Fascinating Discussion

This week, I was discussing cloud computing with an equipment vendor and an electrical engineer.  One of the product reps that had been in the room just minutes before had casually stated that ‘virtualization would eliminate or reduce the role of tier ratings in data center design moving forward.’  This was a very bold statement, but there is some merit to what was suggested.  Cloud computing means externalizing or outsourcing processing to a server or facility that is not local to the user, so in the sense that a process could be sent to several locations simultaneously might suggest that this represents an increased level of redundancy for that process.

However, the designer in me still thinks that there is a physical connection to the cloud that might require more redundancy.  Think about it for a moment.  If you run an office and have only a single telcom line entry into the building, and that line or any part of it’s network responsible for delivering your data to a remote location for cloud computing is severed, then there is failure regardless of how redundant the cloud may be.  It might mean now that we have externalized the risk to areas that are no longer under our direct control.  A data center can bring multiple fiber providers into a facility, and multiple utility feeds.  These things help ensure that there is no disruption to the critical IT processes.  The other issue at work is who is going to provide the capital for multiple cloud sites, and at what cost?  Does the cost of redundancy for systems decrease with the prospect of spreading the processing around to multiple sites?

If we rely on the idea of ‘2N’ as provided by multiple data center sites, does that mean that currently we accept the possibility of a single point of failure in data delivery?  It’s a high level discussion that is probably dependent on the particulars of what kind of data processing is going on.  But I just can’t see a future where the tier ratings aren’t a factor in design anymore.


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October 2011
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