Germany is renowned for their beer and it is a little known fact that they have a purity law, the Rheinheitsgebot, that mandates that beer can only contain barley, hops and water (yeast was added as a fourth ingredient later). The law was initially created in Bavaria in 1487 and is still in effect today. As I was pondering beer, I realized that there are significant similarities between the Reinheitsgebot and today’s data centers.
Just like the purity law, requires only three beer ingredients, our IT infrastructures are made up of three components – compute, networking and storage, and like German beer, the ratio of these components can vary widely depending on customer requirements and uses cases.
The similarity between these two items extends beyond just the basic building blocks and encompasses how the products are delivered as well. Let’s explore three most common beer delivery models and their IT analogues.
In this model a person brews his or her own beer based on their individual tastes. Homebrewers will customize recipes as they explore new techniques and flavors. This approach aligns with traditional IT where practitioners purchase discrete server, storage and networking components and combine them to build their infrastructure. These pieces are often acquired separately and the ratio of these three components can vary. However, as technology evolves the underlying IT “recipe” can change resulting in diverse environments where cutting edge technology co-exists with older solutions.
The flexibility that homebrewing delivers is significant. However, it is not for everyone. As the beer (and IT) market has matured, many people prefer to purchase pre-packaged solutions. In the case of beer, this is analogous to purchasing beer in cans or bottles and in IT, it refers to converged infrastructure.
I freely admit that I am a bottled beer consumer. While I miss the flexibility of homebrewing, I appreciate the instant gratification and consistent flavor of bottled and canned brews. The range of pre-packaged options also helps because I know that I can find a beer that I like.
Converged appliances are the “bottled beer” of IT. These devices are available in a wide variety of configurations to meet different customer use cases. To further simplify the process, they are prebuilt and integrated at the factory and so their installation and operation are highly consistent and simple. Like a good bottled beer, you always know what you will get with a converged appliance.
In practice, tapped beer means that beer is available on demand with a simple pull of a lever. For the beer drinker, this is the ultimate convenience because there is no complex recipe or container to open. The challenge is that beer taste is highly dependent on the quality and cleanliness of the tap and beer lines. If these are not maintained effectively then beer flavor will suffer. As a consumer, there is no obvious way to assess how diligently the cleaning is managed.
Tapped beer is similar to public cloud IT. Like ordering beer at a bar, purchasing cloud compute, storage and networking resources is a menu-based process where you specify the configuration and it is delivered instantly. However, also like tapped beer, the quality of the service that you receive depends on the backend infrastructure of your cloud provider and the quality can be difficult to assess upfront.
In summary, I enjoy beer and my preferred brew is German hefeweizen. You may feel differently, and just like our tastes may diverge, IT infrastructures vary as well. Each IT consumer must analyze his or her business needs, budgetary requirements and other specific mandates to assess what is the right technology or technologies. So as you are pondering your IT needs, I will happily save a spot for you at my favorite bar and will look forward to celebrating Oktoberfest with you over a fine hefeweizen.