The Private Cloud 2 What is cloud computing? 4 The benefits of cloud computing 6 Making the move to the cloud 8 Public v private cloud 10 The ...

The Private Cloud 2 What is cloud computing? 4 The benefits of cloud computing 6 Making the move to the cloud 8 Public v private cloud 10 The ...
A Technology Spectator issue

2 What is cloud computing?
4 The benefits of cloud computing
6 Making the move to the cloud
8 Public v private cloud
10 The hybrid cloud
12 The future of the data centre

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What is cloud computing?
“Cloud computing” is making lots of headlines, but what does it actually mean for
your bottom line?

At its heart, cloud computing involves efficiently allocating
resources so your business can get the most from its IT
spend. In other words, getting more from less. Think of cloud
computing as the 21st century equivalent of the old-fashioned
typing pool. The typing pool was a group of secretaries
which served the typing needs of a large organisation, when
and where they were required. It was a far more efficient
arrangement than allocating a typist to each staff member
who would spend most of their time sitting idle between typing

Cloud computing optimises an organisation’s IT resources
in a similar way to a typing pool. Resources such as
server hardware are pooled and configured to meet an
organisation’s various needs on demand. This ensures
computing power is available where and when it’s required
and resources don’t lie idle.                                       The real benefit to a business is improved reliability and
                                                                    increased agility.
This consolidation can reduce expenditure and improve
reliability, but it also offers businesses the chance to leverage   Cloud computing can allow businesses to reap the benefits
new services and overhaul business processes. The cloud             of new technologies while taking away the sting of significant
frees businesses from physical constraints and allows them to       capital expenditure and the delay of hardware deployment. It
reach their full potential.                                         allows large businesses to be nimble and small businesses
                                                                    to punch above their weight. Scalable cloud computing
“Virtualisation” is another industry buzzword, but it lies at the   solutions also reduce barriers to growth, granting businesses
heart of this concept of optimising resources to better support     the flexibility to pursue new opportunities without the hurdle
the business. Virtualisation moves away from the mentality          of major upfront investments. When viewed this way, cloud
of using one physical computer for each server. Instead             computing can significantly add to the bottom line rather than
virtualisation creates a middle layer between the hardware          simply reduce expenses.
and software, a middle layer which pools the physical
hardware resources to create virtual hardware. So basically         Cloud computing isn’t just about helping your IT systems work
a group of computers can pretend to be one big computer or          smarter rather than harder, it’s also about empowering your
lots of little ones, and reconfigure this arrangement on the fly    staff to do the same. Cloud computing is an enabler for “smart
to meet the business’ needs.                                        collaboration”, helping your staff to work together effectively
                                                                    whether they’re on opposite sides of the office or opposite
Each of these virtual computers can run an independent              sides of the world.
operating system and interact with the world as if it was
a standalone physical computer. It can also draw more               In a nutshell, smart collaboration is another form of
resources from the pool as required, and return them when           optimisation which revolves around giving key staff what
they’re no longer needed.                                           they need to perform their best. It grants them access to the
                                                                    information, the services and the people they need to get their
Organisations can take advantage of cloud computing and             job done effectively. Leveraging the cloud, smart collaboration
virtualisation both in their own server room and in offsite data    lets staff remain productive no matter where and when they’re
centres, sometimes referred to as private and public clouds.        working.
It’s also possible to create a hybrid environment which offers
the best of both worlds.                                            Smart collaboration has its roots in unified communications
                                                                    and collaboration tools, but has evolved beyond this. Staying
Optimising what you’ve got certainly makes more sense than          in touch is still a key component. As is easy access to online
simply throwing more iron at a problem, especially if your          tools for collaborating on projects, along with access to
computing requirements go through peaks and troughs. But            contacts, calendars, tasks and files. But smart collaboration
cloud computing isn’t just about consolidating processing           can also extend to cloud-based access to systems such
power, it can also optimise memory, storage, software and           as accounting, human resources, project management,
services.                                                           Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship
The value proposition initially revolved around this
consolidation and the resulting cost-savings. But, if you look      Building on this, the concept of smart collaboration can
at the big picture, cloud computing actually offers far more.       provide business agility. By integrating smart collaboration

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into business processes, it allows organisations to streamline
decision-making in order to quickly address concerns and
respond to new opportunities.

Smart collaboration also ensures a mobile workforce spends
less time in the office and more time in the field getting the
job done. The result is an increase in billable hours and a
healthier bottom line.

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The benefits of cloud computing
There is a range of hardware and software benefits to be gained from embracing the

Turning to the cloud and a virtualised environment makes it
quick and easy for your business to provision new servers,
or boost existing servers, without the need to invest in new
hardware. Such flexibility improves business response times
while helping curb capital expenditure.

For instance, a virtualised server environment eliminates the
need to purchase or repurpose a physical machine when
temporarily deploying a development server to work on a
new project. This makes it faster and more cost-effective to
complete new projects, contributing to a quicker return on

A virtualised environment also makes it easy to boost the
performance of specific servers, services and applications
at certain times. After hours batch processing can borrow
resources from other systems which are under-utilised                component of your business continuity and disaster recovery
outside business hours. Financial systems can ramp up at the         plans should your server room succumb to fire or flood.
end of each month or quarter rather than requiring dedicated
resources which mostly lie idle. Online services such as             Cloud computing’s value proposition initially revolved around
websites can be temporarily bolstered to cope with traffic           cost-savings, but if you look at the big picture it provides
spikes due to one-off events.                                        much more than this. Cloud computing also offers improved
                                                                     reliability, increased flexibility and extra abilities such as
The benefits of such virtualisation can be difficult to              provisioning services on demand. So it adds to the bottom
visualise, but it’s perhaps best pictured as a business lunch.       line rather than simply reducing expenses.
Traditionally each person gets one plate of food, regardless
of how hungry they are. Inevitably this means some people            When it comes to business agility, one of virtualisation’s
will leave food on their plate, while others will still be hungry.   strengths is its ability to break down not only hardware silos,
If someone wants a second helping, or an unexpected guest            but also data and work flow silos within your organisation.
arrives, you need to pay for another plate of food -- even           As organisations grow, business units can sometimes act as
though there’s plenty of spare food elsewhere on the table.          separate entities. Such schisms can hold a company back.
Unfortunately this hotch potch mess reflects many server             It can be a classic example of the left hand not knowing
rooms, where the physical computers can’t easily share               what the right hand is doing or, worse yet, the right hand
resources such as processing power and storage.                      deliberately protecting its own fiefdom.

Virtualisation in a server room is the equivalent of ordering a      Using the cloud to consolidate internal systems and centralise
banquet, with each person taking as much or as little food as        data and knowledge repositories ensures everyone in your
they require. If one person is particularly hungry, everyone         organisation is on the same page. Once again this ties into
else can forgo a little of their food rather than ordering a new     the concept of smart collaboration and business agility.
dish. Better yet, if unexpected guests arrive the food can be        Access to accurate and timely data allows organisations
easily redistributed without the need to pay for another meal.       to streamline decision-making in order to quickly address
This way no-one goes hungry, food doesn’t go to waste and            concerns and respond to new opportunities.
the overall bill is lower than if everyone had ordered their own
meal. That’s good news if you’re the one footing the bill.           Embracing Software as a Service for key internal systems
                                                                     also makes it easier to manage mission critical software as
This consolidation aspect of cloud computing and                     well as protect valuable data. Rolling out desktop updates
virtualisation means you’re reducing both capital expenditure        for applications, and catering for various desktop Standard
and operating expenses, once you consider the cost savings           Operating Environments, becomes a thing of the past when
in terms of hardware, rack space, networking infrastructure,         the software is hosted in the cloud and accessed via a
power and cooling. It’s all about doing more with less.              browser. This means your IT department can spend less time
                                                                     putting out fires and more time adding value to the business.
As an added bonus, individual hardware within the virtualised
pool can be replaced or upgraded without taking any of               Software as a Service and online collaboration tools can also
the virtual services offline, providing a “high availability”        tackle business process issues revolving around version
computing environment. Should disaster strike, it’s easy to          control and data security. Important business data is at
redeploy a virtual server elsewhere -- onsite or off -- and pick     risk when sitting in a spreadsheet on the hard drive of one
up where you left off. This could make virtualisation a key          desktop computer. Or, worse yet, sitting on a notebook which

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often walks out the front door. Should disaster strike this one
computer, or the entire office, centralised data management
and an appropriate backup regime can save the day.

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Making the move to the cloud
Rather than a big bang implementation, embracing the cloud is often best done in

Ask system integrators about cloud computing and
virtualisation projects and they’ll tell you that few customers
walk in the door and ask for them by name. Instead they
come with business requirements and pain points which
need addressing. Virtualisation and cloud computing are
often the best way to address such issues, while also offering
added benefits such as scalability, agility, high availability and
business continuity. A cloud solution can be hosted externally
(public cloud), within the firewall (private cloud) or a blend of
the two (hybrid cloud).

Like many IT projects, there is often a business trigger which
drives a move towards the cloud. Sometimes it is a critical
server approaching end of life, with the cost of upgrading
and maintaining the hardware weighed against the cost of
embracing in-house virtualisation or moving the machine
offsite into the cloud -- known as Infrastructure as a Service       batch processing. This ability to scale on demand is one of
(IaaS). Often in-house virtualisation can act as a stepping          the key value-adds that virtualisation and cloud computing
stone to the cloud, as once an environment is virtualised it is      offer businesses of all sizes.
easier to relocate.
                                                                     With so many different reasons to embrace the cloud, there’s
Another driver for embracing the cloud might be the rollout of       no one-size-fits all solution. The larger an organisation
a new business-wide system such as Enterprise Resource               and the more legacy systems in place, the larger the
Planning, with the option to deploy it in the cloud as Software      transformation project becomes. Despite the obvious benefits
as a Service (SaaS). Such deployments significantly simplify         and return on investment from hardware consolidation, a
software management, plus they leave growing businesses              cloud strategy must also be aligned with the wider business
well-placed to handle future needs.                                  strategy.

                                                                     The larger an organisation, the more important it is to
The need to invest in development and testing server
                                                                     undertake thorough assessment, planning and architectural
infrastructure can also be a driver to embrace the cloud.
                                                                     phases when approaching the cloud. Capacity scoping
This area is often considered cloud computing’s low-hanging
                                                                     is a key part of this process, such as evaluating existing
fruit when looking for quick results and a fast return on
                                                                     networking infrastructure and external data links. The benefits
investment. This virtual infrastructure makes completing new
                                                                     of virtualising storage should also be considered, as it adds
projects faster and more cost-efficient, without causing an
                                                                     flexibility but can increase costs.
upheaval within existing systems. Such an initial positive
experience can whet a business’ appetite for further cloud           The move to cloud computing could present Quality
services.                                                            of Service challenges, particularly if running alongside
                                                                     other bandwidth-intensive services such as VoIP and
Considering the flexibility which cloud computing offers,            video conferencing (which also require Quality of Service
it’s important to consider the issue of internal self-service        considerations). Embracing the cloud also increases the
provisioning -- regardless of whether staff are provisioning         importance of network and link redundancy should disaster
virtual resources on private or public clouds. Such resources        strike. If a cloud strategy involves reliance on external data
might include virtual servers, services, applications and            centres then it’s vital to negotiate fine-grained Service Level
storage. Provisioning and deprovisioning of virtual resources        Agreements with cloud computing and communications
needs to be handled with adequate levels of control and              providers.
security to ensure the pool of virtualised resources is used
efficiently.                                                         These initial pre-deployment phases are critical to the
                                                                     success of any cloud computing project. As such it’s essential
Any cloud strategy should also consider dynamic provisioning         to look for vendors and implementation partners with a proven
and scheduling when dealing with virtual resources which             track record when it comes to such analysis.
experience peak demand times. For example a customer-
facing website may experience a significant traffic spike with       Large businesses might focus on the consolidation aspects of
the launch of a new product or service, a spike which requires       cloud computing first and address business agility later. But
access to extra resources on the fly to cope with demand.            for small to medium business with less legacy infrastructure
Alternatively internal financial systems may require extra           to consolidate, the initial focus may be more on business
resources at the end of the month or fiscal quarter. Billing         agility and added benefits such as business continuity. Many
systems may also require additional resources for after-hours        small businesses underestimate the importance of business

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continuity and disaster recovery until it’s too late.

Their nimbleness may help SMBs realise the benefits of
virtualisation and the cloud faster, but they must also keep
in mind that such technologies are a key enabler for growth.
As such any SMB solution must be designed to easily scale,
something which is important to address in the planning

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Public v private cloud
Businesses can leverage the power of the cloud both outside the firewall and within.

A “public” cloud is one that resides in a third-party data
centre. It’s what most people think of when they think “cloud”
-- a resource which resides somewhere else but is accessible
from anywhere. But there’s also the option of a “private” cloud
-- one that resides in your own server room.

A private cloud lives behind the company firewall and is
completely under your control. The trade-off is that it’s your
responsibility to keep your private cloud up and running. An
organisation can also utilise a combination of private and
public clouds, known as a hybrid cloud, to enjoy the benefits
of both models.

One of the key advantages of the public cloud is that
managing the hardware is no longer your problem. Your
business can outsource the hassles of maintaining a server
room to the experts, who can probably do it more effectively        know exactly where your data is. This could be important
and efficiently thanks to the economies of scale. Keep in mind      for the most sensitive of your information. Think of using a
that it’s important to negotiate fine-grained Service Level         private cloud as handing a sensitive document to a trusted
Agreements with both cloud computing and communications             in-house secretary rather than a hired temp or a third-party
providers to ensure the public cloud is there when you need         transcription service.
                                                                    If your business operates in a highly-regulated market
Freed from the burden of running a server room, your IT staff       such as financial services, it may have little choice but to
can spend less time “keeping the lights on” and focus on            store some data on a private cloud. The globally distributed
more productive work. Going back to our typing pool analogy,        computing models used by some public cloud providers
using the public cloud is the equivalent of outsourcing your        can make it difficult, if not impossible, to determine in which
typewriter maintenance so your typists can spend more time          jurisdictions your data is actually stored.
actually typing.
                                                                    If the regulator specifies that certain data can’t go offshore
Another key benefit of the private cloud is that it puts more       then a private cloud may be the most practical solution.
computing resources at the business’ disposal during peak           It’s important to appreciate that the private cloud doesn’t
times. If your computing resources are occasionally stretched       eliminate security concerns, it just moves them in-house.
to the limit when launching a new product or service, it can
be faster and more cost effective to temporarily pay for more       Deploying a private cloud might make sense for large
resources (known as “bursting”) rather than invest in new           businesses which already have a significant investment
hardware which will often lie idle. Going back to the typing        in in-house resources. Once an in-house environment is
pool, it’s far more cost effective to hire a few temps during the   virtualised, it lays the foundation for eventually embracing
busy season rather than employ more full-time typists who           the public cloud or weaving them together in a hybrid cloud
won’t be needed for most of the year.                               environment. The private cloud might also be the best
                                                                    solution for latency-sensitive services which could take an
The public cloud is also the logical place to host B2B services     unacceptable performance hit if run over an external data link.
used to collaborate with business partners. The public cloud
offers neutral territory for hosting data and services, while       A private cloud strategy can be the driver for undertaking
making it easy for various partners to share the costs and          an in-house server room overhaul, not only consolidating
deprovision the resources when no longer required.                  resources but also making it more service-oriented. The IT
                                                                    department should be a strategic partner in the organisation
You’ll also find that many Software as a Service offerings are      rather than merely a cost of doing business.
only available in the public cloud. For example some of the
high profile online Customer Relationship Management and            Some cloud providers have introduced the concept of a virtual
accounting packages are designed to run on the provider’s           private cloud. This is basically your own private cloud hosted
servers rather than in your server room.                            offsite in an isolated segment of a public cloud, connected to
                                                                    your corporate network via a secure encrypted tunnel (similar
In terms of efficiency the public cloud makes a lot of sense,       to the concept of a Virtual Private Network). One advantage
but sometimes the private cloud is more appropriate.                of this model is that you retain the elasticity and rapid
                                                                    provisioning found in the public cloud.
The most obvious advantage of the private cloud is that you

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While a virtual private cloud may address your public cloud
security concerns, it may not address the issue of exactly
where your data is stored. You’re also still at the mercy of
Service Level Agreements with both your cloud computing
and communications providers.

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The hybrid cloud
The public and private clouds aren’t mutually exclusive and many organisations
weave them together to form a hybrid cloud.

Going back to our typing pool analogy, the hybrid cloud is like
maintaining an in-house pool of trusted typists for sensitive
work, yet seamlessly integrating it with the vast resources
of a cost-effective transcription service. It might sound like
the best of both worlds, but it requires extra planning and
management to work effectively.

Calling on the public cloud to meet peak demand is
referred to as “bursting”, as it kicks in when your private
cloud is stretched beyond capacity. Dynamic bursting is
often automated, but it needs to be governed by business
rules. Such cloud services are often billed according to the
resources used, perhaps per hour or per computing cycle. As
such an open slather bursting policy could see the business
hit with a hefty unexpected bill, one which could have been
reduced if the business had more granular control over its use
of bursting services.                                                offline by unforeseen events (or vice versa).

While bursting can save the day, it’s important to crunch the        Alternatively replication can enable a dual-production model,
numbers to see if it’s an efficient long-term solution. Once you     with a service running in both the private and public clouds.
weigh up the costs, it might make more sense to either boost         Such a model offers benefits such as load balancing and
private cloud capacity or simply shift the service entirely to the   failover, but increases complexity. Don’t confuse the dual-
public cloud.                                                        production model with the term “co-location”, which refers
                                                                     to installing your hardware in a third-party data centre --
Using the public cloud to bolster resources can introduce            outsourcing maintenance and bandwidth requirements.
latency issues if a service bursts into the public cloud but
is still relying on data stored on your private cloud. This          When using the hybrid cloud as a business continuity and
model is known as “application stretching” and it trades             disaster recovery tool, it’s important to negotiate not only
performance for security. The capacity, latency and Service          Service Level Agreements but also Recovery Point Objectives
Level Agreement on the business’ data link to the public cloud       and Recovery Time Objectives.
become crucial when stretching applications. These concerns
need to be addressed long before the implementation stage.           The strength of the hybrid cloud is that it lets businesses mix
                                                                     and match models to provide appropriate performance levels
If a cloud computing service moves or mirrors business data          for various services, while meeting budget requirements.
to the public cloud to reduce latency when bursting, it’s also       The hybrid cloud also makes it easier to migrate services to
important for the business to appreciate what this means in          different platforms at different stages in their lifecycle.
terms data jurisdiction (especially if such issues are subject to
regulatory controls).                                                The trade-off for enjoying the hybrid cloud is that it adds
                                                                     complexity to cloud management. The hybrid cloud is
One workaround when dealing with sensitive data is for               sometimes referred to as the “federated” cloud, as its
resource-hungry in-house services to burst within the private        management requires federating distributed resources.
cloud, eliminating latency and data jurisdiction issues. As the      Considering the various roles the public cloud can play, a
service expands to use more private cloud resources, it could        federated model can combine multiple cloud computing
move or burst more appropriate services into the public cloud.       providers with private cloud resources.

While bursting is an attractive proposition, it’s not the only       Considering the hybrid cloud’s complexity, a unified
aspect of the hybrid cloud. Merging the private and public           management environment is an important element.
clouds can also offer high availability, including business          Efficient management ensures that services are using the
continuity and disaster recovery options. A virtualised private      right platform for the job with appropriate resources. Such
cloud environment with the appropriate backup regime can             management should not only take into account technical
be rapidly redeployed remotely, into a virtual or physical           concerns, but should also be governed by business rules
environment.                                                         relating to issues such as data jurisdiction.

The rise of the hybrid cloud is seeing a move away from              For the hybrid cloud to work best, flexibility must be built into
the traditional disaster recovery model built around primary         a business’ computing environment. This includes reducing
and backup sites. Now the public cloud can act as a virtual          the dependencies of workloads on specific resources, so they
backup site if the primary service in the private cloud is taken     can move seamlessly between various environments. It can

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also involve standardising programming interfaces.

Self-service provisioning is another important consideration
in the hybrid cloud. The provisioning and deprovisioning of
virtual resources needs to be handled with adequate levels
of control and security to ensure the pool of virtualised
resources is used efficiently and remains secure.

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The future of the data centre
The spread of virtualisation and cloud computing has significant implications for the
future of the traditional data centre.

Like all businesses, large data centre operators are looking
to do more with less. Eventually this efficiency will reach
the point where it’s impractical for all but the largest of
organisations to bother maintaining in-house server rooms or
data centres.

For most businesses the concept of in-house IT resources will
eventually seem as impractical as building and maintaining
an in-house power station or water treatment plant. Cloud
computing is making IT resources simply another utility
on tap. But it’s a work in progress and in the meantime
businesses will be looking to squeeze more from their in-
house IT resources while getting more bang for their buck
from the cloud.

So how will data centres achieve these predicted efficiency
gains? Much of it will come from wasting less electricity. For    temperatures.
the data centres of the future this will mean more efficient
cooling, virtualisation and resource management techniques.       The quest to use electricity more efficiently is also seeing a
                                                                  move towards spreading data centres across a large number
Power costs are one of the key concerns for data centres,         of low-performance computers rather than a small number
particularly as electricity prices are rising. Power usage is     of high-performance computers. Dubbed the “wimpy core”
obviously a significant factor when measuring data centre         approach, it promises to offer greater energy efficiency and a
efficiency, but the ways in which data centres measure            reduction in CPU idle time. It also reduces hardware costs by
their efficiency are changing. Metrics such as Power Usage        utilising commodity hardware, as well as reducing the impact
Effectiveness and Data Center Infrastructure Efficiency           on overall performance should one computer fail.
consider how much of a data centre’s power needs go
towards cooling and other overheads rather than actually          Improvements to data centre work-per-watt ratios will
running the computers. The limitations of such metrics are        also come from more efficient virtualisation techniques.
that they don’t consider how efficiently the computers are        Virtualisation in the data centre includes the concept of
using that power.                                                 breaking a task into small chunks and running those chunks
                                                                  on different physical computers. The “wimpy core” approach
Today there’s a push to view data centre efficiency in terms      requires spreading those chunks across more low-powered
of work-per-watt, which accounts for computing efficiency as      computers, but unfortunately this can’t be done with 100 per
well as extraneous power usage. Metrics such as Gartner’s         cent efficiency.
Power to Performance Effectiveness (PPE) and McKinsey’s
Corporate Average Datacentre Efficiency (CADE) take this          Current virtualisation techniques mean some parts of a task
computing efficiency into account. Even these don’t represent     can’t be broken into smaller chunks. These large chunks
the whole picture and the industry is working towards a           must still be run on one processor. As a result, if you double
universal data centre metric to measure the slippery concept      the number of processors underpinning a virtual environment
of “business value”.                                              you don’t necessarily double the performance as these large
                                                                  chunks can’t be spread across multiple processors.
Improvements in a data centre’s work-per-watt ratio will partly
come from more energy-efficient hardware. Much of the             This limitation is known as Amdahl’s law and can be
power a computer uses is converted into heat. Reduce this         considered the data centre’s law of diminishing returns. Its
wastage and you cut down both on the power used by the            impact depends on the computing tasks at hand, as some
computer and by the data centre’s cooling system. Reducing        are easier to break into chunks than others. Along with this
heat also allows for more efficient use of rack space.            limitation you need to consider other performance overheads
                                                                  introduced by the use of extra computers, such as I/O
Data centres are looking at more efficient cooling systems        bottlenecks between computers.
such as row- and rack-based cooling configurations rather
than room-based cooling. The largest data centres are             Amdahl’s law limits the effectiveness of the “wimpy core”
also embracing natural cooling, such as Google’s use of           approach, particularly as it can require rewriting applications
seawater to cool a Finnish data centre built in a former          to the point where it’s still more efficient to use the traditional
paper mill. Rather than expend energy fighting heat, some         “brawny core” approach. Improvements in virtualisation
hardware makers and data centre operators are also moving         techniques will make it easier to break up these remaining
towards chiller-less data centres designed to run at higher       large chunks into smaller chunks, which will reduce the

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impact of Amdahl’s law on data centre efficiency. Meanwhile
the “wimpy” versus “brawny” debate remains at the heart of
data centre design.

The final improvement in data centre efficiency will come from
reducing the human element. Large data centres of the future
are expected to be unmanned “lights out” operations, with the
data centre maintained by robots and employing predictive
modelling to ensure the centre always runs at peak efficiency.

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