Return of the 'L' word

What is the "L" word? It's latency

What is the "L" word? It's latency.

For the first time in years, CIOs are becoming concerned that networking and inter-process latency is affecting IT performance.

The new IT initiatives of the 21st century are based on the business process transformation within a service-oriented architecture -- Web services, Web 2.0, virtualization, federation and information management are creating new levels of IT performance requirements.

Add organizational and supply chain transformation through VoIP, video-based collaboration and innovative real-time, industry-specific applications and we have a major festering problem.

In the past, the solution has been the same -- give IT more resources and it will solve the problem. Increase bandwidth if it is a networking issue, add memory or processors if it is a compute problem, or add faster/denser disk arrays if it is a storage problem. Expensive, but this technique has always transparently solved the problem.

From a networking perspective, the issue is becoming critical in the data center. Virtualization can create massive economic benefits, such as increased utilization of physical infrastructure, reduction in power consumption, increased productivity through ease of use and so on. What began with compute and storage virtualization has extended into applications, workflow, security and management software. Suddenly the need to monitor and manage latency is becoming evident.

The era of widely distributed data centers is over. Corporations are consolidating into fewer data centers. Within those data centers, consolidation of compute, storage and networking resources will be aggressive. The classic concepts of data center construction are being rethought and now revolve around a design philosophy similar to large Internet software services providers such as Google and Yahoo.

Simplify the infrastructure and software services around business/application-purpose components. Numerous names exist for this aggregation concept. IBM has coined the latest term for these IT entities, calling them "ensembles." Taken to the extreme, one can collapse within the corporate data center thousands of servers into a shared virtual multi- processor server and more than a tetrabyte of disk storage into collocated memory-based storage -- all within a single IBM z10 super-server. Latency within this configuration is reduced to microseconds vs. milliseconds and resiliency is increased 1,000-fold.

Are we back to the era of the mainframe ? No -- numerous data center infrastructure design philosophies will exist, dependent upon economics, business applications, and management and governance requirements of the corporation. Clusters of compute and storage resources will always need to be networked together as a platform for corporate applications and information. The type of networking and the amount of intelligence within the network will be become evident when application, virtualization and federation latency demands and corporate governance requirements are taken into consideration.

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Frank Dzubeck

Network World
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