Mobile computing is changing the way architects look at the data center. Now that users are completely untethered from the enterprise, data center designers must consider new ways to support mobile devices. The information explosion is putting new stresses on data center design. The volume and types of data flowing through the network are increasing , and by disconnecting the workstation and supporting “bring your own device” (BYOD), IT is giving up control of the access endpoints.
The Cisco Global Cloud Index predicts that by 2019, smartphones will handle 75 percent of mobile data traffic. Tablet computers are expected to generate twice the traffic by 2019 that they did in 2014. And the Internet of Things explosion will generate 277 times more traffic from end-user devices to the data center and 47 times more total data traffic by 2019.
Mobile computing is the new normal, and wireless platforms are growing faster than traditional wired network systems. The growth of mobility in the enterprise calls for a new design strategy.
No Strings on Data Access
Wireless endpoints are replacing the traditional workstation, and many of these endpoints, such as netbooks, are completely reliant on the cloud for all of their applications and their data. Handheld devices now act as mobile workstations that carry data dictated by the user and by enterprise permissions. This means that the back-end infrastructure has to be more flexible and more secure.
Mobility is driving specific trends in data center design:
1. Clientless computing – The client now resides in the cloud—this includes applications, data and the access personality. All of the infrastructure, authentication, security and user profile data has been removed from the device so it can follow the user wherever they go.
2. Device-agnostic – By separating the user from the dedicated device, you now have an infrastructure where the device itself no longer matters. Whether the user has a smartphone, a tablet, a netbook or a computer, the Web has become the actual delivery platform. By abstracting the software from the hardware, IT managers now have to support an interactive gateway. The Web becomes a two-way data exchange platform, not just a browsing window.
3. Loss of control – The migration to mobile computing also means that IT has lost control of end-to-end connectivity. IT still controls enterprise back-end systems and data delivery strategies, but it no longer has either direct access to the workstation or the same level of data control. This also means losing control of the client devices, so company applications and data are intermixed with other user apps and content downloaded from unknown sources.
Rethinking Data Center Design
With these new computing realities, data center architects need to rethink their design strategy:
1. You need smarter servers – You no longer have control of the access points, so you need more control over data traffic and the delivery infrastructure. Intelligent servers can identify the types of connected devices, as well as the types of data traffic, and can dictate how apps and data function within your environment.
For example, next-generation firewalls can identify thousands of applications and micro-applications, so the firewall can support data-sharing and productivity tools while filtering out apps such as Farmville and Facebook. Smart servers also can identify data concerns, such as leaks or unauthorized data sharing. And the network can be configured to identify rogue mobile devices trying to access company assets.
2. Install intelligent wireless access points – Users are mobile inside the office as well as remotely, so you need new kinds of access points for roaming users. These access points need to provide reliable connectivity at the same time that they track user movements to provide access to resources in the vicinity, such as printers and servers.
Wireless intelligence can be simplified as well by using a single service set identifier (SSID) that can identify the device, the users and the service or content requested. Using an SSID allows you to set access privileges for authenticating users and guests on the same infrastructure without separate identifiers. SSIDs also make it easier to extend roaming, even allowing a user to leave the building and stay securely connected, because the SSID controls what data is accessible once the user leaves the security of the enterprise infrastructure.
3. Add enterprise mobility management – An enterprise mobility management platform makes it easier to accommodate both company-owned devices and BYOD. It gives administrators detailed visibility and control of endpoint devices and can scan for rooted or hacked devices in order to stop malware. Because the devices are integrated directly into the data center backbone, policies and optimization are centrally controlled. IT can even wipe a remote device of corporate data if that device is lost or stolen.
4. Adopt a mobile security strategy – Supporting mobile users means dealing with a new set of potential threats. You need to secure the data as well as the infrastructure and access. With more control over mobile users, data and applications, administrators can deploy specific security measures for virtual and physical devices.
Mobile security requires more security strategies, such as contextual access; end-point interrogation; two-factor authentication; policies and application filters; and monitoring, reporting, and log aggregation.
Mobility for the enterprise is here to stay, and data center design needs to evolve in order to support a workforce on the move. Developing the right infrastructure strategy can not only secure mobile users, but also lay the foundation for other changes, such as support for the Internet of Things and other productivity tools that need network access on demand.