Back in July, I announced AOL’s Data Center Independence Day with the release of our new ‘Micro Data Center’ approach. In that post we highlighted the terrific work that the teams put in to revolutionize our data center approach and align it completely to not only technology goals but business goals as well. It was an incredible amount of engineering and work to get to that point and it would be foolish to think that the work represented a ‘One and Done’ type of effort.
So today I am happy to announce the roll out of a new capability for our Micro-DC – An indoor version of the Micro-DC.
While the first instantiations of our new capability were focused on outdoor environments, we were also hard at work at an indoor version with the same set of goals. Why work on an indoor version as well? Well you might recall in the original post I stated:
We are no longer tied to traditional data center facilities or colocation markets. That doesn’t mean we wont use them, it means we now have a choice. Of course this is only possible because of the internally developed cloud infrastructure but we have freed ourselves from having to be bolted onto or into existing big infrastructure. It allows us to have an incredible amount geo-distributed capacity at a very low cost point in terms of upfront capital and ongoing operational expense.
We need to maintain a portfolio of options for our products and services. In this case – having an indoor version of our capabilities to ensure that our solution can live absolutely anywhere. This will allow our footprint, automation and all, to live inside any data center co-location environment or the interior of any office building anywhere around the planet, and retain the extremely low maintenance profile that we were targeting from an operational cost perspective. In a sense you can think of it as “productizing” our infrastructure. Could we have just deployed racks of servers, network kit, etc. like we have always done? Sure. But by continuing to productize our infrastructure we continue to drive down the costs relating to our short term and long term infrastructure costs. In my mind, Productizing your infrastructure, is actually the next evolution in standardization of your infrastructure. You can have infrastructure standards in place – Server Model, RAM, HD space, Access switches, Core switches, and the like. But until you get to that next phase of standardizing, automating, and ‘productizing’ it into a discrete set of capabilities – you only get a partial win.
Some people have asked me, “Why didn’t you begin with the interior version to start with? It seems like it would be the easier one to accomplish.” Indeed I cannot argue with them, it would have probably been easier as there were much less challenges to solve. You can make basic assumptions around where this kind of indoor solution would live in, and reduce much of the complexity. I guess it all nets out to a philosophy of solving the harder problems first. Once you prove the more complicated use case, the easier ones come much faster. This is definitely the situation here.
While this new capability continues the success we are seeing in re-defining the cost and operations of our particular engineering environments, the real challenge here (as with all sorts infrastructure and cloud automation) is whether or not we can map similar success of our applications and services to work correctly in that space. On that note, I should have more to post soon. Stay Tuned!