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Decade old Data Centers

Most data centers are now hitting their teens when it comes to age.  How do I know this?  I used to work for Exodus, The Data Center Company back at the turn of the century (actually wearing an old EXDS t-shirt as I write this.)  The ‘heyday’ of the Co-Location.    ‘Daddy, what was the datacenter like when you were a kid?’  Well, we’d find a somewhat remote location and build these massive non-descript buildings, some more that 200,000 sq.ft. all over the world.  The walls were Kevlar lined.  We had multiple internet carriers dropping fiber at all sides of the building along with power from distinct sub-stations.  

exodusvig There were multiple, huge CAT power generators that would kick in to keep the place running during a outage – even had contracts with fuel vendors to replenish the diesel for non-stop service.  We had racks and racks of DL380’s & Sun Sparcs humming throughout the facility, along with the F5 logo lit up in various cages handling load balancing.  The temperature was a constant 72 degrees, with low humidity to keep all that equipment cool.  We had special triggers for the fire spouts, biometric pods (that checked hand print, pulse & weight) to enter the facility, raised floors, guards 24/7, NOC engineers 24/7, off-site tape storage, cameras all over and used to deliver many of the top visited websites.  As many of you know, Exodus collapsed during the dot bomb and the assets were picked up by Savvis, after a brief stint as a Cable & Wireless company.  Many former colleagues still work there and I have a fond memories of that time – plus I learned a ton.  Heck, Disaster Recovery was a huge topic back then!

Today’s data center needs have changed as the requirements have over the last decade.  While Co-Lo and hosting is still big business the data center itself is going through some transition.  Power and cooling that were perfect for the type of equipment being used back then, is no longer sufficient.  While servers have gotten more efficient, they’ve also become more powerful, capable of running multiple virtual instances on a single unit.  Remember when we used to try to put the web server and a database partition on the same server?  Cost/ROI/TCO is much more important now when discussing the data center footprint.  Today Enterprises can choose between housing their own, using a pure hoster/co-lo along with the newly emerging Cloud Centers – or more likely, a mix.  Each has their plus’/minus’ but you can basically go from a fixed price/CapEx/owned facility to a variable pricing/Opex lease.  Some choices are made for SLA’s while others for time to market.  The data center is changing with fewer sites but a more energy efficient, modular design that focuses on consolidation and virtualization that scale.  There are even data center containers being offered by the likes of Sun, IBM and HP.  These ‘pods’ are like those storage units that sit in someone’s driveway except it’s ready to house IT infrastructure.

One of the biggest challenges is the management and administration of the data center.  During my time at Exodus, each server was pretty much a single instance and administration was 1 admin:some servers.  Even though consolidation is happening, now with virtual machines, each of those ‘some servers’ now have 5-8 instances on them.  Admins can face the task of managing more servers (virtual add) than ever before.

Of course, security is a concern in the old white label facilities where walking out with someone’s gear is a great fear.  The newer buildings are becoming even more isolated with lights-out management and no office space.  At Exodus, we used to all have our desks just on the other side of the data center & even had a conference meeting room in the data center.  Ahhh, those were the days.  Network security is also becoming even more important as these facilities tie back to corporate assets, users and a whole host of sensitive information.  Even storage and backup, which used to be done via DAS, SAN or NAS might now be sent over a private cloud or even the public networks.  There’s also the basic security worry of putting critical data in the cloud especially if it is bound by regulatory compliance.   Disaster Recovery is even more critical as more content, tools and systems get pushed to the web.  And lastly, Fast, Available and Secure is always a concern when placing any application on the internet no matter where they reside.

ps

#4 out of 26 Short Topics about Security

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More Stories By Peter Silva

Peter is an F5 evangelist for security, IoT, mobile and core. His background in theatre brings the slightly theatrical and fairly technical together to cover training, writing, speaking, along with overall product evangelism for F5. He's also produced over 350 videos and recorded over 50 audio whitepapers. After working in Professional Theatre for 10 years, Peter decided to change careers. Starting out with a small VAR selling Netopia routers and the Instant Internet box, he soon became one of the first six Internet Specialists for AT&T managing customers on the original ATT WorldNet network.

Now having his Telco background he moved to Verio to focus on access, IP security along with web hosting. After losing a deal to Exodus Communications (now Savvis) for technical reasons, the customer still wanted Peter as their local SE contact so Exodus made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. As only the third person hired in the Midwest, he helped Exodus grow from an executive suite to two enormous datacenters in the Chicago land area working with such customers as Ticketmaster, Rolling Stone, uBid, Orbitz, Best Buy and others.

Writer, speaker and Video Host, he's also been in such plays as The Glass Menagerie, All’s Well That Ends Well, Cinderella and others.

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