Assessing data centre strategies for cloud-scale software
The rapid advancement of cloud-scale software is driving the digital transformation impacting nearly every facet of our life. The ways we work, communicate, navigate, travel, shop, manage our money, access healthcare, interact with things and places are extremely different from only five years ago.
There are many underlying technologies that enable this transformation – but none as profound as the rise of cloud-based software applications that we interact with throughout our day.
IDC notes that cloud software accounts for nearly one-third of the $400bn+ software market and is driving virtually all of the organic growth in the industry. This category of technology includes software as a service offerings; eCommerce sites; fintech and health tech apps. It includes emerging segments including IoT-enabled applications and AI-enabled lifestyle applications like autonomous vehicles and smart homes.
Data centre strategies for cloud software are different than those that support traditional software applications. Whether hosted in public IaaS or in a private or managed private cloud, it is important to recognise it requires several characteristics that make modern cloud software unique from software hosted locally or in an enterprise data centre.
Cloud software is by nature multi-tenant - supporting many users from different organisations on shared infrastructure but with logical divisions between different users’ private data. Supporting consistent user experience means application infrastructure must adapt to surges in activity across the full user base.
Agile development and DevOps
One of the benefits of managing software in a central cloud-scale data centre is the ability to release new functionality more frequently. The rise of agile development and DevOps lets organisations role out new software releases weekly or even more frequently. Infrastructure bust be adaptable in order to not be a bottleneck in introducing new functionality.
Modern software-driven businesses are built on the assumption they will scale. More users, more devices, more data. This requires data centre infrastructure strategies that can scale seamlessly and predictably with the businesses they support. It also means sensible cost strategies. One of the goals of any business is to realise economies of scale as they grow. One challenge with public IaaS offerings is that cloud storage and computing bills rise nearly linearly with the business. Ideally data centre infrastructure will continue to deliver performance and responsiveness to applications as they scale while improving cost-efficiency.
Probably the most significant requirements for modern cloud software is the growing importance of sophisticated analytics-based functionality. Real-time analytics are at the core of personalised user experiences in ecommerce platforms. Analytics are behind the sophisticated business insights at the core of modern enterprise applications. Analytics drive the machine learning important for AI enabled applications. And analytics power the new semantic interfaces and chatbots that are re-shaping how users interact with software.
Data centres need to be able to manage these analytics on the scale of traditional high performance computing applications. Scale-out, all-flash storage has been a key enabler to delivering analytics performance at scale. Emerging technologies based on low-latency NVMe networking and advanced solid-state memory designs promise to enable even greater levels of infrastructure performance than available today.
As product, DevOps, IT, and finance teams chart out data centre strategies to support cloud scale software applications, they must navigate an increasingly complex ecosystem of technologies, service providers, and architectural paradigms. The next generation of technology and service providers will need to help reconstruct the data centre technology stack to support the needs of modern, cloud software.
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