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Data Center Architecture and Technologies in the Cloud

Chapter Description

This chapter provides an overview of the architectural principles and infrastructure designs needed to support a new generation of real-time-managed IT service use cases in the data center.

Evolution of the Services Platform

Organizations tend to adopt a phased strategy when building a utility service platform. Figure 3-13 shows a four-step approach that actually is a simplification of the actual journey to be undertaken by the end customer. How such a goal is realized does heavily depend on the current state of the architecture. For example, are we starting from a greenfield or brownfield deployment? What services are to be offered to whom, at what price and when? All these factors need decided up front during the service creation phase.

Figure 3-13

Figure 3-13 Evolving Customer Needs from Service Platform

The phasing closely maps to the IT industry evolution we discussed earlier in this chapter:

  1. Virtualization of the end-to-end infrastructure
  2. Automation of the service life cycle from provisioning to assurance
  3. Deployment and integration of the service infrastructure, that is, customer portal, billing, and CRM
  4. Deployment of intercloud technologies and protocols to enable migration of workloads and their dependencies

Migration of existing applications onto the new services platform requires extensive research and planning in regard not only to the technical feasibility but also the feasibility in regard to current operational and governance constraints which, with this authors' experience to date, prove to be the most challenging aspects to get right. It is essential that technical and business stakeholders work together to ensure success.

Building a virtualization management strategy at tool set is key to success for the first phase. The benefits gained through virtualization can be lost without an effective virtualization management strategy. Virtual server management requires changes in policies surrounding operations, naming conventions, chargeback, and security. Although many server and desktop virtualization technologies come with their own sets of management capabilities, businesses should also evaluate third-party tools to plug any gaps in management. These tools should answer questions such as, "How much infrastructure capacity and capability do I have?" or "What are the service dependencies?" in real time.

Virtualization, as discussed earlier, helps to deliver infrastructure multitenant capability. This means the ability to group and manage a set of constrained resources (normally virtual) that can be used exclusively by a customer and is isolated from other customer-assigned resources at both the data and management planes (for example, customer portal and life cycle management tools). A good example of a tool that can achieve this level of abstraction is the Cisco Cloud Portal (CCP) that provides RBAC-based entitlement views and management or, from a service activation approach example, network containers as aforementioned in this chapter.

The second phase is to introduce service automation through (ideally) end-to-end IT orchestration (also known as Run Book Automation) and service assurance tools. This phase is all about speed and quality of IT service delivery at scale, with predictability and availability at lower change management costs. In short, this is providing IT Service Management (ITSM) in a workflow-based structured way using best-practice methodologies.

This second phase is a natural progression of software tool development to manage data center infrastructure, physical and virtual. This development timeline is shown in Figure 3-14. The IT industry is now adopting 'programmatic' software to model underlying infrastructure capability and capacity. Within these software models, technology and business rules can be built within to ensure compliance and standardization of IT infrastructure. We discuss an example of this type programmatic model tooling in Chapter 5 when we discuss the 'Network Hypervisor' product.

Figure 3-14

Figure 3-14 Evolution of Data Center Management Tools

The third phase is building and integrating service capabilities. Service-enabling tools include a customer portal and a service catalogue in conjunction with SLA reporting and metering, chargeback, and reporting. (Service catalogue is often an overused term that actually consists of multiple capabilities, for example, portfolio management, demand management, request catalogue, and life cycle management). From an operational perspective, integration of IT orchestration software (for example, Cisco Enterprise Orchestrator) along with smart domain/resource management tools completes the end-to-end service enablement of infrastructure. This third phase is about changing the culture of the business to one that is service lead rather than product lead. This requires organizational, process, and governance changes within the business.

Technology to support the fourth phase of this journey is only just starting to appear in the marketplace at the time of this writing. The ability to migrate workloads and service chains over large distances between (cloud) service providers requires an entire range of technological and service-related constraints that are being addressed. Chapter 5, "The Cisco Cloud Strategy," will discuss some of these constraints in detail.