Adapting to tomorrow: Data centres and the art of scalability

By Maredi Thema, CEO and founder, Maredi Technologies

Johannesburg, 06 Sep 2023
By modernising their data centres, IT teams can scale quickly.
By modernising their data centres, IT teams can scale quickly.

IT and application architectures have transformed in the past decade as cloud, big data and mobile computing have disrupted business processes and applications. Cloud computing offers a particularly attractive value proposition: It gives organisations of all sizes the ability to leverage IT resources as needed. And in this new digital era, anytime, anywhere customer services must be assured.

The number of mobile users has significantly increased, and the proliferation of smart equipment has also seen a significant rise. Devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, to gaming consoles and wearables, are used to capture valuable consumer data today. Companies need to attain, process and promptly analyse this data to keep up with the marketing trends and competition. 

This necessitates a drastic reduction in the mandate for faster deployment of data centres. Agile data centres are leveraged to assimilate information at a faster rate, addressing the prioritisation of speed and services. This helps companies create custom data centre stacks, with both hardware and software, at their own pace, using their existing investments.

By modernising their data centres, IT teams can scale quickly, easily meet the ever-changing needs of their business, and partner with key stakeholders within their organisation to deliver applications and products faster, enhance their competitive advantage, and consistently maintain exceptional customer service standards. Scalability and growth have become critical factors in the modern business realm. 

Data centres have become an integral part of an organisation’s scheme of things, as competition intensifies. As the data volume expands, there has been a corresponding surge in the need for data centres worldwide. To keep up with the emerging data and modernisation demands, it is imperative for organisations to stay updated on the latest advancements happening around data centres.

Data centres need to be agile and flexible enough to accommodate the ongoing innovation and evolution of technology. Most notably is the fact that today’s data centre no longer just serves what’s located on-premises. It also has to be able to interconnect with users and devices that are dispersed in the cloud and across large distances. In addition, it has to be scalable and able to juggle all of those expectations efficiently. 

While it all sounds highly complex, a vital feature of a modern data centre is its ease of management throughout. Furthermore, when you inevitably have to expand and make the necessary upgrades to your infrastructure, it has to be quick, easy and with minimal disruption to operations. We are now living in an era where the data centre is expected to not only be able to handle more data than ever, but also process it much faster.

Scalability of the data centre in the cloud is the flexibility to construct and expand using simple, repeatable processes and components that can easily adjust to handle increased traffic or new devices without impacting the functioning of business operations, workflows or enterprise applications. Scalability can be achieved in different ways, such as adding more servers, upgrading hardware, using virtualisation, or leveraging cloud services. However, before you decide on how to scale your data centre, you need to define your scalability goals, based on business needs, budget and expected growth.

Data centres are made up of three primary types of components: compute, storage and network. However, these components are only the top of the iceberg in a modern DC. Beneath the surface, support infrastructure is essential to meeting the service level agreements of an enterprise data centre. It involves prioritising energy-efficiency, utilising renewable energy, conserving water and reducing waste.

Future-ready data centres focus on sustainability, meaning using efficient ways to save energy. For example, using solar panels to deliver the energy needed for the data centre can be highly effective for sustainability; however, it needs to be practical. 

It’s all about energy, environment, speed and simplicity

Simply put, a sustainable data centre is one that minimises its environmental impact, while still providing reliable and secure data processing and storage services. It involves prioritising energy efficiency, utilising renewable energy, conserving water and reducing waste.

According to a number of surveys, 99% of enterprise data centre operators say prefabricated, modular data centre designs will be a part of their future data centre strategy. That’s more than a trend; it’s the new normal. 

Experts anticipate a continuing shift in the same direction among hyperscalers as they seek the speed and efficiencies standardisation delivers. You can improve the scalability of your data centre by using pre-designed modular equipment instead of building servers from scratch. Such designs will make it easier to change faulty hardware; it can also become straightforward to detect faults. Data centres support many of the digital innovations being used to fight climate change, but data centres also may require their own innovation-driven transformation.

Data centre networks need to match the needs of increased bandwidth consumption and move data easily between data centres so that it can be accessed from almost any place. To meet these networking needs, companies must not limit the speed of innovation. As the complexity and scale of networks grow, companies can no longer view performance, availability, or the ability to innovate within silos of responsibility. There has to be a holistic evaluation of both software and hardware.

Here are some of a few design considerations providers of data centre providers have to embrace to meet the requirements of agility and future-proof their business:

  • Automation, analytics and telemetry: Companies with limited talent and resources must do more with less. Telemetry and analytics are vital in providing improved visibility into network security and performance, offering actionable insights derived from improved visibility, and enabling automation that ensures network health and prevents performance degradation.
  • Latency: Data centres should have lower latency.
  • Programmability: Programmable data planes for network switches have become vital, with the need to become more agile.
  • Improved efficiency and power: Data centres can support superior bandwidth while reducing their environmental impact and carbon footprint with greater power efficiency.
  • Multi-sourcing strategy for networking: Multiple supply chains can eventually lead to improved products, faster innovation and lower expenses.

Data centres play a crucial role in supporting modern businesses across various industries. As big data applications and digital transformation continue to reshape the business landscape, organisations need to prioritise the development of agile and future-ready data centres.

Future-proofing data centres through sustained improvement in performance and efficiencies is essential, considering the criticality of data centre services and the ever-evolving technology landscape. By continually emphasising processes and initiatives that enhance agility and resilience, organisations can stay ahead of the rapid changes in the industry.

A well-designed and optimised data centre provides core support for various aspects of computation, network connectivity and data storage. It serves as a powerhouse for running critical business operations and enables organisations to harness the full potential of their data. As businesses increasingly rely on data-driven decision-making, having a robust and future-ready data centre infrastructure becomes a strategic advantage.

With the growth in network usage, a data centre has to scale to accommodate the increased network traffic with visibility of what is going on without compromising sustainability, manageability and scalability. Companies are gradually moving beyond monolithic applications and adopting an agile IT approach for deploying applications in smaller steps to respond to rapidly-evolving requirements. The modern application design favours virtualised workloads, like virtual machines and containers, when supporting rapid capacity shifts over time on a smaller set of physical servers. Traditional hierarchical data centre network designs are not adequately suited to support such applications.


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