What is a data center?
Data centers are facilities that house critical applications and data such as servers, networking routers and switches, storage systems, firewalls and more. A data center’s design is based on a network of computing and storage resources that enable the delivery of shared applications and data.
Data centers explained
Data centers are facilities that house critical applications and data. A data center's design is based on a network of computing and storage resources that enable the delivery of shared applications and data. Servers are, of course, a major form of data center infrastructure, but this category also includes things like networking routers and switches, storage systems, and firewalls, as well as server racks, redundant power sources, and cooling devices.
With the rise of virtualization, containerization and cloud services, data centers are increasingly becoming more software defined where infrastructure is virtualized through abstraction, resource pooling, and automation to deliver Infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS).
Software-defined infrastructure lets IT administrators easily provision and manage physical infrastructure using software-defined templates and APIs to define and automate infrastructure configuration and lifecycle operations.
Modern data center design trends
Traditionally, CPUs alone provided the processing power for hyperscale and enterprise data centers. Since then, GPUs (graphics processing units), have taken a significant role as they are used for artificial intelligence and big data analytics.
Even more recently, a new type of processor has emerged called a DPU (data processing unit). DPUs are purpose-built silicon used to offload data traffic so compute-intensive tasks can be optimized on CPU and GPU resources.
DPUs are being deployed in data center servers for accelerated compute, cloud, network, security, and storage functions including encryption, firewall, NAT, telemetry and more. These capabilities enable the isolated, bare-metal, cloud-native computing platforms that define the next generation of cloud-scale computing.
DPU technology has evolved from being server only to now being available in network switches. This allows operators to extend industry-standard leaf-spine networking with stateful distributed microsegmentation, east-west firewalling, NAT, encryption, and telemetry services—delivered closer to where critical compute and storage workloads are being processed.
Data center design evolution
Every decade for the past 30 years has been marked by an evolution of how we have built data center fabrics. The first three generations have been iterative in nature—building on the previous vision for the data center. The 4th generation takes a much more holistic approach—to simplify and scale not just connectivity, but the full set of infrastructure services for the data center fabric.
Fourth-generation data center design
Today, for the first time, silicon and software is in place to allow the data center fabric to truly provide the infrastructure services required to support workloads at scale. Instead of thinking of the fabric just as a segmentation and connectivity solution, the fabric can now evolve to support all of the infrastructure services that allow for workload scale.
The fourth generation of data center architectures brings consolidation of stateful functions to the entire fabric. Instead of simply being a stateless interconnect vehicle stitching workloads and services together, the fabric can now provide all infrastructure services in a new and simplified integration to reduce data center complexity and help ensure that workload services will be available at the fabric edge.
Data center security
Data security is the process of protecting digital data from unauthorized access, corruption, or theft from a data or physical security breach or cyberattack.
The growing wave of east-west data center (server-to-server) traffic is redefining security requirements. The speed and volume of such traffic in virtualized and containerized application environments requires new security solutions, especially in multitenant scenarios where Zero Trust Security is imperative.
Segmentation prevents unwanted lateral movement by statefully inspecting all east-west traffic in the data center and applying policies that stop bad actors from moving through the internal network. Microsegmentation can deliver segmentation without requiring new architectural design.
Where centralized security appliances are inefficient for expanding traffic flows, automated and policy-based network segmentation and microsegmentation are necessary. Hairpinning of traffic to hardware appliances at the data center edge impairs application performance, restricts scalability, increases costs, and adds latency.
A new generation of secure data center fabrics
A distributed services architecture expands Zero Trust deeper into the data center, to the network-server edge, delivering fine grain microsegmentation and dramatically scaling and strengthening the security of mission-critical workloads.
Data center management
Building out enterprise data center infrastructures can be a challenge. Orchestrating and automating the network infrastructure can be especially daunting. Network fabric is the foundational glue that integrates infrastructure compute, storage, and application resources. Any bottleneck in the network fabric will negatively impact the ability to run applications efficiently.
At the highest level, provisioning the network in a modern enterprise data center has been a challenge for two key reasons:
- Network infrastructure itself has been traditionally very complex to manage, CLI-based, and requiring specialized skills to configure.
- Network and security teams typically reside in separate, siloed organizations, and often require a job ticket to schedule network configuration, maintenance, or configuration of security policies in the environment.
Technical advances in increasingly integrated, open (API) and DevOps automation tools are beginning to add value to data center administrators through:
|Orchestrating a discrete set of switches as a single networking fabric significantly simplifies day-to-day operations and troubleshooting. Workflow automation and simple point-and-click GUI helps streamline and automate complexity—e.g., helping to automate away EVPN configuration complexity.
|Software-defined fabric automation and orchestration speeds infrastructure provisioning and supports integration into existing IT operational frameworks.
|End-to-end network visibility of hosts, virtual machines, VLANs, services and workloads simplifies troubleshooting connectivity and performance problems.
|Unified security policy
Centrally defined policy elements distributed to every rack allowing for fine-tuned microsegmentation of workloads.
|Monitoring, telemetry, and troubleshooting
Detailed alarms, events, and insights into what is going on within the network and security help with troubleshooting and ongoing monitoring.
|Support for multi-fabric orchestration
|Enabled via automating VXLAN configurations at data center border switches and global fabric management synchronization across geography dispersed data center locations.
HPE Aruba Networking Fabric Composer
Abstract away data center network and security operational complexity. AFC is an intelligent, API-driven, software-defined orchestration tool that simplifies and accelerates leaf-spine network fabric provisioning across rack-scale compute and storage infrastructures—increasing efficiencies and improving productivity for network operators and server and virtualization admins.
Learn more about HPE Aruba Networking Fabric Composer
A new era of Intelligent data centers
As the shift from centralized data centers to distributed “centers of data” continues, new architectures are needed to provide secure connectivity for exceptional user and application experiences on-premises and at the edge. This next wave of data center connectivity requires higher performing fabrics, distributed services, and flexible consumption options.
HPE Aruba Networking can help simplify your data center architecture, enhance performance, reduce costs, and extend zero trust closer to your critical applications.
Learn more about HPE Aruba Networking data center solutions.