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.
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?
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.
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.