Just like consumerization of IT, mobility, and containers are having a profound impact on the way that applications are architected, developed, accessed, and business value is created. Web Scale IT Infrastructure will have a profound impact on the way enterprise and cloud provider datacenters are built and run, and how smaller business purchase and consume IT. Web-Scale IT is a way of describing a group of capabilities that allow normal businesses access to some of the same benefits that hyper scale web companies have enjoyed for over a decade. It’s more than just a single technology, and it’s more than just a single implementation of any technology. Web-Scale IT is a system and methodology for designing, deploying and managing infrastructure at any scale. It describes a solution that takes technologies that were incubated and made robust by the hyper scale, web-scale companies (and the consumers using them), and packages it up in a way that is suitable for diverse application requirements, and can fit any scale.
In a nutshell Web Scale IT infrastructure can be defined by the following properties:
- Out of the box scalability, ability to start small (suitable even for SME businesses), pay as you grow without disruption, linear performance
- Hyper-convergence on x86 hardware, integrated compute and storage, linearly scalable networking based on standard ethernet / Internet protocols (Ethernet Always Wins) – PowerPC and SPARC don’t get a look in, highly proprietary hardware architectures are not a fit in this new architecture paradigm
- All intelligence in software – 100% software defined, don’t get software defined confused with hardware appliance packaging, software still needs hardware to run, the packaging allows for better QA, better support, and simpler purchasing and consumption
- Distributed shared nothing architecture with no single point of failure – cluster wide data and services
- Self-healing system, always on, non-disruptively upgradable, fault isolation and distributed recovery, reduce impact of failure, predictably recovery from single and multiple component failure
- API Driven Automation and Rich Analytics – Operations that would traditionally have been done manually are automated and metrics and analytics can be easily visualized and it can all be exposed via API’s, this is partly how these systems are able to scale and how the productivity of IT personnel can be greatly improved
- Run multiple applications with diverse requirements simultaneously
- Choice of industry standard hardware platforms
Some of the additional benefits that aren’t strictly part of the Web Scale IT definition but are critically important IMHO:
The ability to have a known quantity of capacity and performance per unit of growth. This gives you predictability of growth, so you know how much performance or users or whatever metric when you scale. You can incrementally grow and shrink your environment non-disruptively as business needs change. Having a known quantity per unit of growth also makes the whole architecture design process dead simple, less costly, and far less risky. If you make a small miscalculation then the consequences are far less than if you did the same with a legacy architecture, or converged (PO) system. You could do this in previous architecture paradigms by using pod and block design patterns, but usually they were only suitable for very large scale organisations and requirements and didn’t scale down. Now you can start small and have consistency as you grow to any scale.
Commoditization and standardization are key aspects of scalability and they are also key aspects that allow the costs to be kept to a minimum, while maximizing value. Using standards based x86 architecture, and being software defined, allows you to achieve much lower TCO, with lower CAPEX and OPEX expenses. Your expenses start small and grow predictably with demand, rather than purchasing everything up front and having it mostly idle for a few years until demand picks up. I hear all the Cloud and Managed Services Providers out there wanting this, especially as it allows their expenses (capital and operational) to match their revenue and end user demands. It’s so important to have this ability when demand is unpredictable.
Respond faster to business needs (goes back to more time on value creation and less time on feeding and watering infratructure). From purchase to running VM’s in less than 14 days with Nutanix (as an example). This significantly simplifies capacity planning, as does the ability to non-disruptively grow the environment at the click of a button and have the capacity and performance immediately available (shrinking and changing is also available non-disruptively).
Take advantage of the latest in performance and technology when it’s available. Moore’s law is still in action and technology is advancing in performance and capacity and doubling about every 18 months. Why would you want to wait 3 to 5 years to take advantage of the latest advancements? With a Web Scale IT approach and with the Nutanix platforms you can gain the advantages of the latest technology (both software and hardware) when it becomes available, without waiting, and without disruption to your existing environment. New components can slot in and live quite happily next to the older components, and because the platform is virtualized it’s just a matter of live migrating your systems over to the new nodes to immediately take advantage of the performance improvements, the capacity is already available to the rest of the environment seamlessly. This means you completely and forever avoid any need to do a forklift upgrade, to either a new platform because of age, or because you’ve run out of capacity or performance. You just add nodes and scale out the platform.
Choice of hypervisor. There is really only one dominant hypervisor today (VMware vSphere), and it’s because it’s been the best option that fit the most requirements, is easy to manage, has a vast army of skilled engineers and architects, doesn’t mean that it will always be the case. The worst thing that could happen is if there was no competition and the dominant player become complacent and stopped innovating. The reality is that customers want choice. That is why Nutanix supports three hypervisors today, VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM, and may add more in future based on demand. Even if you don’t want to make a change today, having the ability to do it in the future is valuable. It will keep everyone honest and keep everyone innovating, hopefully all delivering ever more value to customers.
Web-Scale IT is not just one technology implementation, but a set of capabilities and ways of looking at an overall IT system. The well known Web-Scale companies have built their own Web-Scale IT infrastructures. Nutanix has taken some of the Web-Scale technologies, methodologies, lessons learned and benefits from the pioneers and distilled them down and formed them into a package that benefit any organisation. This breaks down silos and removes the necessity for specialised skills just to manage a platform (there will be much more value in being a generalist in the future). This directly upsets the status quo, which has created the unnecessary complexity that we have today.
This post first appeared on the Long White Virtual Clouds blog at longwhiteclouds.com. By Michael Webster +. Copyright © 2012 – 2015 – IT Solutions 2000 Ltd and Michael Webster +. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission.