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Repave Your Data Center In Days, Not Months | Rob Hirschfeld


Guest: Rob Hirschfeld (LinkedIn, Twitter)
Company: RackN (Twitter)
Show: Let’s Talk

It could be a very complex and herculean task for organizations to rebuild their data centers from scratch, more so as it involves optimizing the entire computing infrastructure as one – compute, storage and network resources –  to support the growing business needs. As challenging and inconceivable as it may appear, in reality, there are lots of cases where companies may have to repave their data centers. As Rob Hirschfeld, CEO and Co-Founder of RackN, puts it, “The examples of actually needing to be able to, what our largest customer calls, repave their data centers are very real and very immediate. And as you inferred, it’s a hugely challenging problem.”

There are, for instance, financial services customers that have regulatory requirements and also telcos that need help in building up cell site automation. Hirschfeld goes on to talk about the oddities of repaving a data center: “You were saying about being able to bring up their infrastructure in a new location in a week, and not being able to do it cost them millions of dollars a year, but you don’t have to go very far to look at cases like Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware attack or some of the edge cases that we’re talking about, where people have real infrastructure they’re trying to bring up and make it work with no technicians or people involved.”

Interestingly, the hardware side of rebuilding data centers starts for customers even before the hardware arrives on site. Here’s how Hirschfeld explains it: “One of the things that’s been very important for our customers and important in this repaving mission is that we import shipping manifests. So the information about what the system is going to be is actually encoded in the system even before the machines are installed on site. And if you’re thinking about repaving a site or just normal onboarding servers, both are critical because the primary challenge to deliver here is not whether or not you can get the servers, although that’s a critical thing, but did the server ship correctly, or do they have the right configurations?”

So how does RackN really approach this problem? As it’s an infrastructure-as-code pipeline challenge, RackN helps customers establish a standard pattern that works for all of the data centers for their infrastructures and is later put through a test process. “They’ll validate if they have new servers or new hardware types coming in, and work with us in the lab before the servers are even purchased. And they’ll verify that those systems are going; they’ll qualify alternate suppliers so they can make sure that if they can’t get one server vendor, they can switch to another server vendor dynamically,” quips Hirschfeld.

One of their flagship tools is Digital Rebar, which creates reusable, standardized processes for platform and infrastructure teams, enabling both self-management and control at scale. “Digital Rebar is designed as the seed of a data center. So we will literally be in a situation where we are the first thing that’s installed and there can be no other dependencies,” adds Hirschfeld.

One of the interesting things about infrastructure-as-code pipelines is that there’s a whole bunch of technical pieces getting things to work end-to-end, but fundamentally it breaks back down to helping teams collaborate. To sum it up in Hirschfeld’s words, “Repaving a data center is about that collaboration, making all those teams do that work together and then rehearse it, repeat it and standardize it. And that’s really where the value’s coming from.”

Topics covered in this interview include:

  • Are there really cases where companies need to ‘repave’ their whole data center? If yes, what are those?
  • How do companies approach it realistically? Discussing the hardware side of repaving data centers.
  • At what stage does RackN get involved? How does the company help speed things up?
  • Hirschfeld gives a comparison in terms of how Digital Rebar helps customers, especially in saving time.
  • Who all gets involved in rebuilding a data center? How do the teams work together?
  • There may also be cases where organizations don’t have to rebuild their whole data centers. There might be a few components they might have to add, some regulatory lead or so. How much is the RackN Digital Rebar capable of handling that?

The summary of the show is written by Monika Chauhan

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