Louise Taute, Managing Director at Westcon-Comstor

By Louise Taute, Managing Director at Westcon-Comstor

Even though the concept of cloud computing has been around for some time, many South African companies opted to keep their mission-critical systems on-premises. However, events of the past two years have highlighted the need to digitally transform traditional approaches as employees and customers expect instant and always-on access to data and solutions.

It goes without saying that the cloud is here to stay, so the next step is for local businesses to truly embrace this high-performance computing environment if they are to remain relevant.

Technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotic process automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are mainstream and deliver value to companies regardless of size or industry sector. The growing adoption of these advanced solutions is contributing to an explosion of data as engagement channels continue to increase. Whether it is for real-time analytics, managing customer self-service requests, or live streaming conferences, data has become the currency of our connected world. And again, the only way to effectively leverage all this data is to use the cloud.

A high performing world

The building blocks of this high-performance computing environment consist of compute, network, and storage. To build such an architecture, compute servers are networked into a cluster. These are used to run software and algorithms from a data processing perspective. In turn, the cluster is networked to the data storage and captures the output.

What differentiates this high-performance computing environment is that these elements keep pace with one another to ensure the company can complete a diverse set of tasks. Use cases vary but can include everything from boosting the performance of research laboratories to enabling artificial intelligence to automatically flag credit card fraud and simulate scenarios before implementing solutions.

Of course, the cloud requires solutions that can deliver the performance, reliability, scalability, and security essential for a rapidly changing marketplace. Companies must discuss these components with potential cloud service provider partners before embarking on any migration to ensure they can deliver on their specific expectations.

Hybrid alternative

That is not to say that a business needs to rely only on a singular cloud provider to deliver on all required capabilities. If anything, a hybrid and multi-cloud approach is preferred as the organisation can leverage the specific strengths of each service provider to realise the value of high-performance computing.

In fact, as people demand faster access to more data, a hybrid cloud is becoming a business imperative. For this to work, a fundamental shift in network design must capitalise on the agility and scalability offered. This has already seen data centres migrate from the traditional three-tier architecture to what is known as a leaf-spine one.

The leaf-spine architecture supports the high volume of data generated within the data centre thanks to numerous servers collaborating to serve applications. Effectively, this mesh network connectivity enables applications to be paired with any server while delivering a layer of redundancy for failovers if required.

Moreover, these hybrid clouds' network availability and latency will continue to improve as more advanced technologies become available. Data centres must ensure that network management in the cloud adapts as needs change. Fortunately, there are automated infrastructure management tools available that can track every connection while also providing data centre managers with real-time information, highlighting where improvements to the network can be made.

Building capacity

Even with all this in place, data centre capacity must be taken into consideration. This is where the human factor becomes vital - the technology can only do so much on its own. Artificial intelligence and machine learning still require experienced human operators to unlock value completely.

It is, therefore, the people working at the data centre that can inject the desired level of agility into operational systems. Even though companies themselves must be agile, the high performing computing capabilities of the modern data centres also need to be continually evolving to provide customers with flexibility and scalability.

Unfortunately, the capacity of people inside the data centre is still limited. To free this up, data centres should implement hyperconverged infrastructure that delivers the performance, administrative simplicity, and ability to grow as per requirements. The data centre needs to incorporate intelligent tools that enable orchestration and automation across domains and deliver the insights required to address any potential network gaps proactively.

This is a new era of cloud computing and one in which both the companies and the service providers they use need to adapt and embrace change. The high-performance computing capabilities of the cloud are too beneficial to ignore.

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