Data Center and Cloud Blueprints

 
 
By Wylie Wong  |  Posted 2011-04-06
 
 
 

A new industry consortium made up of IT managers is creating a set of blueprints on how best to build and operate data centers and cloud infrastructures. In doing so, its members hope to serve as a unified voice that drives the future direction of the technology.

The Open Data Center Alliance, formed last October, is made up of IT managers from 70 large corporations from different industries worldwide. They include BMW, China Life, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, National Australia Bank, Shell, Terremark and UBS, with Intel serving as a technical advisor.

Organizers, faced with common IT problems such as vendor lock-in, integration needs and tight budgets, hope to produce use cases and road maps for deploying data centers and the cloud in a vendor-neutral, standards-based way. They’re tackling issues such as interoperability, security, and the ability to seamlessly migrate data between data centers and clouds.

Since the launch, other companies have expressed interest in joining, says Marvin Wheeler, chair of the alliance and chief strategy officer of Terremark, which provides cloud computing and other hosting services.

“We’ve gotten an overwhelming response from CIOs of companies all over the globe,” Wheeler reports. “It’s refreshing to see all these CIOs not only joining [the organization], but also rolling up their sleeves and participating in the working teams to develop the recommendations, road map items and use cases.”

The IT managers in the consortium want to leverage their $50 billion in collective IT spending and persuade vendors to build the features and products they need. To do so, the group’s members have agreed to use the materials they produce and include them as part of their future data center planning and purchasing decisions, Wheeler says.

“If you look at the deliverables, there should be documents and information that you can literally cut and paste into your RFP,” he says. “For example, it may have a section where the vendor must adhere to industry standards, and you can say ‘This is what we expect in the RFP.’”

The alliance plans to release its Usage Model Road Map during 2011 and will refine its materials over time, according to Wheeler. They are working on 19 usage models that will serve as guides for IT managers to build and operate data centers and cloud infrastructures now and into the future.

The Open Data Center Alliance has split the work into five technical workgroups. They are infrastructure; management; security; services, such as how to provision services; and government and ecosystem, which will look at cloud and licensing models.

For example, the management technical working group is examining power management issues. Wheeler says it makes sense for servers to hibernate when they are not in use, and for server management software to communicate that information to building management systems, so cooling units don’t have to run at maximum strength all the time. Coordination between these systems would reduce power usage and cut costs.

“We’re looking at the macro view of all the things that need to come together, so everything is well-orchestrated,” Wheeler says.

Software and hardware manufacturers have their individual users groups from which they receive feedback, but the Open Data Center Alliance has the potential to become a powerful, coordinated voice for IT managers, says Jonathan Eunice, principal IT advisor at Illuminata, an analyst firm in Nashua, N.H. However, for the group to succeed, its members first have to come to agreement, he says.

“If you’ve got customers that spend a combined $50 billion in IT, and they, in a coordinated way, say we really need this reliability clustering feature, it’s powerful,” he points out.

Eunice says several forces came together to make the organization possible. Many CIOs are dealing with the same issues and implementing similar projects, such as virtualization, consolidation and shared services. Social networking, such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook, is another driver.

People today are more willing to share ideas and cooperate than they were a decade or two ago, he says. The IT administrators can talk amongst themselves and share strategies. They can share notes on what they are paying for software from a specific vendor, for example, and one CIO could give a peer advice on how to get better discount pricing, Eunice explains.

During alliance meetings, IT managers are sharing their expertise and best practices with each other as they work to produce the Usage Model Road Map.

“They collaborate and trade information with each other,” Terremark’s Wheeler, says. “Everyone walks out of there feeling like they learned something.”

Wylie Wong is a freelance journalist who specializes in technology and business.