The infrastructure at the heart of the user experience

Jean Cassegrain, Le Monde Informatique

Friday 17 March 2017

Whether they are internal or external, today’s users expect the highest quality of service when accessing company resources. Technologies such as hyper-converged infrastructures and software-defined networking can help enterprises achieve these levels of quality.

“Whether they are internal or external, the user experience is one of the main issues our customers face,” explains Ludovic Levé, managing director France, Data Centre Group. For these users, one thing is certain: any company using IT resources to deliver a service has to make sure the service is sufficiently robust. Otherwise, unsatisfied users are likely to seek out the competition.

This is the case for Dailymotion, whose main competitor is YouTube, the market leader in online video. “We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of a video that runs slowly or is of inferior quality,” says Magnus Nälund, the program director for the French platform, which is a subsidiary of Vivendi. To ensure flawless quality of service, whether on a mobile device or a desktop, Dailymotion relies on a data centre infrastructure that is deployed on a global scale, using content delivery network (CDN) technology to ensure the network operates at high capacity.

However, it isn’t just external customers who expect high-quality services; it’s also important to internal customers and partners alike. Fortunately, the days are gone when a company’s employees were required to adapt to the tools provided by their IT department, however unfriendly these tools were, as this inflexibility had a big impact on quality of service. Now, whether they are at their desk, at home or on the go, workers need fast and reliable access to a company’s resources at all times, and IT organisations can achieve this through virtualising applications and workstations, and delivering services through private or public cloud.

Virtualising infrastructure to simplify its management

“First, you need a solid infrastructure that provides enough computing power to ensure that both the applications and storage systems work properly. Each employee must be able to archive their data and be guaranteed optimum accessibility to your resources,” argues Levé. To this end, the use of software-defined networking (SDN) is becoming more popular. Enterprises are adopting technologies such as VMware’s NSX to manage resources dynamically, as dictated by the requirements of the individual user. They make it possible to move virtual machines between different physical infrastructures to ensure continuity of service.

These advantages led Essec Business School to install VMware solutions to virtualise 1,200 workstations. To guarantee optimum performance, the school brought in 100% Flash storage arrays. “Conventional hard disks were real bottlenecks,” reveals Olivier Le Mao, the project manager at Essec. However, Flash brings its own issues of cost and available space. To address these problems, Lenovo recently unveiled an SSD storage board capable of holding 48TB.

Renault also took the virtualisation route to assist its R&D teams, opting for Citrix’s virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). These teams require a huge amount of computing power for CAD, relying on graphics-intensive HPC servers, plus they need to be able to work on the go as well as with remote teams. In addition, given the sensitivity of the data involved, strong security measures are needed. To help with implementations like this, some manufacturers also offer direct configuration and integration for VDI solutions. Lenovo is among these, with its ThinkServer and System X rack-mount servers.

The use of hyper-converged infrastructures (HCI) can also help enterprises to conquer these issues by concentrating all the resources required for virtualisation into one highly efficient server appliance. HCI can also make life easier by centralising administration of SDN and software-defined storage (SDS) tasks. They also provide increased modularity to meet constantly increasing user demands.

The user experience is key 

Faced with ever more demanding users, maintaining an infrastructure at optimal operational status is essential nowadays. To achieve this, businesses are increasingly turning to virtualisation, software-defined data centres (SDDC) and HCI solutions that allow them to address their quality of service requirements. “We are forging as many partnerships as we can with firms like VMware, Cisco, Juniper, Nutanix and Cloudian, to provide these software solutions on our hardware systems,” says Levé. Guaranteeing the user experience means that customers will stay with you, and your teams will be more effective and more productive.

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