Feeds

The cloud's between your ears, not in your data centre

Adopting hyperscale tech needs disposable servers and the courage to toss them

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Hyperscale data centres are wondrous. Gartner's Sydney IT Operations and Data Centre summit this week heard that the likes of Google and Facebook have a sysdamin:server ratio of around 1:24,000, compared to the 1:500 common in the most efficient and virtualised enterprise bit barns. Hyperscale data centres can run at a power usage efficiency rating of a miserly 1.09. These data centres never stop and hardly ever wobble, thanks to designs that assume hardware will sometimes fail and therefore treat servers with the same reverence the rest of us reserve for empty soft drink cans.

Because hyperscale data centres run so efficiently, Gartner's analysts say they keep being asked if smaller and more mundane bit barns should give themselves a hyperscale makeover.

The subject came up in several sessions and the answer fell into three camps: you might be at hyperscale already, probably not and yes, a bit, if you are willing to change your culture and work practices.

The you might already be at hyperscale camp says technologies brewed in the bowels of cloud-scale operators are filtering down to mainstream users. Analyst Arun Chandrasekaran pointed out that Hadoop is probably Exhibit A for this trend, and that items like virtual SANs would probably not be on the agenda had hyperscale operators not decided arrays aren't for them. If you're using this kind of stuff, welcome to hyperscale even if you operate it on a more modest scale.

The probably not argument came from Gartner's Jo Skorupa, who said pointed out that the likes of Google don't do everything in new and exotic ways. “Not even Google is Google-y all the time,” he said. “They run Oracle and employ database administrators and have a back office. They do not operate in just one way for infrastructure and apps.”

So there's no need to rush to hyperscale for everything just because the likes of Google can point to impressive metrics.

Skorupa also says companies like Google “know what they do well, focus on that and outsource the rest.” For Google, running data centres is obviously critical. Outfits like high-frequency traders have an obvious reason to spend millions on technology to shave the occasional millisecond. Both probably spend more than three times on IT than the average organisation.

Making the investment to adopt hyperscale technologies therefore has a price tag lots of ordinary IT shops may never be able to justify.

The yes camp emphasises culture, because adopting hyperscale ideas needs some blue sky thinking.

“People don't innovate like they do at hyperscale because they are punished for failure,” said Gartner veep Cameron Haight, citing Clause 229 of the Code of Hammurabi - If a builder has built a house for a man, and has not made his work sound, and the house he built has fallen, and caused the death of its owner, that builder shall be put to death - as the prevailing mindset for data centre builders.

Innovative companies, he said, have a culture that accepts failure as a consequence of attempts to innovate rapidly. Haight cited this presentation explaining Netflix's culture as an example of how businesses behave when they prepare to work at hyperscale. The document says Netflix encourages “smart risks” and explains myriad ways in which the company gives its workers autonomy, even to the extent of not enforcing a fixed amount of leave. Instead, staff are trusted to take as much leave as they need. Trusting staff to do the right thing means defining processes and insisting people follow them becomes much less important, leaving people to be creative and innovate.

Don't write off the Netflix document as new age management mumbo jumbo. It's unusually sincere and cogent.

DevOps was another topic often mentioned as something hyperscale operators practice, as the dialogs and development style it engenders do make a difference.

Analyst Michael Warrilow also pointed out that getting to “infrastructure as code” sounds simple, but isn't.

“Policy as policy as infrastructure so infrastructure self-adjusts is the way to do it, not just code as infrastructure,” he said.

To mimic hyperscale operators you'll also need to create shared resource pools and buy capacity in anticipation of demand.

That last ploy sounds hard to get past most managers, especially in these times when extra capacity can be had for a pittance, by the hour, from … hyperscale data centre providers. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft
MS chases app deployment speeds already enjoyed by Linux devs
'Hmm, why CAN'T I run a water pipe through that rack of media servers?'
Leaving Las Vegas for Armenia kludging and Dubai dune bashing
'Urika': Cray unveils new 1,500-core big data crunching monster
6TB of DRAM, 38TB of SSD flash and 120TB of disk storage
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
SDI wars: WTF is software defined infrastructure?
This time we play for ALL the marbles
Windows 10: Forget Cloudobile, put Security and Privacy First
But - dammit - It would be insane to say 'don't collect, because NSA'
Oracle hires former SAP exec for cloudy push
'We know Larry said cloud was gibberish, and insane, and idiotic, but...'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.