Cheap Ways To Connect Data Centers

by drjim on December 6, 2017

Data centers are only valuable if they can share data

Data centers are only valuable if they can share data
Image Credit:
Sean Ellis

As the person with the CIO job at your company, you have the added responsibility of maintaining your company’s data centers. No matter if you have only one data center or hundreds of them, they are only as valuable as their ability to communicate with each other and the outside world. The importance of information technology means that the accounting data stored in one data center is only useful if you can combine it with the tax information that is stored in another data center. Just exactly how are you going to ensure that your data centers can talk to each other?

Facebook’s Data Center Problem

The social networking giant Facebook has a data center problem that probably looks very much like the challenges that you are currently facing. As more and more of Facebook’s users are sharing online video and using games and other applications that require high-speed communications the need to interconnect their data centers has grown.

The challenges that Facebook has been facing when it comes to interconnecting data centers is that when they went looking for hardware that they could use to link their data centers using high bandwidth connections, all they could find were the major equipment vendors. This was not an ideal solution because the Facebook CIO knew that if the company started to rely on the software that is provided by the major hardware manufactures then they would be tied to them going forward. Additionally, the rate that these manufactures were improving their high speed high bandwidth gear was slower than Facebook wanted to move.

Facebook had faced a similar situation about five years ago. In that case, the issue had been the servers that they were purchasing to deploy in their data centers. The servers that were available on the market did not meet Facebook’s needs and the rate of innovation was too slow to keep up with Facebook’s changing demands. To solve this problem, Facebook launched the Open Compute Project in order to share what it had learned about building generic servers and spur the market to provide it with what it was looking for.

Facebook’s New Voyager Box

When it came to solving the problem of how to interconnect its data centers, Facebook decided that the same approach that they took with the Open Compute Project could be applied here. What they wanted to do was to create a “white box” project where generic equipment could be provided by a lesser known hardware manufacturer who could also offer lower prices than the major vendors.

The result of this effort is a new box called “Voyager”. Voyager is designed to allow a company to link geographically dispersed data centers using fiber optic cables. Facebook’s goal in developing Voyager is to get hardware companies to build and sell the device while at the same time getting software companies to write software that can be used to manage it.

The Voyager box has routing and switching features built in to it. The box has four ports that are each designed to send data over fiber optic networks at up to 200 Gbps. This transmission rate is equivalent to what the major hardware vendors are currently offering. The hope is that more hardware vendors will start to build this product and that will end up driving prices down.

What All Of This Means For You

When you are in the CIO position, you have the responsibility to make sure that the company’s networks are operating correctly. A key part of this is ensuring that the company’s various data centers are able to communicate with each other. These high bandwidth, high speed connections are expensive to buy and are only available from a few hardware manufacturers.

Facebook, the social networking giant, has faced the same problems. They have decided to solve this problem the same way that they solve the problem of not having the correct servers made available to them. They have created the open-source Voyager box. This box contains four interfaces that can operate at up to 200 Gbps in order to interconnect data centers.

It takes a company as big as Facebook in order to accomplish a task like this. Their open sourcing of the hardware that is used to interconnect data centers can only lead to higher quality products and lower costs. CIOs everywhere should be happy to hear about this new initiative and they should all support it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Would you feel comfortable purchasing a “white box” device to interconnect your data centers?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

By now I’m sure that because if the importance of information technology you’ve heard all about “the cloud”. This is the fantastic collection of servers and storage systems that are available to your company to use for a monthly subscription fee. All you have to do is pay your money, and then you can transfer your applications and storage from your expensive data centers to the much cheaper cloud systems. Sounds like a perfect solution to the ever present problem of too much to do and too little hardware to do it on, right? However, there are some serious drawbacks to moving your company’s IT operations to the cloud and you need to decide if the risk is worth it…

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Should CIOs Be Working With “Engines”?

by drjim on November 29, 2017

Perhaps you need an engine to power your IT shop

Perhaps you need an engine to power your IT shop
Image Credit:
Jorge Quinteros

As the person with the CIO job, you have a lot of challenges facing you. One of the biggest is how you are going to use your limited IT resources to meet the needs of the entire company. As the company’s awareness of the importance of information technology continues to grow more people will be coming to you with requests for the IT department to automate some process, monitor some inputs, or do a better job of communicating with customers online. Since your budget won’t growing enough to do all of this, perhaps it’s time that you went engine shopping.

Lessons From The World Of Video Games

What’s interesting about the challenges that you are facing as the person with the CIO position, is that others have faced the same challenges. One industry that we may be able to draw lessons from is the highly competitive video game industry. What you need to realize is that the CIOs of these firms faced the same problems that you are currently facing. It can cost millions of dollars to develop a new video game, it can take a long time to create it, and it may end up being a flop. What’s a CIO to do?

The CIOs at the video game manufactures desperately needed a way to reduce the risk of developing the next video game. They took a careful look at what their development teams were doing and they made a somewhat surprising discovery. Although the nature of their individual games were potentially very different (fighting dragons, flying spacecraft, etc.) the things that happened in the games were very similar. Things were thrown, characters went from room to room, and items were picked up. What they came to realize is that there was a great deal of overlap in their video games. Now if they could only capitalize on this!

Realizing that each of their video games shared a common foundation, the video game company CIOs authorized their teams to create “engines” – these engines are what allow modern video games to work as well as they do. Over time engines have become sophisticated enough to handle a video game’s graphics and physics. This allows the creative team to be freed up to work on the game’s look and feel and not have to worry about the mechanics of how it operates.

How To Use An Engine In Your IT Shop

In the video game industry, there is not just one engine that powers all of the video games out there. Instead, each major video game manufacturer has created their own engine. In fact, not all that long ago each video game manufacturer generally had several different engines that its video games used. However, this was very inefficient and so over time they have consolidated their games to all use the same engine.

Using a common engine to develop a group of video games just makes good business sense. The use of an engine allows the video game makers to become more efficient and reduces the friction that comes along with creating a new game. Additionally, the use of the engine can give the company the economies of scale.

The video game makers can show you why you might want to develop an engine to use in your IT shop. At the video game makers, the benefits of using the engine trickles though out their entire IT organization. The benefits are felt by the developers, artists, designers, programmers, and audio engineers because the engine provides them with the tools that they need to do their jobs efficiently.

What All Of This Means For You

As the CIO of your company you are faced with two challenges: your customers want you to do more and your budget is not growing fast enough to do this. You find yourself in a difficult position and it may not be clear how you are going to be able to solve this problem. The good news is that the same problem has been faced by CIOs in the video game business and they have come up with a creative solution for it.

What these CIOs have realized is that many of their video games share the need to perform the same actions no matter what type of game it is. This means that if they can get their IT staff to create an “engine” then that engine can be used by each new video game. This frees up the creative team to focus on the unique aspects of each game and allows them to rely on the engine to perform all of the mundane tasks that every video game requires. As a CIO, this opens up the possibility of you having your team create an engine that will support all of the different things that your various customers are asking you to do.

Part of the job of being a CIO is finding ways to do more with less. With all of your customers asking you to do more with the limited funding that you have available to you right now, you are going to have to get creative. Creating an engine to power multiple solutions in your IT shop might be the solution that you have been looking for. Who knows, the next request for a new application that you get might just require a quick trip to the tune-up shop!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that one engine could be created to drive your entire IT department or would you require multiple engines to handle all of your needs?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Successful CIO Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Successful CIO Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job at your company, you have the added responsibility of maintaining your company’s data centers. No matter if you have only one data center or hundreds of them, they are only as valuable as their ability to communicate with each other and the outside world. The importance of information technology means that the accounting data stored in one data center is only useful if you can combine it with the tax information that is stored in another data center. Just exactly how are you going to ensure that your data centers can talk to each other?

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What Went Wrong At Delta?

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