Datacentre gamble

Even as enterprises spend money on datacentre technology, management of the same tends to be left by the wayside, which could lead to an eventual crisis for organisations in the region. In the concluding part of the datacentre series, NME analyses how dire the situation truly is.

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By  Administrator Published  May 31, 2007

Technology investments in the area of datacentres are at an all time high in the region as businesses and IT managers alike spend effort and time in building and consolidating new age datacentres.

The first part of this series looked at some of the major areas of spend during the initial stages of designing and building a datacentre.

The Middle East does adopt a conservative outlook towards datacentre management and reflect trends seen ten years back.

However, much of this desire to buy and implement only the best dwindles as one moves up from the physical infrastructure layer of the datacentre to some of the more sophisticated products, solutions and management areas.

"The Middle East does adopt a conservative outlook towards aspects of higher technology in the datacentre, especially when it comes to management investments. In many ways, they reflect the trends that were seen in more mature markets about ten years ago," says Rakesh Kumar, research VP for server I&O at Gartner.

There are two parts to this slightly immature attitude towards datacentre technologies, as one goes beyond the basic infrastructure layer. The first is the low-key interest - and consequently spend - in certain technologies that are seen to be not of immediate relevance. This often includes physical security and storage. The other covers a restrictive mindset that continues to look at the running and maintaining of datacentres as single points of technology rather than as the several parts of a whole.

Locking down

Middle East enterprises are acutely aware of securing their data. There is not a single enterprise that would operate any part of its network without the necessary firewall, IPS and antivirus solutions installed and fully functional. Not often though do they pay equal attention to aspects of physical security.

"There is a general lack of interest in elements of physical security in the enterprise. Most of the big organisations here are clued into the aspects of digital security, but only around 10% of them realise that protecting the room in which your data resides is as crucial as protecting the data itself," says Gilles Ortega, MENA country manager for Axis Communications.

"The technology and the ability to deploy appropriate physical security solutions have not been widely available until recently within the region. The region's integrators generally have not had the product and deployment knowledge required to assist datacentre managers and designers to understand and solve physical security technology solutions," points out Gary Highton, MD for Mayflex in the Middle East.

Another crucial factor is that since the Middle East boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the world, enterprises do not think instinctively of physical security in the datacentres. The good news though is that the prevailing attitudes are changing and part of this is due to the advancements in physical security technology itself, which is increasingly being tied to backend networks, software and digital security.

"There are innumerable options for physical security these days. There are access control technologies, which include biometrics and there are networked cameras which help in monitoring and control," adds Ortega.

"Physical monitoring is now becoming more involved in IP monitoring systems and this can include visual, environmental and equipment condition monitoring - covering airconditioning, UPS, gas systems and flow rates - along with access control and power control. Systems can also be tuned to track changes conducted even by approved personnel within the datacentre across the various systems," says Mayflex's Highton.

Vendors also point out that there is an increase in manufacturers and distributors who can provide appropriate solutions, technical support and necessary training in the areas of physical security in the region. This in turn is expected to help datacentre managers become more aware of the potential issues and lead to a higher investment in the are of physical security.

Store them up

Mention storage in the region and almost always you will hear SAN. It is no exaggeration to say that most enterprises look to SAN as the answer to their storage requirements in and out of the datacentre. Though there are a few NAS and DAS structures in the region these are, more often than not, used as complementary elements to a base SAN deployment.

Industry vendors point out though that many of the SAN solutions being put in place are being brought in as individual solutions to fill a particular storage need as and when it arises. Moreover, a large part of existing SAN deployments in the region are being grossly mis-managed with regards to capacity, according to vendors.

"Most enterprises lack proper visibility into their storage environments. One of the reasons is that many buy storage from various vendors at different points in time and this makes it difficult to manage all of them as a comprehensive whole. In such a situation, when companies believe they are using close to 80% of storage capacity, in reality they might only be using around 40%," says Omar Dajani, systems engineering manager for Symantec MENA.

A comprehensive and open management platform that is vendor agnostic and goes across various storage solutions, can help enterprises in addressing this perceived over-utilisation of storage. Such a console can provide the correct state of storage utilities and help get more out of existing solutions instead of the regular practice of buying more storage to fill the gaps.

Industry vendors point out that this lack of comprehensive management is not restricted to storage solutions alone but extends across the many solutions of the datacentre; a lack, they say, that could endanger the long-term plans and data reliability of Middle East enterprises.

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