Inside the Cloud Data Center

By Keerti Melkote, Blog Contributor
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We live in a mobile-first, cloud-centric world. As I discussed in a previous blog, "It's the dawn of the cloud-mobile era. Now what?" the cloud-mobile model is changing how we work and live. It is creating unprecedented innovation and productivity.

The cloud-mobile era is also transforming the data center. For decades, monolithic applications ran on servers. With the advent of the web, applications were broken into three tiers—the front end, the data tier and the business logic. As applications needed to serve more users and more data, IT built a better mousetrap—faster servers, bigger storage and faster networks.

The build-a-bigger-mousetrap strategy works for corporate data centers that serve tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of users. But cloud services serve millions of users—and maybe even billions.

Disaggregation of compute

It's time to reinvent the data center for the cloud. An emerging concept is the disaggregation of compute, which will enable cloud services at scale.

In this model, applications and server components are broken down so they can be distributed across the data center or even multiple data centers. As processing is distributed, pools of data center resources can be used instantaneously as workloads change.

The application is also disaggregated, with the creation of microservices. This way, when thousands of people use the same cloud application, such as Salesforce, each person's activity, whether it is approving a new hire or opening a purchase order, kicks off its own workflow. These application microservices spin up and down to meet demand.

Building networks for cloud scale

Cloud services are dynamic and elastic—and the cloud network must keep pace.

In the past, applications were hardcoded to the network. When a business unit needed a new application or more capacity, IT had to make the changes manually, configuring virtual LANs and security policies using the command-line interface of the routers or switches. In the best-case scenario, changes would take hours—but days, weeks and even months are the norm.

The cloud does not operate on human time. Cloud services spin up and down in microseconds. With advances in software-defined networking, network functions virtualization, and orchestration tools, the data center network is being automated to provide connectivity in real time.

An opportunity for career growth

It's an exciting time to be a network architect. We are at the very beginning of network automation and cloud data centers. New technologies are being invented and there's a lot to learn.

Network architects' skills are evolving beyond mastery of the command line interface, and as the walls between the networking, server, and storage domains break down, network architects have an opportunity to take on a broader role in IT. It's also an opportunity to embrace DevOps, where IT becomes more collaborative, highly iterative, and faster paced.

It's a great time to be in networking!