Even for the most experienced infrastructure teams, changing and updating servers can carry significant risk. On the other hand, there is usually significant value in updating hardware. A server refresh can provide flexibility needed to examine other vendors, not to mention the improved security of keeping systems up to date. Because of this, it is simply not acceptable to avoid or delay a datacenter refresh. But can you survive a datacenter refresh without disrupting your business? Is it possible to make hardware automation not just safer, but faster and vendor agnostic?
Before we dive into challenges and opportunities of a refresh, RackN is mentioned in this Gartner® Server Market Guide that can help you select the best hardware vendor for your needs.
Each refresh creates opportunities
While never fun, hardware changes should be seen as opportunities for operations teams to improve the ROI to the business. That may include being ready for the latest versions of key platforms like vSphere 8, enabling secure firmware, or accessing improved GPU and ML performance. Another reason could be saving money by ensuring competitive bids from your vendors. Most customers see these benefits from even minor firmware updates.
Why are refreshes hard?
Most organizations take a year to plan for even the smallest infrastructure updates. This is because your business depends on those servers running. Any disruption, even a planned one, creates risk to the business. Operations teams don’t just have to plan out how to do the changes effectively. They also need to understand who will be impacted. That, in turn, pushes refreshes into inconvenient high-stakes off-hours service windows.
The risk of lengthy business interruptions from downtime or unexpected glitches naturally makes us reluctant to take regular action. Consequently, we need to put more and more changes into these refresh windows. It’s not that the individual steps of refresh are technically hard. It’s that the environment we’ve been constrained to work in magnifies both the effort and the risk.
A refresh becomes even more difficult the potential complications of data protection, security products, and vendor changes are considered. But if the changes aren’t made, systems are more likely to be unprotected, vulnerable, and vendor locked.
For example, how many times have you scheduled your vSphere updates with a server upgrade, because your vSphere version went out of support? The vSphere team has improved the upgrade process over the years. However ESXi is notoriously difficult to update until it is installed on the server. Imagine if you could rehearse and validate that process before executing it. Even better, we’ve seen customers reduce the entire process to under an hour with nearly perfect success rates. This type speed and confidence is a game changer.
The refresh process needs to become predictable, rehearsable, and faster. Ideally, refreshes should happen incrementally so that we never needed to wait for a service window again!
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) can flip the refresh script
Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is an advanced automation methodology that applies development processes like pipelines, version control, and immutability to operational systems. IaC is the automation approach used by Digital Rebar. It transforms infrastructure management by providing reusable workflows that can be downloaded from a validated catalog and then shared between departments.
IaC provides a way to leverage the proven RackN processes that have been battle hardened by other enterprises. This means you don’t have to figure out your own refresh process. Digital Rebar has a vendor agnostic server abstraction process. This means that all bare metal or cloud vendors use the same Digital Rebar pipelines. Since you can rehearse before you deploy, you can find all the gotchas before your service window.
The power of reusable and rehearsed automation is transformative. It creates the confidence that was missing in the previous generation. It’s more than simply being able to meet your SLAs. Reliable automation with strong APIs means that you can start doing incremental refreshes. Incorporating automatic updates into your daily operational routine means that your systems are constantly updated.
From Surviving to Thriving
Imagine the impact if your teams didn’t just survive a datacenter refresh, but they became agile enough to get ahead of the game.
Surviving a datacenter hardware refresh without disrupting your business is possible with the right approach. When you adopt Infrastructure as Code with RackN Digital Rebar, you can streamline the refresh process, minimize downtime, and maximize the value of your server investments. With these tools in place, businesses can confidently face datacenter transformations and focus on what truly matters: driving innovation and growth.