Mobile Devices Remake the Datacenter
News | 20 Sep 2013
It is early days in the revolution, but ask the experts, and just about all agree that the datacenter is presently undergoing massive revamping to accommodate access by a myriad mobile devices and the massive amounts of data they generate. A big push is to make datacenters more responsive -- faster -- and that's a direct byproduct of the mobile revolution. "The amounts of data are ridiculous," Jason Miller, a big-data expert with network performance company Empirix in Billerica, Mass., told Datacenter Acceleration.
"With mobile devices, they are always 'talking with' the datacenter. A lot of data is exchanged. The impact is high: There has to be more processing power and higher throughout to optimize this data." That's not the only impact on technology requirements, though. "The clear demand is for more storage capacity but also for more processing speed," added David Eichorn, a datacenter expert and a consultant with Zensar Technologies, an IT company in Pune, India. "It makes more sense for much of the data to reside in the datacenter, not on the device," he elaborated. That's for an elementary reason: security. Lost and stolen devices are an everyday reality and organizations breathe easier knowing that important information is not on the mobile devices. Instead, these devices become a vehicle to used simply to view and access files that are stored in the datacenter.
In an email, Jiten Patil, principal cloud expert and technology consultant, CTO Office, at India based Persistent Systems, a global technology services company, wrote in some detail about why mobile devices truly up the performance ante for datacenters: Mobile devices, being much more than a user-centric information delivery tool, are going to demand much higher datacenter performance than they are capable of today. Mobile applications such as speech-recognition (digital personal assistant), face recognition, sensing, interactive entertainment and education applications, language translation, movement capture, and other multimedia use cases; are not only highly interactive, but they also demand a good deal of resource-intensive compute power along with highly responsive storage and network gears. Bad mobile device battery life turns another screw on datacenter performance. "Although we expect mobile devices to deliver better battery life in future; the reality is that battery life is very sensitive to the latency of information exchange from datacenter," Patil said. "That means datacenters will have to equally share the burden of delivering a much improved performance so that end users' experience and battery life keeps on improving in spite of more data being added and stored day by day." Performance issues with cellular networks also put a burden on datacenters. "Mobile access is not as reliable as broadband -- which can lead to more retransmissions, broken sessions, and if not properly cached, leads not only to increased network [traffic] but also CPU/Memory usage," said Sebastian Kruk, technology strategist with Compuware APM's Center of Excellence.
It may take multiple attempts to properly access information in the datacenter using a mobile device, due to cellular network congestion and time-outs -- but failures on that network immediately impact the datacenter, suggested Kruk. Eichorn noted that more stress on the datacenter comes from the multiplication of device types accessing it. Just a decade ago -- maybe only five years ago -- it was easy for datacenter architects to narrow their needs to accommodate perhaps only two or four devices. Today, that number may be above 10, and every device type introduces its own idiosyncrasies in terms of formatting, file types, and connectivity. Add it up, and suddenly, datacenters are forced into a mobile driven revamp. "Datacenters need to modernize," said Eichorn. "They need to do things with different technologies, to deal with the new pressures. Can you maintain performance? More data requires more and better technology, it's that simple." Bottom line, said Eichorn, "We now are pushed to modernize datacenters to create better performance."