Video Killed the Datacenter

Updated: April 30, 2009

Video over IP is driving business-network loads to new highs; squeezing servers and other resources; and forcing datacenter managers to search for new products, services and procedures in order to manage rapidly mounting network stress.

The key problem is that many datacenters simply aren't designed to meet the increasing traffic demands presented by video. A recent survey conducted by Aperture Technology Inc.'s Research Institute found that facilities are aging, and companies are not planning ahead or making timely investments in new datacenters. More than one-third (38 percent) of the organizations studied reported that their existing datacenters were built more than four years ago, and almost two-thirds (64 percent) acknowledged they weren't currently planning or building new datacenters.

Server consolidation is another factor leaving datacenters unprepared to meet the demands of rising video traffic. For enhanced security and cost reduction, servers have left branch and regional offices and moved to the core. But fewer servers located farther away from end users makes it more difficult — and costly — to serve up video.

Though arrival of video is proving to be a major challenge for datacenter management, the issue can be resolved without breaking the bank. Here are the steps you can take today to ensure your datacenter will keep pace with the growing demands created by video content:

Start planning now. Video in the form of clips and live streaming is an inevitability and is probably already being used to a certain extent by people in your organization. Instead of firefighting video-delivery issues created by piecemeal planning or attempting to manage an outdated facility, focus on overall business goals and the role that long-term datacenter planning can play in making your business effective and competitive.

Monitor and manage network throughput and capacity. As video demands grow, datacenter managers need to keep a close eye on network resources. The first step toward improved LAN and WAN performance is to understand and control traffic. Managers need to allocate bandwidth to the traffic that has the highest business priority. The more dependent an organization becomes on real-time applications like video, the greater its need will be for a policy-driven bandwidth-management system .

Consider using a CDN. A CDN (content delivery network) is a service that uses geographically dispersed networked servers — "points of presence" — to store and distribute rich-media-bearing Web pages and services to people worldwide. When a user requests content from a Web site serviced by a CDN, the material is sent via the closest server, enabling faster delivery.

Look to new technologies. Many vendors are now offering tools designed to help datacenters manage video more effectively and efficiently. Packateer Inc. , for example, has introduced software that can keep WANs from being bogged down by nonessential Flash video traffic. Additionally, high-density blade servers and virtualization technologies can help datacenters cope with rising data demands by utilizing system resources more efficiently.

On the other hand, adding new technology to an aging environment has its own risks. Make sure your datacenter's underlying infrastructure — such as space, environmental and power resources — is sufficient to support growth. Adding cutting-edge gear to a creaky facility limits the benefits that can be delivered by the new technology. Worse yet, in some instances the infrastructure can be stretched to the brink of failure.

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