SHOULD YOU CON­SIDER WEB-SCALE NET­WORK­ING?

Pa­trick Hub­bard, tech­ni­cal prod­uct mar­ket­ing prin­ci­ple and head geek at So­larWinds, ex­plains how the web-scale strat­egy is gain­ing at­ten­tion from en­ter­prises in re­sponse to the chang­ing data cen­tre land­scape.

Channel Middle East - - Industry View -

At the en­ter­prise level, IT pro­fes­sion­als still han­dle help desk re­quests and gen­er­ally “keep the lights on,” which de­tracts from the al­wayson ded­i­ca­tion to sup­port­ing a web-scale im­ple­men­ta­tion.” PA­TRICK HUB­BARD, TECH­NI­CAL PROD­UCT MAR­KET­ING PRIN­CI­PLE & HEAD GEEK, SO­LARWINDS

Web-scale net­work­ing, also known as hy­per­scale, is the con­cept pop­u­larised by com­pa­nies like Google, Net­flix, and Facebook, all of whom have adopted this model for its proven cost eco­nom­ics, re­siliency, scal­a­bil­ity and in some cases, bet­ter per­for­mance for large com­pa­nies.

In re­cent months, the web-scale strat­egy has re­gained at­ten­tion from en­ter­prises in re­sponse to the chang­ing data cen­tre land­scape and growth of com­pute-heavy, com­plex tech­nolo­gies like ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI), ma­chine learn­ing and big data an­a­lyt­ics ini­tia­tives. Con­sid­er­ing all this, what should IT pro­fes­sion­als re­ally know about web-scale?

WEB-SCALE EX­PLAINED

At its core, a web-scale strat­egy is a set of en­abling tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices that pro­vide en­ter­prises the same ca­pa­bil­i­ties, cost struc­ture and flex­i­bil­ity that the very largest cloud ser­vice providers (CSPs) can de­liver. A web-scale strat­egy, when suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented and main­tained, can pro­vide the cost struc­ture, ca­pa­bil­ity, and flex­i­bil­ity CSPs them­selves en­joy. How­ever, it also re­quires sig­nif­i­cant IT dis­ci­pline, skill and up-front cost in­vest­ment that are of­ten off-putting for many busi­nesses.

SO, WHY TRY IT?

For or­gan­i­sa­tions that have the where­withal (bud­get, skills, staff) to im­ple­ment web-scale, there are quite a few ben­e­fits that make the in­vest­ment worth the ef­fort. Cost, cer­tainly, is a key in­cen­tive for an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s tran­si­tion to web­scale ar­chi­tec­ture. Com­pa­nies like Volk­swa­gen might foot an AWS or Azure bills in the tens of mil­lions of eu­ros a year.

If you have the IT skill re­sources, es­pe­cially if the CSP is a di­rect com­peti­tor, it’s rea­son­able to con­sider im­ple­ment­ing a CSP­mod­eled en­vi­ron­ment your­self.

It’s pos­si­ble to reap “whole­sale” pric­ing based on the same orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) in­fras­truc­ture that pub­lic cloud providers re­sell. This is an es­pe­cially im­por­tant ben­e­fit for com­pa­nies that have ap­pli­ca­tions with large data foot­prints. If you are a busi­ness with a large on­line pres­ence, you have al­ready im­ple­mented com­plex meth­ods to en­sure data avail­abil­ity, but you can also ex­pect that ba­sic in­fras­truc­ture will in­crease in com­plex­ity—such as spin­ning out into mul­ti­ple re­gions or avail­abil­ity zones. Web-scale is known for de­liv­er­ing against the need for open-ended, scale-out of In­ter­net con­nected users.

IM­PLE­MEN­TA­TION CHAL­LENGES

Big ben­e­fits, how­ever, don’t come with­out big chal­lenges and con­sid­er­a­tions.

First, the skill needed to im­ple­ment a web-scale ar­chi­tec­ture is enor­mous. CSPs like AWS and Azure have spent years de­vel­op­ing their tech­nol­ogy, host­ing plat­forms, and add-on ser­vices—and they have the lux­ury of be­ing able to fo­cus only on de­vel­op­ing and in­no­vat­ing th­ese things. The AWS “prim­i­tives” of­fer­ings—a col­lec­tion of over 100 tools that each fo­cus on one com­pe­tency (like con­tainer man­age­ment, or queu­ing ser­vices, etc.)—present just one ex­am­ple of how spe­cialised the provider has be­come.

The bot­tom line is, it’s im­pos­si­ble to have the IT team re­spon­si­ble for run­ning ap­pli­ca­tions that are crit­i­cal to the busi­ness also han­dle tak­ing care of the plat­form. You need a ded­i­cated set of de­vel­op­ers and ad­mins tak­ing care of your plat­form, which needs more time, skill, and mon­e­tary re­sources that most busi­nesses just don’t have.

SHOULD YOU BE CON­SID­ER­ING WEB-SCALE?

Of course, th­ese chal­lenges don’t mean your busi­ness won’t even­tu­ally im­ple­ment at least some web-scale ar­chi­tec­tures. There are some ques­tions that both you, the IT pro­fes­sional, and your busi­ness should con­sider, whether you’re ready to tran­si­tion to web-scale now or are con­tem­plat­ing for the fu­ture:

Are we big enough? If you’re large enough to sup­port the cost and skill re­quire­ments, web-scale is a promis­ing idea. It de­liv­ers ex­treme flex­i­bil­ity, cost sav­ings, and cus­tomi­sa­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties with­out ty­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion to a CSP or SLA. Cur­rently, there is no stan­dard “ideal busi­ness size” for web-scale de­ploy­ments. This is what the mar­ket at-large is try­ing to de­ter­mine as the ben­e­fits of web-scale com­put­ing be­come even more pop­u­larised.

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