What does the Cloud really mean?

Tristan Gwinnell, Cloud Solutions EMEA, Avnet, takes a look at what cloud really means

 

TristanThe term cloud means different things to different people. For consumers the cloud might be where they store their music and photographs. For others it might be Google Apps or Office365. If you’re a business user it could be a cloud-hosted application. If you run a datacentre it could be a way of optimising hardware. The list goes on.

All of these are types of cloud – essentially a means of providing computer hardware and software via the internet. In ‘technology years’ the cloud has been around for a long time. Salesforce launched in the 1990s with a mission to end software. Recently the technology has come in to its own and there has been a rapid increase in the types and number of cloud services and suppliers.

Read More…

Posted under Cloud Computing, IT infrastructure, IT Software

This post was written by on July 13, 2016

Tags: , , , , ,

The Software-Defined Data Centre Explained: Part I of II

Steve Phillips, CIO, Avnet Inc.

The traditional data centre is being challenged harder than ever to keep up with the pace of change in business and technology.

Three recent megatrends—the growth of data and data analytics, the rise of cloud computing and the increasing criticality of technology to the operations of many businesses—have shown that legacy infrastructures are too inflexible, too inefficient and too expensive for a growing number of businesses.

In this first of two posts on this topic, we’ll briefly recap the evolution of the data centre to this point, examining where and why current architectures are falling short of many businesses’ needs.

THE TRADITIONAL HARDWARE-CENTRIC MODEL

From the beginning, data centres have been built around a hardware-centric model of expansion. Years ago, if your company wanted to launch a new application, the IT team would purchase and provision dedicated servers to handle the computing duties, pairing them with a dedicated storage unit to manage the application database and backup needs.

In order to ensure that the platform could handle surges in demand, IT would provision enough computing power and storage to meet the ‘high water mark’ of each application’s forecast demand.  As a result, many servers and storage spent most of the time running at a fraction of capacity—as little as 8% according to a 2008 McKinsey study.

To make matters worse, these server and storage pairs used a dedicated high capacity network backbone that kept each platform in its own distinct silos. As a result, data centres were overbuilt by design, overly expensive, and slow to adapt to the changing needs of the business.

 

THE VIRTUALIZED DATA CENTRE

The adoption of server and storage virtualization technologies into the enterprise about 10 years ago addressed some of these issues by allowing one server or storage array to do the job of many.

Provisioning a portion of a server or storage unit for a new application was faster and less expensive than buying new hardware, and it went some way to reduce the issue of underutilisation…but not far enough. According to a Gartner report, utilisation rates only grew to 12% by 2012.

 

However, increased computing densities allowed the data centre to provide significantly more computing horsepower to the business, without the need to expand the centre’s square footage in the process.

THE DATA CENTRE’S PERFECT STORM

But over the last five years, data centers have been buffeted by three megatrends that have pushed current virtualization technologies to their limits:

  1. The exponential growth of data and the rise of data analytics has exceeded the most aggressive scenarios for many storage and networking infrastructures.
  2. The adoption of cloud computing and the “hybrid cloud” model, where the company data centre shares computing and storage responsibilities with third-party cloud vendors in remote locations.
  3. Lastly, the increasing reliance of many businesses on always-on technology requires the IT team to provision and scale IT resources rapidly to accommodate new initiatives and business opportunities.

Cloud computing as a whole has also increased the rate of innovation and the expectations of the business, leaving IT teams and their data centres working hard to keep up.

One solution to this paradigm is the software-defined data centre, or SDDC: A new architecture that allows IT to deliver applications and network capacity with speed, agility and an eye on the bottom line.

 THE SOFTWARE-DEFINED DATA CENTRE

In a software-defined data centre (SDDC) the focus on hardware-related silos is removed. All the essential elements of a computing platform—computing, storage, networking and even security—are pooled, virtualized and implemented through a common set of application programming interfaces, or APIs.

 With all of the data centre’s hardware resources pooled together, the computing, storage, networking and security needs of the business can be monitored and provisioned much more rapidly.

Applications experiencing a surge in demand can have more computing power allocated in an instant. New applications can be provisioned just as quickly, speeding deployment and time-to-value. Data-rich analytics reports and backup routines receive the bandwidth they need, only when they need it.

It’s a compelling vision, but is it real?

We’ll answer that question in part two, predicting how soon SDDC’s may become a reality, what obstacles are holding it back today, and identity a few of the vendors to watch out for as SDDC gains traction in the marketplace.

Posted under Storage, Virtualisation

Now is the time to consolidate corporate data

Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Now is the time to consolidate corporate data says Miriam Murphy, senior vice president, enterprise business group at Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA.

As data volumes surge, Miriam believes organisations need to implement a centralised data management system to handle the information economy.

Today’s C-level executives are working hard to deal with the challenges of new trends such as BYOD, Mobile Device Management (MDM) and cloud computing causing an explosion of data. According to IDC, the big data market will reach €11.8bn ($16.1bn) this year. To harness the power of big data, I believe companies need to consider enterprise-wide consolidation to address business demands, including cost efficiency, increasing productivity, security and flexibility. These market needs will lead to the transformation of the data centre which is something partners and resellers need to be aware of so they don’t miss out on growth opportunities.

The consumerisation of IT, increasing numbers of users, more devices and increased mobility are affecting the way companies approach their data centre strategies, with the increasing volume of corporate data pushing the storage environment to a new level. During Q3 2013 the storage market generated 101% more storage capacity than the same quarter in 2012. This ever-increasing capacity of corporate data amount of data needs to be backed up and securely stored, so that it is easily accessible to employees. Because of these trends, companies are searching for storage solutions to meet real life business demands – it’s not simply “one size fits all”. According to Gartner, the importance, role and functionality of the data centre is set to change over the next five years. The questions we as a global value added distributor are asking are: which storage solution will be able to cope with both current and future storage demands? As data volume is only going to grow, which solution can most effectively solve key business demands?

Today, IT departments are being asked to do more with less, increasing availability and responsiveness while cutting costs. However, according to recent research from KPMG, 42% of executives admit that integrating data technology into existing systems and/or business models is their greatest challenge. On speaking with our partners and end customers, it seems that by consolidating data into one centralised database, you are assured a holistic view of global information, which is manageable from a single location. In addition, with so much information being accessed from numerous geographies, it’s ineffectual for data to be shared and duplicated across multiple databases. With one, centralised system, no redundancy is allowed; there is one place to add, update and remove data, maintaining data integrity and assuring simplified data administration.

By centralising corporate data, productivity can be improved and training is a much quicker and simpler practice. With all processes in the same place and format, users have just one system to understand, which saves time on training and improves efficiency in retrieving data. There’s also no time wasted waiting for synchronisation across different geographies and instant changes can be made to information which lowers occurrences of data duplication and inaccuracies.

Indeed, the data centre is the central point of an IT infrastructure, the place where all sensitive, confidential information is gathered. Therefore, it’s a place where security solutions need to be extremely efficient. By approaching data management with a single corporate database, not only are updates synced but so are all security measures, from one central location. By employing a preventive approach and only giving certain staff authorised access to update security measures, businesses can reduce the chance of successful hacking attacks.

Market and industry trends are changing the world of work, driving companies to not just improve but to transform their approach to business processes and data centre management. I believe that by implementing a centralised data system, companies will be able to address the need to store increasingly large volumes of corporate data, while meeting business needs such as increased productivity and reduced costs. Partners and resellers need to start educating end users about preparing now for the continuous surge in data volumes by putting an effective, reliable and flexible management strategy in place.

Posted under IT infrastructure

Managing the IT estate has never been so important

IT Estate Management expert specialist

Simon Ellis, Director Estate Management Solutions and Services EMEA

Following Avnet Technology Solutions acquisition of Mattelli during the summer, we caught up with Simon Ellis to understand the Estate Management solutions that form a cornerstone of Avnet’s comprehensive services portfolio.

Today’s CIO is under attack. Business demands new offerings and improved service levels but all within a reduced budget. Now, more than ever, organisations have to maximise the value of existing IT investments. When new investment is called for, a clear understanding of the entire IT landscape and return on investment (ROI) is an absolute requirement. Add to that, the question of compliance and regulation and it’s no wonder the CIO and IT managers are under so much pressure.

Understanding how to ‘sweat the assets’ is increasingly difficult to do in a mixed hardware and software estate. Various commercial agreements and deployment measures, different replacement lifecycles and a variety of deployment and commercial opportunities add to the complexity.

At Avnet we believe in complete lifecycle estate management, supporting our channels partners and end customers from ‘cradle to grave’ with their IT estates. Avnet’s solution allows IT managers to begin with today’s pain points whether that’s coming from a commercial or a deployment focal point.

Estate Management services offer Avnet’s channel new incremental opportunities and revenue streams by building closer and deeper relationships with their existing customer base while also offering new services to the market to gain new clients.

So, what is Estate Management?

Estate Management allows IT and business managers to manage all aspects of their IT estate: from contracts, renewals, compliance, deployment and staff through to future purchasing. Making critical data readily available in this way means IT managers can easily spot potential opportunities for savings, consolidation and optimisation. More importantly, end of life products and those ‘out of support’ are identified and therefore more easily actioned. Not having good visibility of IT hardware and software that’s no longer supported by the vendor can be a substantial risk to the business.

Overall, effective estate management solutions puts information directly into the hands of the IT managers to allow them to make smarter, more informed decisions to meet tight budgets.

What are the key benefits?

From specific project needs through to complete management of an IT estate, Estate Management solutions available today can cover a range of areas which can be used in isolation or together to form a comprehensive overview of a company’s IT infrastructure.

These benefits include:

Contracts and renewals

  • Contracts and renewals are assets to an organisation. They define the ‘rights to use and consume’ products and services from vendors and resellers. By enabling proactive management of contracts and renewals applicable to your estate you can improve commercial management and identify new opportunities.

Discovery and estate baseline

  • Identifying what hardware and software is deployed in an estate is critical to defining your ‘as-is’ position and provides detailed knowledge to optimise the estate for the future. Managing your estate correctly requires a solid baseline from which the user can understand, govern and assess changes, new deployments and opportunities as they arise.

Common language and visualisation

  • Bring a common language to all your assets enabling you to ask questions such as: ‘show me all databases,’ ‘show me all servers,’ ‘show me all virtualization’ in your estate. Visualise where assets are located and how they relate to each other which allows deeper insight into your estate.

Modelling

  • Managing an estate also means planning for the future, looking how existing estates can be transformed, scaled up, removed from and augmented. Implementing an effective estate management solution can help the user to model changes in the estate and to look at the commercial impact.

Opportunity identification

  • Analysis of contract and discovered estate uncovers areas of opportunity and pin-points issues. This can help to highlight product and service cross sell and upsell where applicable.

What does this have to do with the channel?

Customer spend is getting tighter, the mantra ‘to do more with less’ applies to CIOs, IT managers and also to channel partners who manage their customer estates today.

Estate Management solutions provide the channel with new opportunities for incremental revenue from their existing customers by providing tools to gain deeper insight into existing customer estates, helping to identify new service opportunities thus enabling the channel to offer improved services and value to their customer base.

Posted under Estate Management, IT infrastructure

The trends and technologies of today’s storage market

 

IT Storage specialist

Carl Berry, Business Unit Director, Open Storage, Avnet Technology Solutions UK

Intelligent data storage is an integral part of a successful business; important aspects of data storage, such as where and how data is stored, need to be taken into consideration. Recently, the storage market has experienced a rather significant transformation. It is evident that the unmistakable sudden increase in unstructured data is predominantly driven by the explosion of mobile computing in recent years; the prevalence of social media, for example, has proven to be challenging in terms of storage.

The forefront of today’s storage market

At the moment I can identify three major trends which are clearly dominant in storage solutions – pre-validated data centre platforms, flash storage arrays and big data.

  • Data centre platform: First of all, let’s look at pre-validated data centre platforms and the opportunities they present. The most important aspect of any storage solution is how easy and efficient it is to use – channel partners must make sure that they present adaptable, effective solutions that incorporate storage components into a single, flexible architecture. This offers business partners a solution with both augmented efficiencies and reduced risk. Data centre platforms with pre-validated reference architectures which include server, storage, networking and hypervisor offer extensive opportunities for professional services.
  • Flash storage arrays: The popularity of flash storage is continuing to increase in the market. Data obviously needs protecting, but at the same time, performance needs to be maximised and restrictions need to be removed. The need for this has paved the way for technology which allows performance with scale in front of existing storage architecture whilst optimising connections. So as you can see, flash storage arrays offer a great opportunity for the channel; this is an area that I think business partners really need to come to terms with and make the most of.
  • Big data: As a storage solution, big data is not just about offering volume. It ultimately allows companies to engage with customers on a more personal level, which is obviously advantageous to the company itself, its customers and to channel partners. What’s more, big data allows businesses to benefit from the simple, straightforward retrieval and use of stored information.

Making the most of opportunities

The recent impressive increase in data in the mid-market continues to improve revenue opportunities in the storage sector, such as the need for cloud-based application delivery and business analytics. Nowadays data storage solutions do not just play an important role for specialists – there is a much greater assortment of capabilities and comprehension levels from more and more channel partners. Not only this, but it has become increasingly clear that it is business requirements rather than technology lifecycles that drive storage solution sales.

Despite this, it’s important to realise that although there are now greater revenue prospects for business partners, specific training and skills are required to make the most of these new opportunities. Working with an experienced partner in this field can mean partners can get the training that’s right for them and that’s tailored to the storage market. This is essential in helping business partners to get to grips with the basics of data storage and the appropriate jargon that undeniably comes with it. Without a certain level of knowledge and training, new prospects will be missed and business partners will miss out on beneficial opportunities which could have been advantageous.

Posted under IT infrastructure, Storage