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Issue of January 2006 

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The changing look of  tomorrow’s data centre

Companies must evolve their data centre architectures to meet the business demands of the future, writes Rakesh Singh

Enterprises today compete in a highly dynamic environment. They must boost user productivity, encourage cost-efficient collaboration, and streamline existing business processes by extending their applications to employees, partners, suppliers and customers. They are leveraging Internet infrastructure to deliver remote application access because of the enormous cost-cutting potential of using public networks.

Today, Internet-based applications change everything about business. They enable direct user access to information resources in place of the earlier dependence on intermediaries. The benefits of Internet applications are clear.

Enterprises, when installing infrastructure to support these requirements, are beginning to look at broader networking capabilities. They must ensure that their applications and data are delivered with the desired end-user performance and still maintain the highest level of protection.

Key requirements include a secure networking environment with high-performance delivery of business-critical applications and data with minimal administration and cost. This requires a serious look at the data centre infrastructure and ways in which it should evolve.

Who Deploys The Data Centres?

Let us consider some segments that are using the Internet as a key transacting medium, and their requirements of networking technology.

Driving the need for effective and secure data centres are the traditional enterprise and the ISP. It is imperative that both enterprises and service providers enhance the security and performance of business applications such as e-mail, CRM applications and remote access. Enterprises have increasingly begun to use the Web to deliver business-critical applications and data. This requires a secure data-sharing environment where users have quick and continuous access to business applications and data.

One of the most important segments today is the BPO practice. BPOs are growing rapidly in India in terms of both size and sophistication. With India gaining importance as a global BPO hub, it is necessary to have access to business-critical information effortlessly and continuously.

Another is the banking and financial segment, whose trade and transactions over the Web have to be secure and instant. This is an absolute requirement, with online transactions in banking and finance fast gaining importance.

Then there are universities and educational institutions. The potential of deploying the Web for various processes is immense—registrations, result and score sheets, personal data of students, and research information, all of which are sensitive and confidential. It is therefore necessary to secure the transacting environment while still ensuring a quick and easy response.

The government is a major segment. Various state governments have introduced e-governance projects, attempting to use technology to provide easy access to various schemes and benefits. As a result, the latest, authentic information is accessible. Here too, to ensure the effectiveness and success of these programmes, a secure and easily accessible online environment is necessary.

Yet another segment is the online reservation process, not only for travel but more significantly for events, games, music shows, plays and concerts. The seamless implementation and increased practice of buying tickets online should eliminate time-consuming queues. This practice too warrants a secure networking environment as confidentiality of details (like credit cards) need to be ensured while responding to customer requests.

Data Centre Components

After analysing the networking needs of the data centres of each segment, we can conclude that the three key components are:

  • Tamper-proof security.
  • Seamless accessibility of business applications and data.
  • Reduced network management complexity and cost.

What organisations need is an effective solution that helps them meet the overwhelming demand for cost-effective, continuous, secure delivery of business-critical applications over the Internet. They must deploy a single, unified solution, replacing the medley of point products used.

The networking solution should offer the following essential elements to meet this challenge:

  • 100 percent secure delivery of all application requests
  • Continuous application availability in the face of attacks and legitimate surges
  • Significant reduction in cost of operations.

All this has to be done while maintaining end-user responsiveness.

Service Delivery Standards

The application delivery system must enable enterprises, e-commerce vendors and service providers to optimise their networks for the continuous, secure delivery of all business-critical applications. It should overcome the inefficiencies of existing infrastructure products and Internet protocols, and offer application protection enabling secure delivery without compromise.

The system must provide employees, partners and customers access to applications and content anytime, anywhere. The system should require no additional client or server software, allowing remote users to gain access from any browser. Whether at home or on the road, both via wireless LAN and from behind the firewall of another company, remote users have secure and instant access to business- critical applications and the content they need.

The system must ensure that all application content can be secured end-to-end without degradation in end-user responsiveness.

By boosting the efficiency of existing site assets, the application delivery system must reduce the number of servers and software licences required to serve the same application to the existing user base and eliminate the need for point products such as SSL accelerators, TCP offload devices or DoS attack protection systems. With this kind of ideal system in place, excess servers can be redeployed or eliminated altogether. In addition, network capacity can be expanded by making more efficient use of connections and also by compressing data.

The application delivery system must significantly reduce bandwidth costs and serve more data through the same network. Furthermore, central web logging considerably streamlines the indispensable Web traffic log collection for demographic analysis by eliminating file transfer and sort-merge steps in the process.

Essential performance functionality must be carefully woven into an integrated platform to ensure that protection and security can be provided at wire speed while enhancing the end-user experience.

Application Availability Concerns

Plans to deliver business-critical applications over the Internet should not be derailed by concerns over application availability, security, cost of operations, or poor performance. The new breed of network infrastructure systems should combine the essential elements of application protection, security and optimisation with robust traffic management functionality.

The result is that for the first time ever, enterprises, e-commerce vendors and service providers can enable continuous secure delivery of business-critical applications without any compromise, simultaneously reduce ongoing operational and bandwidth costs, and simplify network management.

Success Stories
Here's an account of how ShopNBC and Ticketmaster upgraded their data centres and derived better business value.

For ShopNBC, the challenges were to improve customer performance, increase infrastructure reliability, and improve security. As a solution the company decided to perform SSL acceleration, TCP offload, compression, DDoS, and consolidate logging.

For Ticketmaster, the challenge was that it was not able to scale servers to meet ongoing demand for USA-wide box office openings. There were many lost transactions as a result of this. As a solution the company decided to perform TCP offload, Layer 7 switching, and DDoS protection.

The results were:

  • ROI in around nine months
  • Improved application performance—consistent 47 percent compression
  • Reduced server load by over 33 percent
  • Lower TCO—reduced multiple WebTrends and SSL licences to one.

The author is General Manager,
Asia Operations,
Application Networking Group,
Citrix Systems

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