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Lori MacVittie

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Related Topics: Cloud Computing, Datacenter Automation, Cloud Data Analytics, F5 Networks

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Data Center Feng Shui

The right form-factor in the right location at the right time will maximize the benefits associated with cloud & virtualization

Feng Shui, simply defined, is the art of knowing where to place things to maximize benefits. There are many styles of Feng Shui but the goal of all forms is to create the most beneficial environment in which one can live, work, play, etc… based on the individual’s goals.

quote-left Historically, feng shui was widely used to orient buildings—often spiritually significant structures such as tombs, but also dwellings and other structures—in an auspicious manner. Depending on the particular style of feng shui being used, an auspicious site could be determined by reference to local features such as bodies of water, stars, or a compass. Feng shui was suppressed in China during the cultural revolution in the 1960s, but has since seen an increase in popularity, particularly in the United States.

-- Feng Shui, Wikipedia

In the US, at least, Feng Shui has gained popularity primarily as it relates to interior design – the art of placing your furniture in the right places based on relationship to water, stars, and compass directions. Applying the art of Feng Shui to your data center architecture is not nearly as difficult as it may sound because essentially you’re doing the same thing: determining the best location (on or off-premise? virtual or physical? VNA or hardware?) for each network, application delivery network, and security component in the data center based on a set of organizational (business and operational) needs or goals. The underlying theory of Feng Shui is that location matters, and it is certainly true in the data center that location and form-factor matter to the harmony of the data center. The architectural decisions regarding a hybrid cloud computing infrastructure Links directly to a PDF white paper (a mix of virtual network appliances, hardware, and software) have an impact on many facets of operational and business goals.


Some pundits have put forth the notion that there’s no real reason for hardware-based solution because, after all, they’re just general purpose servers “under the hood”. This kind of statement is hyperbole and fails to recognize the difference between “hardware” and “appliance” and between “general purpose compute” and “purpose-specific compute.”

There are certainly data center components across all four data center infrastructure tiers – security, network, storage, and application delivery – that can be (and perhaps should be) virtualized. There are also data center components in those tiers that should not be virtualized. Then there’s the components that could go either way, depending on the specific organizational and operational goals, needs, and budget.

In fact, there are times when the same component may in fact be deployed in both form factors simultaneously.

It isn’t as simple a decision as it initially sounds. Some folks would have us believe that virtualized components are exactly the same as their hardware counterparts and therefore the choice is obviously to go with the virtual solution because, well, it’s trendy. Like the iPad.

But while the functionality offered by a virtualized version of a hardware component may be equivalent, there remains differences in capability (speeds and feeds), costs, and management of the solution across varying form-factors.

For example, pricing of virtualized network appliances is lower than their hardware counterparts – for the core solution, that is. The virtualized network appliance still carries along the licensing costs of the virtualization platform and the compute resources required to deploy the solution. Virtualization isn’t free, after all, there are costs incurred in licensing, configuration, deployment, and the storage and transfer of images before, during, and after execution. There may be additional changes (dependencies) required of the underlying infrastructure to support virtualized solutions in terms of logging and auditing and compliance with data retention policies. There may be changes to network management systems required to support new protocols or methods of management and monitoring. There may be budgetary issues and obstacles in obtaining the right mix of OPEX and CAPEX to acquire, deploy, and maintain the solution.

There’s a lot more that goes into (or should go into) the decision to go virtual than just whether or not it’s available in that form-factor.


A well-developed virtualization and cloud computing strategy recognizes that for each network, security, and application delivery networking component being deployed there needs to be a new decision making process. Strategies that are all or nothing in data center models are unlikely to succeed because all or nothing has never succeeded. There exist still today COBOL and mainframe-deployed applications that are critical to the business and the bottom-line. There exists still today “legacy” client-server applications with fat clients that departments X,Y, and Z rely upon.

Just as Feng Shui for your office isn’t as simple as answering “should my desk face the door or the window”, there is no simple “virtual or hardware” decision here. No “on or off-premise” decision. No “either-or” decision. It’s just not that simple; it’s a complex set of variables that must be examined and evaluated to decide in what form-factor and at which location should component X be deployed. That’s why it’s impossible for me – or anyone else – to give you a simple “virtual” or “hardware” answer to the question when it’s asked. The only honest answer answer is “it depends.”

So watch this space for more posts on “Data Center Feng Shui” as it relates to specific components and functionality typically leveraged in the application delivery network tier of the data center for guidance you can use in your unique, data center formula to make the right decision for your environment.

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More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.