When PFH Technology Group deployed a data centre solution across Europe and the US for a global brand for food ingredients, the question it was trying to answer was: How can the benefits of the cloud be brought home?
This issue is of the utmost importance as more and more organisations look to modernise their operations.
“Ultimately, the context really is around the evolution of what ‘on-premise storage infrastructure solutions’ means,” said Stephen O’Herlihy, chief technology officer at PFH Technology Group.
Two factors need to be considered: firstly, is an all-public cloud strategy a chimera. Secondly, what do we really mean when we talk about on-premise infrastructure.
For O’Herlihy, a key point is that yesterday’s on-prem is not the same as today’s.
“Why would anyone go for an on-prem solution? Why not go public cloud? With public cloud the management infrastructure just goes away – and that’s what people like. Well, if you compare five or six or seven-year-old infrastructure with public cloud, then there’s no competition.”
Such a calculation does not take account of the lightning-fast developments in infrastructure, however, he said.
Today, with modern intelligent storage, organizations can enjoy cloud-like infrastructure on their on-premise systems.
One of the major benefits is intelligence: as part of its solution PFH deployed HPE InfoSight, a deep analytics engine that brings software-defined intelligence to the data centre with the ability to predict and prevent infrastructure problems before they happen.
“It’s delivered as a cloud service, in the sense that there’s no comprehensive deployment; old-school comprehensive data centre deployments were difficult to implement and draw benefit from. Now, the call-home engine is sending the telemetry data and feeding into a web-based front end, or even iPhone or tablet app,” said O’Herlihy.
“The term ‘single pane of glass’ has been around for a long time, but this really does give you that total view.”
HPE InfoSight takes telemetry from the VMware infrastructure, from servers, from switches and so on, and runs advance and predictive analytics to ask questions: will it need more storage? When? Is an abnormality in the system?
“It pre-empts what’s going to happen,” said O’Herlihy.
“This advanced capability and cross-stack capabilities allows users to reduce their complexity down almost to cloud level. Fundamentally, it’s cloud-like, but you still have the benefits of [real] infrastructure.
It also has one major advantage over public cloud: control.
Control can have several meanings, but for most businesses the big caveats with public cloud are the physical location of data and the possibility of spiralling costs.
“Lack of control, data jurisdiction – [and] cost is becoming a very big issue with public cloud,” he said.
O’Herlihy is not at all against cloud; simply arguing that it is a case of horses for courses.
“You only really get the benefit of cloud if you modernise the app, so for things like SaaS [software-as-a-service] like Salesforce.com it makes a lot of sense,” he said.
O’Herlihy said that thinking about infrastructure today really does mean considering an environment that puts artificial intelligence (AI) at the heart of operations.
The goal is not to replace human decision-making, though, so much as to empower it with the right information at the right time, including in advance.
“The level of innovation in the data centre is enormous. We’ve come away from the physical world; it’s all logical [now]. The utilisation of AI ops has become a very real thing. It’s constantly monitoring 24/7, looking at everything, it generates remediation action steps and feeds that back to a human.
“Just as lane assistance works in a car, it’s a series of aids to help you,” he said