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The changing data centre blueprint

Power management, security measures pivotal moving forward, says senior Cisco exec

May 1, 2007  

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Hardware consolidation, high-speed structured cabling, improved power management and cooling approaches, virtualization and advanced security techniques will form the cornerstone of a new and improved data centre infrastructure moving forward, says a senior vice president with Cisco Systems Inc.

Jayshree Ullal, head of Cisco’s data centre, switching and security technology group, made the comments in April at the company’s Networkers Solutions Forum 2007 held in Toronto.

When asked how easy or difficult it will be to implement these and other advances, she said that while there is a lot of new technology coming “down the pipe,” the good news is for the most part, it will rely on structured cabling that has already been installed.

“It’s not like you have to rip out your fiber optics or Cat 5 or Cat 6 cable,” said Ullal, who was nominated one of the 20 powerful Women to Watch in 2001 by Newsweek magazine. “You can keep it and maintain it. The change to the cabling infrastructure is minimal.”

The same cannot be said for the power equipment requirements in the data centre space moving forward. Mark Weiner, director of market management for data centre solutions at Cisco, pointed out in his blog recently that power and cooling are top concerns for data centre architects and many CIOs today.

“Simple data points show that power consumption by servers in data centers has doubled from 2003 (5.6 million) to 2005 (10.3 million),” he said. “The power needed for these servers and associated infrastructure would require 5 power plants at 1000 megawatts output each to support this load.”

“Certainly servers are the primary culprit for data centre power consumption and a major area for vendor focus in power reduction. What is not as clear to many data centre, storage and network IT professionals is that nearly all aspects of data centre infrastructure can be optimized for power consumption, as well as lower resulting TCO.”

Organizations today, says Ullal, need to pay far more attention to power consumption issues than they have in the past, a point brought out by Gartner Inc. in a report released late last year (see CNS, Jan./Feb. 2007, p. 16).

In it, the research firm said that during the past 12 months, there has been a significant increase in the deployment of high-density servers, which is leading to significant problems in power and cooling for data centres.

Another supreme challenge is how best to protect the data in a data centre. According to Ullal, the free exchange of applications across multiple networks can open the door to potential abuses if the proper safeguards are not engineered into the network foundation.

“The real issue is that the types of threats are changing,” she says. “Increasingly, your devices and applications are more susceptible to attack. Everything is linked.”

Ullal wrote recently that controlling access to a corporate network has become a much more far re-reaching and in-depth endeavor: “Protection built direct into network elements, which can interact with one another in the context of a policy-based framework transparent to all applications, will form a self-defending network of the future. This adaptive network will respond to security events as they take place rather later when an organization may have already suffered damage.”