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Data Center Management: Is an OS the Answer?

By: Kaylie Gyarmathy on August 7, 2014

Data center management is no easy task. Cabinets are drawing more power to provide greater density, while companies struggle to determine which data should stay in-house and which should make the move to a colocated hub. And according to a recent Tech Page One article, emerging tech trends like the Internet of Things (IoT) will prompt further diversification of data centers into massive 'motherships', regional distribution centers and 'micro centers', each with a specific purpose.

With so much to manage, is it time for a data center-specific OS?

Intelligent oversight is the goal of startups like Mesosphere, which recently received a large shot of venture funding capital. Mesos, the company's open source OS, has already been deployed by Twitter and Airbnb and has close ties to Google. So what's the big deal?

For starters, a data center OS sits above all applications and hardware, allowing dynamic and granular control over workloads and resources. Mesosphere's offering can deploy apps like Hadoop or Cassandra, and isn't picky about what it controls or where it runs: On-premises and in-cloud workloads are fair game, and it's as comfortable in virtual machines (VMs) as it is on bare metal. There's a sense of natural extension and simplicity here. With data centers becoming so large and so complex, does an OS just make sense?

As noted by NetworkWorld, however, there are other ways to tackle data center management. Industry leader VMware is betting on network virtualization and the software-defined data center, while some startups are looking to modular, LEGO-block type data centers as the best balance of power and control.

Bottom line? What you're looking for in a data center is simplicity—what tasks can be removed from the plate of IT and instead handled by an OS, or streamlined by relying on network virtualization? Consider cloud providers. Until recently, in-house and custom-built data centers were the norm for these companies; with colocation came another layer of complication. For them, data center OS may hold the key as a way to leverage the power of high-density servers and secure colocated facilities without the need to individually manage workloads and components.

Ultimately, pain points tell the tale: OS-enabled, software-defined or a building-block data center are all viable choices for management.

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