Gigabit Ethernet as the required mechanism for attaching servers. Multiple virtual machines on a single server can quickly overwhelm a single Gigabit Ethernet link, and multiple Gigabit Ethernet links can increase costs. Moreover, there needs to be a strategy in place to not only take the existing investment in 1 Gigabit Ethernet and seamlessly integrate it into a 10 Gigabit infrastructure, but to also enable migration to 10 Gigabit Ethernet and unified fabric (described next). Interestingly, this adoption necessitates virtual machine–aware networking. Cisco is bringing new terminology and implementation to the industry in this regards, called VN-Link. VN-Link is the virtual link between the virtual machine and the physical interface of the physical server. This implementation will enable operational consistency down to the individual virtual machine as well as policy portability, so network and security policy follows virtual machines as they move around the data center. Cisco VN-Link helps enable new capabilities and features, simplifies management and operations, and allows scaling for server virtualization solutions. Specific benefits include:
● Real-time policy-based configuration
● Mobile security and network policy, moving policy with the virtual machine during virtual machine mobility, and live migration for persistent network, security, and storage compliance
● Nondisruptive management model, aligning management and operations environments for virtual machines and physical server connectivity in the data center
If one studies a typical data center server infrastructure, it is easy to notice that servers have a series of network interfaces connected to multiple types of networks (LAN, SAN, IPC). This arrangement adds complexity in the form of cost, cabling, port count, scalability, power, and cooling. If we follow the same tradition in a cloud data center, this architecture will not scale to the density that is typically expected. Hence, to continue to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and to deploy virtual machines, all servers must have a consistent and ubiquitous set of network and storage capabilities. One of the simplest and most efficient ways to deliver these capabilities is to deploy a unified fabric. The shift to a unified fabric gives all servers (physical and virtual) access to the LAN, SAN, and IPC networks, allowing more to be consolidated in the customer’s network for greater efficiency and costs savings.
Cisco is offering not only 10 Gigabit Ethernet, but also lossless 10 Gigabit Ethernet, currently called Data Center Ethernet or Enhanced Ethernet. This becomes the foundation to consolidate fabrics like Fiber Channel (for SAN), which require the stringent lossless nature of a network. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), which is a standard accepted by standard bodies and industry, is leading the way to unify fabric on a cloud data center. Hence, to consolidate server I/O, the server access layer must be adapted to support a unified fabric. Additionally, a new breed of adapters, called converged network adapters (CNAs), would be implemented in the server platform, which will act at the consolidation and virtualization point in the compute layer.
The unified fabric now enables a fully virtualized cloud data center with pools of computing, network, and storage resources, through the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).
The Cisco UCS bridges the silos in the classic data center, enabling better utilization of infrastructure in a fully virtualized environment, and creates a unified architecture using industry-standard technologies that provide interoperability and investment protection. UCS unites computing, network, storage access, and virtualization resources into a scalable, modular design that is managed as a single energy-efficient system. This system is managed through an embedded management framework, in the Cisco UCS platform.
The Cisco UCS management framework provides robust API for managing all system configuration and operation. Its also helps increase cloud data center staff productivity, enabling better management of storage, networking, computing, and applications to collaborate on defining service profiles for applications. Service profiles help automate provisioning, allowing cloud data center to provision applications in minutes instead of days. This provides a means to stateless computing, where compute nodes have no inherent state pertaining to the application that it might execute.
So, at any given time, a machine could be running operating systems X, and then the next minute, it could be rebooted and it could be running a Hypervisor Y. Hence, the compute node is just an execution engine with CPU, memory, disk, flash, or hard drive. The core concept of a stateless computing model is to separate the access to the application from the execution of the application. Stateless computing provides a holistic way to address configuration management, rapid provisioning, upgrades/downgrades, scalability, policy enforcement, and auditing.
Cisco UCS provides support for a unified fabric over a low-latency, lossless, 10-Gbps Ethernet foundation. This network foundation consolidates today’s separate networks: LANs, SANs, and high-performance computing networks. Network consolidation lowers costs by reducing the number of network adapters, switches, and cables and thus decreasing power and cooling requirements. Cisco UCS also allows consolidated access to both SANs and network attached storage (NAS). With its unified fabric, the Cisco UCS can access storage over Ethernet, Fibre Channel, FCoE, and iSCSI, providing enterprises with choices and investment protection. In addition, storage access policies can be preassigned for system connectivity to storage resources, simplifying storage connectivity and management. The new Cisco UCS platform is, based on the Intel Xeon processor families, offer patented extended memory technology to support applications with large data sets and allow significantly more virtual machines per server, a key requirement for Cloud Data Center and Applications. Cisco UCS network adapters include adapters optimized for virtualization, compatibility with existing driver stacks, and efficient, high-performance Ethernet. With integrated management and “wire-once” unified fabric with the industry-standard computing platform, the Cisco UCS optimizes virtualization, provides dynamic resource provisioning for increased agility, and reduces total overall data center costs, in CapEx and OpEx.
Offering a new style of dynamic IT, Cisco UCS extends virtualized data centers and creates a foundation for private clouds that federate with compatible virtual private clouds. With the virtualized environment defined by a dynamic, scalable data center fabric, a workload really can run anywhere; the resources needed to support a workload can come even from an outside service provider in a cloud-computing model.next-generation cloud data center. It is based on Cisco’s and the ecosystems partners’ data center building blocks. The above technology architecture represents only a sample of
building blocks of a cloud data center. Moreover, the end-state technical architecture would not only contain the components listed above and below but would also be governed by different types of service and regulation/compliance requirements.
Other key software components are
● Business applications for service orchestration
● Service delivery management applications for service discovery, mapping, and Compliance
● SLA metering, measurement, and billing application for accountability
● Web and business logic hosting applications such as databases, and application and web servers
Other key facilities components are
● Power and cooling components
● Data center physical construction components
● Racking and cabling components
Cisco partners with software application and data center facilities solution providers in the above segments to provide a comprehensive cloud data center solution
Trust in Cloud Data Center
Cisco also brings the following security- and trust-related considerations in the infrastructure models of cloud computing. Cisco believes that gaining the advantages of cloud computing in the enterprise begins with establishing a trusted approach to the cloud. Just as we trust a financial institution with our valuables and monetary assets, a similar level and attributes of trust need to be established in cloud architecture. Hence the definition of private and virtual private clouds is based on the trust domain in addition to physical presence domains. The network can uniquely address trust in private clouds. Trust in a cloud data center centers on several core concepts:
Security: Traditional issues around data and resource access control, encryption, and incident detection are factors here.
Control: The ability of the enterprise to directly manage how and where data and applications are deployed and used.
Compliance and service-level management (SLA): This concept refers to contracting and enforcement of service-level agreements between varieties of parties, and conformance with regulatory, legal, and general industry requirements.
Cisco adopted the above core concepts in their solutions and services for cloud computing.