Looking for the Next Step in Cloud Performance? Look to Data Center Design

Author: David Friend, CEO Wasabi Cloud Storage

As we see the cloud storage landscape continue to evolve, cloud providers are seeking new ways to improve performance metrics to remain competitive. According to IDC, cloud services have grown 26% in the last year, and show no sign of slowing down. This has become increasingly clear as more organizations shift to remote work, driving the need for employees to access data from anywhere at any time. As the rate of cloud migration grows, so will the demands for expanded storage options with decreased latency. This demand will  ultimately fall on the data center operators who are tasked with  managing infrastructure.

Addressing Initial Performance Issues through Data Center Design 

To meet customer demand for a one-stop-shop for storage, some data center operators have started to provide both compute and storage infrastructure as-a-service. While an ideal option for many, this format creates massive data centers where storage and compute units are physically located right next to each other.  As a result, data often has to travel long distances to reach the user. In addition, the neighboring of compute and storage creates cooling challenges as general storage requires less power and lower cooling requirements than compute. These factors can create performance issues over time, including skyrocketing energy costs and increased latency of data delivery.  

In the near future, data centers will need specialized storage and compute areas that are segregated from each other. For example, when designing a floor plan, it’s likely we’ll see data center operators walling off Compute-as-a-Service from Storage-as-a-Service. This can help solve issues around cooling, which is paramount to eliminating waste and improving performance. However, it doesn’t fully solve the issue of accessibility and latency speeds. 

Rethinking the Data Center Footprint for an Optimized Cloud Experience

Improved latency all comes down to proximity and network. There’s not much you can do about the speed of light, so having storage close to the customer will reduce latency. Data accessed over the public internet will often travel a circuitous route, so you also need to consider the network that connects the customer to the storage.  A private connection is best, or at least an internet connection that is as close to direct as possible.  Compute is already moving to the edge of the network, and that trend will accelerate as 5G becomes more widely used.  So storage is going to have to follow.  It’s very likely that cloud storage in the future will look like a tight network of smaller cloud storage units, rather than a handful of very large storage facilities. Small cloud storage installations do not benefit from the same efficiencies of scale as large storage installations, so in all likelihood we will ultimately see a mixture of small edge storage facilities tightly coupled to large, more cost efficient, centralized storage. This approach allows companies to create a wider “web” of data that is best suited for their needs. Given most data is generated and consumed locally, moving storage to the edge of the networks makes sense. 

For example, this approach would work well in healthcare settings where a patient’s records could be accessed instantaneously by doctors in different regions because the metadata is replicated globally, with every storage node able to function as an ‘origin’ server. According to a recent article, the expanded use of telehealth and the shift to a sizable remote workforce are straining existing healthcare data storage infrastructure, which is creating a number of new challenges. While some hospitals were prepared for data expansion, some were not as fortunate and the ongoing pandemic has sent them scrambling.

Data That Depends on the Cloud Industry 

At Wasabi, we’re actively considering using a tight network of smaller cloud storage units, rather than a handful of very large storage facilities. The need for this kind of storage architecture will be greatly increased by the rollout of 5G, and would have huge benefits for many industries. There are numerous ways you can ensure data center design contributes to optimum performance, but the cloud industry is evolving rapidly and so must data center design strategy if it is to maintain and improve upon efficiencies going forward.

David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi, a revolutionary cloud storage company. For more information, please visit wasabi.com

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