I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been speaking to a group of channel partners talking about Schneider Electric priorities when someone asks, “Isn’t the cloud going to make data centers go away? Won’t people just stop building data centers as everything moves to the cloud?”
While it’s true that companies are moving some applications to the cloud, they are most certainly not decommissioning their data centers. To the contrary, the cloud presents at least three big opportunities for Schneider channel partners.
1. Right-size. The first has to do with the fact that companies typically move only a relatively small fraction of their applications out of their own data center to a cloud provider. Say they move 25% of their applications to the cloud; now they really need 25% less infrastructure. But guess what? Most companies never get around to taking that into account, so they wind up with more power and cooling capacity than they need.
This is a perfect opportunity for a partner to offer an APC by Schneider Electric data center assessment, a topic we’ve discussed on this blog before. The assessment will point out areas where the customer can improve energy efficiency. If a company has virtualized many of its servers and shifted some percentage of applications to the cloud, chances are its data center isn’t drawing as much power as it used to. Perhaps the company’s UPS is now oversized, maybe a 60Kw unit when 35Kw will do. And it’s probably time to take a fresh look at cooling requirements. Perhaps the customer will be open to some modular power and cooling systems that are right-sized for the load they have now, but able to grow as demand warrants. That’s the kind of conversation that can prove beneficial for both sides: the customer saves money on ongoing power and cooling while the partner gets a nice sale and, perhaps more importantly, builds a good relationship.
2. Connectivity. The second area to consider as customers move applications to the cloud is the network that connects their premise to the cloud provider. What type of switches are they using and how are they backed up? That network connection is now the lifeline that keeps users productive, but many customers don’t adequately address items like redundant power sources to ensure all the network components are consistently available.
3. Management. As companies continue to virtualize their environments, which is a first step toward the cloud, they need new tools to manage the data center. This is where data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software comes into play.
DCIM gives companies a complete picture of the physical state of their data centers, such as where power and cooling capacity is available and where it’s running low. That is crucial information in a virtual data center, where application loads often shift from one physical server to another to meet demands. This can even happen automatically, with no operator intervention, although many companies have been wary of enabling that capability – and with good reason.
If a load shifts from Server A to Server B without taking into account the physical state of Server B, bad things may happen. Perhaps Server B is in a rack that has maxed out with respect to power and cooling capacity; the move could cause overheating that brings down the whole rack. DCIM software works in conjunction with virtualization management tools to prevent just such situations. In short, it helps data center operators optimize the use of their resources and make smarter decisions.
Next time you hear a customer talking about his cloud initiatives, start asking questions about right-sizing, network connectivity and management tools. I expect it’ll turn into a nice, long, fruitful discussion.