Data center of the future: 5 key elements
- By Bob Fortna
- Jan 11, 2016
The Defense Information Systems Agency’s data center consolidation efforts are establishing a foundation for the federal data center of the future. In DISA’s own words, “consolidation will establish a core computing infrastructure that provides assured and ubiquitous access to vital enterprise services and aggregates computing services and infrastructure requirements to gain economic efficiencies of scale.” In short, DISA is moving aggressively to build a more powerful, yet streamlined, operation -- one that works well today, but also is built for future demands.
However, federal data center managers can’t wait until tomorrow to begin the prep work necessary to create the data center of the future. That needs to happen today -- and can be done by adhering to five key practices that will be hallmarks of future federal data centers.
1. Deploy software-defined networking for greater agility.
Federal IT professionals are finding that software-defined networking (SDN) offers better ways to manage virtualization, cost containment and accelerated delivery of services. It also gives data center managers the flexibility and control they need to manage every aspect of the data center through IT as a service, resulting in increased agility and freedom from having to manage, upgrade and repair expensive hardware.
2. Automate processes for better control and security.
SDN is quickly becoming a foundational element of federal data centers -- as is one of its key components, automation. Modern federal data centers have become far too complex for hands-on individual management. Automated tools are now a must, and creating a plan for automation should be one of the first steps in implementing a software-defined architecture.
Automation does many things. It helps control costs through provisioning, patching, configuration management and more. It frees up valuable time for federal It administrators to do other mission-critical tasks. And, perhaps most important, it helps agencies enhance their security posture by reducing the potential vulnerabilities caused by human intervention.
3. Adhere to open standards for cost-effective innovation.
Adherence to open standards allows agencies to take advantage of benefits related to technology, productivity and cost. First, data center managers who follow open standards can continuously and cost-effectively deploy innovative, best-of-breed technologies as they become available. They can also avoid vendor lock-in, save money, diversify their supply chains, and become more agile and responsive to the needs of agency personnel.
4. Use analytics to address the needs of users.
In the old days, agency managers might have been able to get away with designing a generic data center and letting it run, but those days are long gone. Data centers now must be built in a customized, strategic and thoughtful manner. To do this, federal data center managers must understand their colleagues’ needs and map the performance of their centers to those requirements. With detailed analytical tools, data center managers can measure demand, compute and storage resources and more. Having usage data will help them better tailor their data center capabilities to their users’ needs.
5. Ensure high performance and scalability to accommodate growing needs.
The U.S. government’s “cloud-first” model calls for high-performance data center architecture that can scale quickly to accommodate growing data demands. The continuing influx of users and connected devices to federal government networks will put increased performance and bandwidth demands on data center infrastructures. Data center managers can accommodate these demands while containing costs by migrating to high-performance network infrastructures designed to improve productivity, speed application delivery and reduce operational costs.
At the end of the day, everyone has different data center needs. Some data must continue to be stored in-house, while other information can be kept in the cloud. Regardless of how the debate over “cloud-first” policies plays out, data centers will need to be modernized to accommodate everyone’s future needs, and those efforts must begin today.
Bob Fortna is president and board member of Fortinet Federal Inc.