For large enterprises and global service providers that have for decades been locked into rigid, expensive single-vendor data center infrastructure, the prospect of disaggregation is extremely appealing.
By separating hardware from software and deploying more modular units that can be mixed and matched, organizations can take advantage of the low cost and flexibility of commodity components while deploying innovative, multi-vendor solutions architected to deliver exacting outcomes.
It is no longer necessary to buy single-vendor packaged solutions for the sake of integration and maintenance. Organizations, striving to be more innovative and agile, are increasingly sourcing software, server, storage and networking resources in this mix-and-match fashion; and relying on APIs, common OSes and standard platforms, such as x86 server architecture, to make everything fit together.
Addressing data center disaggregation challenges
But disaggregation — as alluring as it may be — is easier said than done, as I recently discussed during Schneider Electric’s latest Executive Insights with Kevin Brown episode. As hardware and software are pulled apart, solutions still need to be integrated in such a way that is time and cost effective. Not only that, they need to work as intended upon deployment.
It’s challenging work. In my nearly 40 years in the industry and as vice president of business development at World Wide Technology, I’ve seen the disaggregation process create unanticipated consequences. Companies are finding that due to staff shortages and skills gaps, re-assembling these commodity components into a seamless solution is becoming increasingly complex, time-consuming and difficult.
Going back to an expensive, proprietary single-vendor solution is certainly not the answer — there is simply too much value created by utilizing the best-of-breed approach.
But for organizations used to depending on vertically integrated platforms or solutions, the task is daunting.
Piece the puzzle together
To simplify this process, enterprises and colocation service providers can partner with a company skilled in integrating those commodity data center components.
A multi-vendor strategy is only as good as the breadth and depth of your vendor ecosystem. It is therefore important to not only access an ecosystem of partners to navigate through the disaggregation maze, but to have a partner that can make sense of it all.
World Wide Technology has had the opportunity to guide organizations through the entire data center disaggregation and re-integration process thanks to its expertise in data center modernization best practices, as well as its ecosystem of OEM partners (including Schneider Electric), which gives us unique access to emerging and best-of-breed technologies. Based on our experience, we can recommend important factors to consider when moving forward on a data center disaggregation project.
Four steps for a solid disaggregation plan and evaluating a partner
Here are the some of the key steps organizations should take into account when approaching a disaggregation project, along with the associated capabilities of a potential partner.
Step 1: Design and validate
Designing and validating your infrastructure plans prior to making any purchases is essential because it enables the sourcing of hardware and software in a disaggregated, commoditized and cost-saving manner. Organizations should rely on partners who have proven reference designs and architectures that include core automation and virtualization technology along with monitoring software to reduce risk and significantly accelerate time to market.
Don’t overlook the need to have a critical space within your facility or a partners’ facility to effectively manage component integration and testing. At WWT, we leverage our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) — a “virtual sandbox” to experiment and test different configurations to see what will work for your own organization’s technology needs.
Step 2: Configure and test
Once a multi-vendor solution is validated, scaling becomes the biggest obstacle. Whether solutions are being deployed once or by the thousands, consistency and quality remain paramount to adoption and future success, which places an emphasis on a global supply chain and centralized integration.
Again, having the right facilities is important in order to source, stage, integrate and test the solution to make sure it functions as intended in a real-world setting.
Virtualized and disaggregated solutions demand a lot of moving parts, so any partner you choose must be intimately familiar with the unique needs of your supply chain in order to improve predictability and availability of parts, thus accelerating time to market.
WWT’s supply chain, with thousands of technology partners, includes more than 4 million square feet of logistics and integration space spread strategically over three continents and has the capacity to configure tens of thousands of systems per week.
Step 3: Deploy
With the solution built, validated and ready to go, there’s no point in taking those components apart — not only would this waste time, it would risk the integrity of the solution and place undue pressure on your team to aggregate it all back together again.
To truly enable scale, an effective partner should be able to configure complete racks, crate them up and ship them as an integrated, pre-tested solution.
This is precisely the process WWT uses to deliver integrated solutions, including custom crating, to our customers when and where they need them — in many cases, simply open the box, bolt the rack to the floor and plug it in.
Step 4: Operate and manage
Technology is changing more rapidly than ever and the pace of change is only accelerating. Deployment is just half the battle. Any partner you utilize should be able to help post-deployment with continuous monitoring and management of the solution, remediation of issues if they should arise and support to optimize the solution moving forward.
In today’s “everything-as-a-service” world, companies are getting more comfortable with the idea of outsourcing remote monitoring and management, and strategic staffing. Rooted in best practices, industry standards and decades of delivery experience, WWT has built a Managed Services Platform to help customers best leverage new and emerging technologies.
An evolving distributed IT ecosystem
As the data center continues to become more disaggregated, the data center itself is also becoming part of a larger distributed ecosystem that includes cloud resources and edge computing.
Emerging technologies like 5G are creating a requirement for companies to build out a series of micro data centers at the edge of the mobile network in order to more quickly and efficiently process data closer to the source. Companies should look for a partner that can leverage its expertise and partner ecosystem to help organizations design, test, deploy and manage this distributed network of edge data centers.
Watch Executive Insights Conversation on Data Center Modernization
Most organizations — no matter their size — need help accelerating integration and adoption of these multi-vendor solutions to maximize ROI. WWT combines our technical expertise in the Advanced Technology Center with our supply chain prowess around the globe to rapidly validate these complex IT solutions and then deploy them at scale.
We call it our Next-Generation Factory, which helps organizations move from innovation to validation and deployment faster than ever before by delivering validated, fully configured multi-vendor racks that enable customers from all parts of the economy to more rapidly consume technology and use it to deliver best-in-class experiences for their end customers.
To learn more about WWT’s Next-Generation Factory approach to data center modernization, tune into the latest episode of Executive Insights where I speak with Kevin Brown, Senior Vice President, EcoStruxure Solutions and Chief Marketing Officer of Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric.
About the Author
As Vice President of Corporate Business Development & Marketing, Bob Olwig has company-wide responsibility for driving World Wide Technology’s strategic initiatives, global marketing, business development and global alliances. Bob joined WWT in 1996, and from 1999 to 2002, Bob served as CTO for Telcobuy.com. Bob has more than 35 years of experience in the information technology industry, including various technical, marketing, sales and sales management responsibilities at McDonnell Douglas Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation and Novell. Bob holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Saint Louis University. Bob serves as Board President of St. Patrick Center, an organization driving to eliminate homelessness in St. Louis, MO.