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“Software defined infrastructure is set to make the lives of IT heads easy!”

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Intel has recently introduced its Xeon processor E5-2600/1600 v3 product families to address the requirements of diverse workloads and the rapidly evolving needs of data centres. The new processor families include performance increases of up to 3x over the previous generation, world-class energy efficiency and enhanced security. To facilitate the explosive demand for software defined infrastructure (SDI), the processors expose key metrics, through telemetry, which enable the infrastructure to deliver services with the best performance, resilience and optimised total cost of ownership. Diksha P Gupta from Open Source For You spoke to Ravi Gupta, vertical head–public sector and enterprise, enterprise solutions group, Intel India, about how SDI’s evolution will impact data centres in India and how they will change the IT world. Excerpts:

Q How does Intel plan to be a part of the revolution called software defined infrastructure?
Software defined infrastructure (SDI) is the foundation for cloud computing. The digital services economy requires agility and scale, which demand that all infrastructure resources be programmable and highly configurable. These abilities, coupled with telemetry, analytics and automated actions, allow the data centre to become highly optimised. Intel continues to invest in delivering this vision of an automated data centre, and with the new Xeon E5-2600 v3 product family, the company has introduced key sensors and telemetry that further enhance SDI.

The Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v3 product family introduces new features that provide greater visibility into the system than ever before. A new cache monitoring feature provides data to enable orchestration tools to intelligently place and rebalance workloads, resulting in faster completion times. This also provides the ability to analyse performance anomalies due to competition for cache in a multi-tenant cloud environment, where there is little visibility into what workloads consumers are running.

The new processors also include platform telemetry sensors and metrics for CPU, memory and I/O utilisation. With the addition of thermal sensors for airflow and outlet temperature, the visibility and control has increased significantly from the prior generation. The processors offer a holistic set of sensors and telemetry for any SDI orchestration solution to more closely monitor, manage and control system utilisation to help maximise data centre efficiency for a lower total cost of ownership.

Q Why do you think that software defined infrastructure is poised to change the current state of IT?
Right now, IT involves a lot of intervention from systems administrators and systems. It needs to be more intelligent, wherein the infrastructure itself takes the decisions on resourcing and orchestration, as it is known as, in the IT language. Software defined infrastructure is the key for that, because once the policies are defined in the software layer, then the software can trigger the hardware to change configurations based on what is needed, who needs more resources, RAM, et al, versus the current state of affairs, wherein the administrator does it manually. With SDI, what we see is that whether it is for storage, networks or computing, the software itself will be intelligent enough to take the decision, or it will be able to trigger the decision in the required manner. This is already happening and we foresee the technology taking over in the next 12-18 months.

Q Does that mean SDI is poised to replace IT administrators at a certain stage?
I would say that it is poised to make the IT administrator’s life easy! With SDI coming in, an IT administrator should be able to spend much more time doing something more productive, like forecasts on how much resources he may need in the coming months. If businesses say that they need more resources in a specific month, for instance, in March, because maximum billing happens in that month, then IT is the one arm that has to arrange for the resources for this. So, in a way, SDI would make a systems administrator’s life easy. SDI is a tool; it is not going to replace the traditional IT job, but will make that job more intelligent.

Q What is the demand like for SDI in today’s data centres?
If someone is running a big data centre with thousands of servers and has to perform the same job on all the servers, then obviously he will run short of manpower at some stage. So, from that perspective, if I run big data centres, and if my data centre is SDI-enabled, I can make provisions for more resources and also release these resources once the job is done, automatically. SDI enables automation of data centres for resources, which is today done manually. Manual resource allocation is difficult, because most of the time, it is done only when some applications fail and the IT head comes to know that he needs to scale up his resources for that application. But can he make his software intelligent enough to reconfigure the resources based on those triggers? That is what SDI will handle. So, eventually, for all large data centres and servers, SDI is the answer.

Q It is said that data centres cannot be static any more. Do you agree? If so, please explain why.
‘Static’ implies having the same configurations all the time. So, it means that a User X retains the set configurations assigned to him initially, all the time. That is not the case any more. Till two years back, whatever was given to User X was fixed. The data centre guys used to delete the resources assigned from the ‘resources table’ after they were assigned, which is not the case now. So, when a provision of resources is made in the current scenario, the provision is made based on dynamic needs. It means that when the need is there in a specific month or a time period, the resources are automatically provisioned. The resources are also provisioned based on triggers. For example, if the IT head sees the RAM running out of stock for a specific application, the servers will pull out more RAM from the virtualised infrastructure and give it to that particular application, automatically. This is the concept of a dynamic data centre.

In the traditional IT space, things were different, but now, the clients are offered a choice between a static or a dynamic set-up. Static set-ups have a higher billing, because that configuration is assigned specifically to a company, only to be used by that company. But in the case of a dynamic set-up, it means that as and when the company is not using those assigned resources, some other firm might use it as well. Yet, the data centre will ensure that the terms of the SLA signed with the company are met and the configurations cannot drop below the set SLA. What we see as a trend is that dynamic set-ups are more in demand because they require less intervention, take less time to provision and are need-based.

Q So how is SDI evolving in India?
Today the telecom sector is a high adopter of SDI, and enterprises have started following suit. Going forward, there is bound to be a huge paradigm shift in the enterprise data centres and e-commerce data centres, and as I said, telecom has already taken the lead because it is largely in the Internet hosting space as well.

Q Do we see SDI entering the SMB space anytime soon?
Not really. It is more related to who wants the infrastructure. SMBs today usually go for the infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) model, which is ideally someone else’s infrastructure. SMBs either want to have their own infrastructure, which could be a small compute infrastructure, or it is based on somebody who is servicing them, which is IaaS. SDI is more effective when you use a large number of servers and storage.