A data center is a hardware hosting facility that uses complex networking, computing, and storage infrastructure to provide access to shared data and applications. Industry standards help organizations design, build, and maintain data center equipment and infrastructure to ensure data security and availability.
Data centers can range in size from small server rooms to geographically dispersed groups of buildings, but they perform the same basic function. A data center is a critical business asset, with companies frequently investing in the latest advances in networking, computing, and storage technologies.
Modern data centers have evolved from facilities that house on-premise infrastructure to sophisticated hubs connecting cloud infrastructure and on-premise systems. They support networks, workloads, and applications virtualized across multiple public and private cloud environments.
Data centers today need to support a highly dynamic and complex business environment. Traditional technology and practices cannot keep up with the high pace of change.
Many organizations rely on three innovations to ensure business agility:
- Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)—a new cloud-delivered paradigm for networking and security.
- GitOps—a development method that evolved from DevOps practices and is helping automate and standardize infrastructure provisioning.
- Cloud and digital transformation—leveraging public, private, and hybrid cloud technology to support digital transformation initiatives.
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)
Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is a cloud architecture that delivers security and network functions via one cloud-based service.
SASE consolidates networking and security tools into a unified console for easier use and management. It provides simple networking and security tools regardless of employee or resource location. SASE combines SD-WAN and cybersecurity capabilities with extensive cloud connectivity, requiring little or no hardware to maintain.
The widespread adoption of cloud services has led many organizations to face the complexity of securing their cloud-based networks. Traditional security approaches rely on the notion that an organization sends all traffic to a static network containing security services. These approaches are acceptable for a business model where most employees work in specific offices using dedicated workstations.
However, user-centric networking has changed how most organizations set up their networks. The number of people working from home has increased worldwide over the past decade. The result is that the conventional hardware-centered approach to securing corporate networks which administrators used to rely on, is no longer sufficient to secure networks with remote access.
SASE enables businesses to implement security services through unified user identity-based policy management, regardless of the location of corporate resources.
GitOps and infrastructure automation
GitOps is an operating model that applies DevOps practices to automate infrastructure. It uses version control, CI/CD, and compliance tools to automate infrastructure management. Standard DevOps automates the software development lifecycle, while a dedicated team manages the infrastructure manually.
Implementing infrastructure automation is becoming increasingly important, given today’s demands. Modern infrastructure must be resilient and flexible to manage cloud resources - these are useful for continuous deployment, which relies on automated tools to deliver applications to production.
Developers build modern applications for scale and speed—companies with an established DevOps culture deploy code to production many times a day. DevOps teams do this using practices like version control, automated CI/CD pipelines, and code reviews.
GitOps automates the infrastructure provisioning process. GitOps teams use infrastructure-as-code (IaC) configuration files like developers use application source code. These files create identical infrastructure environments for every deployment, similar to how source code results in the same binaries for every build.
GitOps enables organizations to manage the whole infrastructure and development lifecycle with a single, integrated tool. It improves team collaboration, reduces errors, and speeds up problem resolution. GitOps also allows organizations to leverage modern DevOps tools and techniques like microservices and containers.
Cloud computing and digital transformation
Cloud computing involves hosting tools and services, and allowing client devices to access them via the Internet.
Cloud computing is strongly dependent on automation and virtualization technologies. Automation and associated orchestration capabilities give users a high level of self-service for resource provisioning, service connectivity, and workload deployment without directly involving staff from the cloud service provider. Virtualization makes it easy to abstract and provision services and underlying infrastructure into logical assets that users request and consume.
Digital transformation efforts leverage the latest digital technologies, including private, public, and hybrid cloud environments, to establish or adjust an organization’s processes, workplace culture, and customer experience. It helps companies adapt to changing market demands and trends.
Digital transformation fundamentally changes how organizations operate, optimize corporate resources, and create consumer value. Cloud computing technology provides the basis for establishing more collaborative, agile, and customer-oriented workflows.
The digital transformation process includes:
- Flexible technologies—help develop, manage, and deploy applications faster in the cloud.
- Experimentation—allows companies to incorporate new ideas and achieve deeper insights into market and customer demands.
- Data analysis—provides decision-making guidance by measuring the results of various experiments.
- Collaboration tools—support fast, easy information sharing for cross-team and inter-organizational projects.
- Customer-oriented analysis—extracts insights from data to improve the customer experience.
- Agile development—provides the speed and scale to enable businesses to succeed.
Data centers are expected to be as dynamic and agile as the businesses they support. I covered three innovations that are instrumental in making data centers more agile—SASE, GitOps, and cloud computing. The interesting commonality between these three trends is that they are not new technologies. All three are an extension of existing technologies, transformed by a new operating philosophy.
This can be an inspiration for data center teams to discover the next innovative business practice. There is no need to wait for the next generation of equipment. By leveraging existing systems, packaging them in a more useful way, and learning to use them more effectively, we can generate amazing efficiencies. Adding more layers of technology can often add complexity and actually reduce flexibility and agility. The secret of future data center agility will be doing more with what we have—and will be driven by people, not merely by technology.