The Journey to Autonomous Data Centres Begins Today

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By now, I’m sure you have heard the news regarding our launch of Dell EMC PowerOne, a new autonomous infrastructure system that is designed to simplify and automate IT operations across Dell EMC compute, storage, and networking. In this post, I wanted to take a little time to describe a bit more about why we built it and why it’s different.

As we look across the IT landscape, we can see three trends taking place right before our eyes.

1. Simplicity Rules: Companies are on the hunt for simple, powerful platforms because the status quo of a build-your-own data centre infrastructure just can’t keep up with the demands of the cloud era. According to an ESG survey*, a whopping 93% of organisations surveyed view their IT environments as equally or more complex than two years ago.

2. Automation Increasing: That drive for something new to help manage this complexity has led to an increase in spending on automation and tools like Puppet, Chef, Jenkins, & Ansible. IT Leaders know that by automating routine tasks and procedures, they can align their staff and budget to things that have more impact on the business and deliver more value, like innovating new services for customers and end-users. The challenge is that the skills aren’t quite there yet. In the same survey, ESG found that 50% of organisations with mature digital transformation initiatives currently have a shortage of skills in IT orchestration and automation.

3. Destination is Fully Autonomous: All of this is a journey toward the goal of truly autonomous platforms, where infrastructure isn’t even a concern and the entire IT role is defined by outcomes.

So what are we doing differently to address the challenges within PowerOne?

What we are doing is helping to solve the problem of being able to bring a deep level of intelligent automation to every layer of the traditional infrastructure stack and deliver an autonomous experience like today’s self-driving cars and self-pilot features within airplanes.

One of the elements that sets PowerOne apart is a built-in automation engine we call the PowerOne Controller. The PowerOne Controller is a factory-installed appliance designed to be the automation control plane for the system. It takes advantage of a Kubernetes microservices architecture and uses Dell Technologies-developed Ansible workbooks to assist users by automating the initialisation and configuration of PowerOne resources. PowerOne ultimately delivers a VMware infrastructure on Dell EMC compute attached to Dell EMC Networking and Dell EMC external storage – all as-a-service. We remove the burden of developing automation procedures for our customers and allow them to focus on their business.

These powerful automation processes play a large role in every stage of the system’s lifecycle. From factory assembly through Day 1 launch to ongoing operations to future expansions and upgrades – PowerOne has specially-engineered automation features to help along every step of the way.

Launch Assist – A “wizard” based approach for system initialisation and logical configuration – gets you up and running in rapid time, with lower risk

  • Dramatically reduces the number of manual steps to get the system up and running by 98%
  • Validates all components as well as sets up the management and production networks and storage fabric
  • Uses intelligent algorithms when users select the number of cores, amount of memory and external storage capacity for the VMware Cluster, delivering a functional VMware Validated Design in just a few clicks

Life-Cycle Assist – Inventory, compliance analysis, and change management all bolstered by intelligent automation – increases efficiency and allows you to optimise system resources

  • A state engine running as a microservice in the PowerOne controller continuously monitors the integration status of the system. The state engine checks for firmware drift against the known good state. It also continuously monitors the storage I/O and host access relationship to advise when automation should be used to expand or contract I/O pathways
  • We have worked with VMware to develop vRealize Operations plugins specifically designed for PowerOne, enabling IT operators to see aggregated telemetry and system status inside the vRealize Operations console
  • Automating these functions lowers the operational load on IT, reduces risk and ensures that operational standards remain intact

Expansion Assist – Infrastructure scaling and configuration management – Allows you to seamlessly add capacity when needed, and adopt new technology solutions faster

Through Expansion Assist we can automatically execute configuration steps necessary to expand compute, storage or network resource ensuring that systems engineering standards are maintained while the system grows to accommodate changing production workload demands.

What does this mean for customers?

In our labs, our engineering team looked at quantifiable results that customers might expect to gain when implementing PowerOne. We found that just in our 6-step Launch Assist feature, we execute 2087 configuration tasks to merely initialise resources to operate a production workload. Prior to PowerOne, these steps were executed by IT operations experts through manual user interface or command line execution.

For now, I will stop there. We are proud of the work we delivered with a system that empowers IT departments with an automation engine – powered by Dell EMC PowerMax, PowerEdge, and PowerSwitch – that can simplify and consolidate siloed attempts at infrastructure automation and combine them into one powerful system. We also offer flexible consumption through Dell Technologies On Demand including metered consumption to allow for payment flexibility and unmatched service and support capabilities from Dell – the #1 provider of Cloud IT Infrastructure.

To find out more I encourage you to watch this short overview video and read the ESG First Look paper.
*Source: ESG Master Survey Results, 2019 Technology Spending Intentions Survey, March 2019.

About the Author: Trey Layton

Trey started his career in the US Military stationed at United States Central Command, MacDill AFB, FL. Trey served as an intelligence analyst focused on the Middle East and conducted support of missions in the first days of the war on terror. Following the military Trey joined Cisco where he served as an engineer for Data Center, IP Telephony and Security Technologies. Trey later joined the partner ecosystem where he modernized the practices of several national and regional partner organizations, helping them transform offerings to emerging technologies. Trey joined NetApp in 2004 where he contributed to the creation of best practices for Ethernet Storage and VMware integration. Trey contributed to the development of the architecture which became the basis for FlexPod. In 2010 Trey joined VCE, where he was promoted by Chairman & CEO, VCE, Michael Capellas to Chief Technology Officer, VCE. As CTO Trey was responsible for the product and technology strategy for Vblock, VxBlock, VxRack, Vscale and VxRail. During his tenure, VCE was recognized as one of the fastest technology companies to reach $1 Billion in revenues and one of the most successful joint ventures in IT history. The origional VCE products Trey has led strategy on continue to be leaders in their respective share categories around the world. In 2016 Trey was asked to lead from concept the development of an all Dell Technologies converged product. From that initial concept Trey led a global team of engineers to deliver Dell EMC PowerOne, the industry’s first autonomous infrastructure solution, embedding open source technologies which enable automated infrastructure integration based on declarative outcomes.
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