Standardization: The Key to IT Agility and Efficiency

December 14, 2017

Deploying a standardized data center can help companies scale faster and reduce operational waste

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By Erik Melander, EVP of Solutions, Kovarus
& Mathew Shuster, Regional Vice President of Consulting, Kovarus

Optimizing server and storage solutions for particular applications has been a common IT practice. Buying application-specific hardware makes sense when an application is relatively stable over time or where there are specific use-cases that the application, such as machine learning, will require specific hardware such as GPU acceleration for training runs.

However, demand for new and innovative customer-facing applications, analytic services and mobile applications has introduced a new dynamic to how IT services are delivered. It is virtually impossible for companies to accurately anticipate infrastructure needs two or three years in the future on an application-specific basis. And organizations that continue to practice application-specific provisioning experience these common problems.

  • Their data centers become home to islands of single-purpose hardware that is difficult to redeploy to other needs.
  • Their system administrators must learn and maintain vendor-specific knowledge and skills to support specialty infrastructure. This specialization also makes it difficult to automate administrative tasks, making heterogeneous environments more difficult to manage.
  • Their business owners have limited options when scaling up applications. Instead, they have to scale in vendor-specific increments that may not fit well with their business needs.

Deploying standardized infrastructure and automation procedures is a more efficient and adaptable practice. Standardization helps organizations maximize compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability and quality. It allows companies to deploy infrastructure incrementally as demands change, scaling up and down as needed. Standardizing infrastructure also lets data center managers more easily add components without disrupting existing operations and allows businesses to realize the benefits of Moore’s Law by helping them seamlessly incorporate the latest generation of compute, storage and network technology.

Deploying your standardized data center

It is important to note that standardized hardware does not imply commodity or inferior hardware. Companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook depend on hyperscale infrastructure built on highly standardized hardware. These major internet companies have demonstrated that high availability and scalability are achievable with standardized infrastructure without the high cost of vendor-specific solutions.

Kovarus also works with our customers to identify and build standardized building blocks, known as K-Blocks, for their data centers. K-Blocks can be deployed in data centers, branch offices and other remote locations as demand dictates. These components include hardware and software designed to optimize the performance and flexibility of your infrastructure, as well as all components needed to incorporate building blocks into existing infrastructure — reducing the risk of misconfiguration and missing parts that delay deployments.

In addition to deploying standardized hardware and software, companies should consider the architectural framework of their data center. Again, major internet companies have found practices that work well across a range of enterprises. Amazon’s published guidelines on the well-architected framework identify four pillars of data center architecture.

  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Performance efficiency
  • Cost optimization

Security addresses concerns around the confidentiality and integrity of data, as well as the availability of systems. This pillar focuses on delivering business value through risk assessments and mitigation strategies.

Reliability focuses on the need to recover from failures (both hardware and software), to adapt to disruptions in lower-level services and to scale to meet dynamic demands on workloads.

Performance efficiency and cost optimization help to ensure that compute, storage and network resources are optimized. The goal is to meet business objectives while minimizing cost.

IT service delivery is constantly under pressure to move faster, perform better and cost less. In the past, deploying application-specific hardware optimized performance and costs, but these benefits came at the cost of flexibility. Standardization offers an alternative model that empowers businesses to realize greater adaptability, scalability and cost efficiency. That more efficient and flexible IT service delivery model is built on a foundation of hardware, automation and a well-designed architecture.