How Innovative Data Center Technologies Support Digital Transformation
Advanced networks, hybrid environments and smart storage solutions enable organizations to improve speed, production and efficiency.
Digital transformation is driving innovation across virtually all industries. Organizations that fail to keep pace with increasingly smart and nimble competitors risk dulling their business edge.
“Basically, they fall behind their competitors, lose customers and eventually fail,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
Achieving true digital transformation requires the support of an effective data center infrastructure — including processing, networking and storage — that incorporates the latest and most powerful technologies. “The trend is shifting to a constantly connected, secure and flexible environment for the customer, client partners and employees,” says John Gilmartin, general manager of VMware’s integrated systems business unit. “Technology allows this to happen. Without a robust, cloud-focused, software-defined digital infrastructure with plenty of bandwidth and a plan for business continuity, businesses cease to exist.”
Software-Defined Storage Reshapes Data Management
By allowing policy-based provisioning and management of data storage, independent of the underlying hardware, software-defined storage (SDS) improves an organization’s ability to transform digitally. “Data is the lifeblood of a company, and being able to effectively manage it is a critical tool and potentially a major competitive advantage,” says Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
SDS helps organizations centralize and simplify the control of storage subsystems and storage networks, making them programmable and more agile while enabling policy-driven supervision and automation. “It helps enterprises keep up with the speed of change made possible by the virtualization of other data center resources and provides the perfect complement to software-defined networks,” says Daniel McGinniss, data center solutions marketing director for Cisco Systems. “SDS enables the cloud and data center to gain efficiency and increase service velocity.”
SDS storage also gives adopters the ability to transparently scale and utilize individual storage resource pools, including traditional magnetic hard drives, flash drives and storage class memory. “Having those resources pooled, I can now take advantage, based on whatever applications might need, whatever classic storage is best] on any given day,” says Danny Cobb, a Dell EMC corporate fellow.
High-Performance Networks Support Innovation
A data center that is ready for digital transformation requires high-performance network capabilities. Innovations such as software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and intent-based networking (IBN) now allow virtually any enterprise to achieve superior levels of IT performance, security and efficiency. “These technologies are intrinsically tied to digital transformation in their use of machine learning to infuse automation and orchestration with the intelligence necessary to augment and optimize IT operations across every environment — on- and off-premises,” says Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist for F5 Networks.
SDN, for instance, is designed to make networks more manageable and agile, capable of supporting a digitally transformative data center’s virtualized server and storage infrastructure. Among its many attributes, SDN enables a network to be intelligently and centrally controlled via software applications, allowing enterprises to manage their entire network consistently and holistically regardless of the underlying network technology. This enables the network to accommodate digital transformation initiatives such as Internet of Things deployments, which create new and more challenging demands on networks. “Software-defined anything makes the platform more flexible and thus more able to transform to the needs of users,” Enderle observes.
With SDN, enterprises can assure themselves of a more efficient and reliable network. “You end up with a network that’s less expensive to manage because it’s simpler to understand,” says Danny Cobb, a Dell EMC corporate fellow. SDN adopters enjoy the benefits of a more secure network, since the technology enables data to be continuously scrutinized for both secure and insecure traffic. The approach also allows an intelligent response to threats by selectively blocking malicious traffic while still allowing normal traffic flows.
SD-WAN applies SDN’s benefits to wide area networks. “The technology provides agility and efficiency to quickly turn up branch offices, roll out applications and dynamically route traffic based on policy,” says Raakhee Mistry, director of marketing for Cisco Enterprise Networking and Mobility.
Other SD-WAN benefits include a simple management interface, support for multiple connections (including MPLS, internet and LTE) and dynamic path selection for load sharing across WAN connections. SD-WAN also supports virtual private networks, as well as other third-party services, including firewalls and web gateways.
IBN technology advances SDN even further. Although SDNs have largely automated most network management processes, organizations now require even greater capabilities from their networks to manage their digital transformation and ultimately assure that the network is operating as intended. “Intent-based networking not only drives efficiency through fabric-based architectures and operational simplicity, it can better validate network performance and application experience,” Mistry says.
By capturing, activating and assuring business intent networkwide, IBN bridges the gap between what an enterprise needs and what its network can actually deliver. An IBN can quickly identify issues and through rich insights quickly troubleshoot and remediate them. “In addition, powerful security and policy capabilities provide simplified segmentation, consistent policy deployment and an ability to detect threats in encrypted traffic, providing better protection network wide,” Mistry says.
Digital transformation initiatives create new workloads and data streams that must be matched with the data center resources best suited to handle them. A hybrid environment, in which an organization provides and manages some IT resources in a private cloud and uses public cloud-based services for others, enables enterprises to manage workloads for optimal performance and scalability.
Advanced management capabilities can help organizations deal with the common problem of IT complexity in hybrid environments, allowing adopters to maximize their benefits. “Advanced IT management, designed for software-defined private and hybrid clouds, speeds up the delivery of IT services through automation and predefined policies, providing high levels of agility and flexibility for developers and lines of business while maintaining governance and control,” Gilmartin says.
A hyperconverged infrastructure solution virtualizes all of a conventional hardware-defined system’s key elements. HCI also creates a foundation for hybrid IT management, since it provides a consistent operating model between on-premises private clouds built on HCI and public clouds that run the HCI stack. “This means operators can use the same tools and processes they know for on-premises and off-premises management as well as move workloads seamlessly between private and public clouds without having to replatform workloads for each environment,” Gilmartin says.
To learn more about solutions that can help you overcome the barriers to digital transformation, download CDW’s Digital Transformation Insight Report.