Putting the Cart before the Horse

Cisco has come forward with a new vision for the data center. This may really be what I have maintained for the last 15+ years. The future will happen when the “computer is really in the network.”

This is Cisco’s first big shot in a war to control the data center of the future. This strategy, Cisco’s Data Center 3.0, envisions switches at the heart of the architecture with service regulated commodity status for the underlying technology. Essentially, the switches become the epicentre for running and controlling all IT decision-making. Cisco envisions the orchestration of infrastructure services from pools of servers, storage, and network resources over Gigabit Ethernet networks.

Cisco’s comments about the data center can be found in “Transforming Your Data Center One Project at a Time.” The following is a direct quote: “The emergence of the human network is raising individuals’ and organizations’ expectations about how technology, and their IT organizations, can support their objectives and evolving work styles. The data center IP network, as the platform that integrates, protects, and scales other IT resources, is central to the fulfillment of the human network’s promise. A process evolution from transactions to interactions is leading to the emergence of data centers built on network-based service-oriented infrastructures (SOI). SOI softens traditional server, storage, and network operation silos and allows well-integrated IT departments to treat their data centers as single functional units composed of interdependent, virtualized pools of storage, network, server, and application resources to better support applications and meet the challenges introduced by a more distributed interaction model across and between organizations.”

Why is the network so integral to service-oriented infrastructure? According to IDC (Abner Germanow, “Why Is Networking Growing Faster Than the Rest of IT?” June 4, 2007), “Server virtualization, storage virtualization, and the federation of software applications, to name three examples, are all enabled by the network… As trends in computing evolve from consolidation back to scaling out and scaling up, the potential for the network to participate in the security, reliability, and management of that scale will rise.

It’s not a bad vision, say industry analysts, and it is shared by server and storage manufacturers. Thanks to virtualization, the server’s role in the data center is increasingly being diminished. Virtual storage, virtual processors, and virtual memory, and maybe even virtual networks, are coming. The major server makers acknowledge that this is the future.

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