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The Human Body and Data Center Automation | @CloudExpo #AI #ML #DataCenter
The nervous system has two components: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system

The Human Body and Data Center Automation - Part 2

Disclaimer: I am an IT guy and my knowledge on human body is limited to my daughter's high school biology class book and information obtained from search engines. So, excuse me if any of the information below is not represented accurately !!

Human body is the most complex machine ever created. With a complex network of interconnected organs, millions of cells and the most advanced processor, human body is the most automated system in this planet. In this article, we will draw comparisons between working of a human body to that of a data center. We will draw parallels between human body automation to data center automation and explain different levels of automation we need to drive in data centers. This article is divided into four parts covering each of body main functions and drawing parallels on automation. This is the second article in the human body series. Please click here for the link for first article

The nervous system
The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves and specialized cells known as neurons that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It is through the nervous system that we communicate with the outside world and, at the same time, many mechanisms inside our body are controlled. The nervous system takes in information through our senses, processes the information and triggers reactions, such as making your muscles move or causing you to feel pain. The closest comparison to nervous system to what is in our data center is the network. Much like the network connects everything together in the data center, nervous system essentially is the body's network system.

The nervous system has two components: the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The peripheral nervous system consists of sensory neurons, ganglia (clusters of neurons) and nerves that connect to one another and to the central nervous system. Imagine this as core network (central) and data center network (peripheral). However, what is so fascinating about our nervous system is the way it works. Let's take a deep dive inside our body and learn how can we make our networks more efficient.

Image Source: Livescience.com

The nervous system has two main subdivisions: the somatic, or voluntary, component; and the autonomic, or involuntary, component. The autonomic nervous system regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing, that work without conscious effort. It is constantly active, regulating things such as breathing, heart beat and metabolic processes. It does this by receiving signals from the brain and passing them on to the body. It can also send signals in the other direction - from the body to the brain - providing your brain with information about how full your bladder is or how quickly your heart is beating.

Now can you think what system in our data center comes close to autonomic nervous system? It's our monitoring system. The function of monitoring system in data center is to monitor health of various components(hardware/software) in our data center and alert us when the thresholds are breached or an error has occurred. In most of the modern data centers today there is some tool which does this job. Alerts and error logs are collected at all layers and once an error has occurred or particular KPIs crosses certain threshold, an event is generated and humans are notified to take action. However, where the human body defeats any modern monitoring system is ability to take autonomic actions based on situation. Let's imagine you on a treadmill and running. When you are running and as the heart rates goes up, the brain is not just sending out alerts to you indicating your heart rate is going up but it also taking appropriate actions to ensure the body continues to function. The first action is to breakdown glycogen, a form of glucose to give you extra dose of energy.

The second action is to draw more blood towards your muscles which are under stress and away from non-needed functions like digestion (unless you are eating while excising). Since the body needs more oxygen for your muscles it signals your lungs to intake more oxygen and hence your breathing rate goes up. As the body burns more glucose and your body heats up, your brain sends signals to your sweat glands to release moisture to keep the body cool and hence maintains temperature inside the body. All these actions without you telling your body what to do to keep you healthy. Only if the thresholds crosses beyond certain rate and your body is not able to fix you, it will signal us to take action like resting or slowing down. This is exactly how our monitoring system should work. However, what happens in most of the enterprise is a sorry state of affairs.

Let's consider a very common issue most of the enterprise faces - a performance issue. Consider that the mission critical business application running on your server is experiencing performance issues and the users are complaining. In a typical organization, an application user will do first level analysis and based on his/her analysis he will open an incident ticket with command center. Everyone from systems engineer, storage engineer, network engineer and specialized performance engineers are paged to figure out what's happening. Hours are spent to detect where in the fabric there is contention which is leading to performance issue. Once the issue is detected another few hours are spent to finalize the action plan and finally the fix is put in place. Sounds familiar.

Now imagine we can learn from our human body and can design our data center in such a way that the system should automatically detect something is going wrong in the fabric and find out where in the fabric there is issue. Once the issue is detected it identifies appropriate fix and implements the fix. If the system detects performance issue is because of underlying CPU constraint on one of the VMs, the system should either scale up CPU capacity on the VM or automatically horizontally scale the application by adding another VM or container. If the issue was detected at network level, system should be in a position to move entire VLAN to another healthy leaf switch. If the issue happened at DC level, the system should automatically fail over all the impacted applications to another DC. While some of the modern cloud native applications works in similar fashion, the same level of maturity is not seen in traditional applications.

The somatic system consists of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord with muscles and sensory receptors in the skin. The voluntary nervous system (somatic nervous system) controls all the things that we are aware of and can consciously influence, such as moving our arms, legs and other parts of the body. The nerves (like the network cables in our DC), starts at the brain and central cord and branches out to every part of our body. Neurons (intelligent code) send signals to other cells though thin fibers called axons, which causes chemical known as neuro transmitter to be released at junctions called synapses. A synapse gives command to the cell and the entire communication takes a fraction of a second. Such is the speed of transmission in our human body that our fastest router in the world cannot come close to this.

Let's take an example. Imagine someone tapping you lightly on your shoulder and your immediate reaction is to turn around and see who is doing that. The sensory neurons (cells) on our shoulder transmit the signals to your brain via the nerves at such a fast pace that you immediately react. Now imagine someone tapping at your shoulder and it takes few seconds to a minute for your body to react to the signal J . The way our body reacts to various form of sense (touch, smell, taste, etc.) and the fact we don't have to manage every action indicates how advance is our body's automation system. The body sensor systems are like the sensors in our data center. The role of sensors is to collect the data and send it for further processing. While we have lot of maturity to collect data what we lack is how fast can we analyze the data to take appropriate action. This is where our Brain checkmates even the fastest of all computers including IBM Watson. Our brain is a combination of Big Data system, e.g., Hadoop, the intelligence of IBM Watson and fastest super compute in the world all combined into one. Let's look at our brain.

Image Source: diseasespictures.com

Brain - Our Brain is the intelligence of our body. It controls all actions in our body. It acts as both CPU and memory for our body and without brains you are almost like walking zombie who has no control of his or her actions. Inside the data center, CPU/Memory inside our servers combined with the software which runs on top of these acts like brain. However, we are still far to match the amount of computing capacity our brain has and more important the learning and intuitive capabilities our brain has.

The fastest supercomputer in the world is China's Sunway Taihulight  and has a maximum processing speed of 93 petaFLOPS. A petaFLOP is a quadrillion (one thousand trillion) floating point calculations per second. Still this does not come close to processing speed of the human brain. It is postulated that the human brain operates at 1 exaFLOP, which is equivalent to a billion billion calculations per second. While the hardware which is, the muscular structure can be compared with chip set we have in our computers, it's the software which makes the difference.

Our brain controls the nervous system, the muscular system and other vital parts of our body. It also has tremendous learning capability. When a child is born, our brain is almost empty but is in a learning mode. It quickly learns how to interact with the outside world and starts to read data from the sense organs. This is how we react to taste, touch and sound. As we grow we learn how to talk, write and communicate. We learn how to walk, run and jump! In the software world, we call it as AI - Artificial intelligence. Humans have been trying for centuries on how to develop brain like self-learning capabilities and while we now have self-driving cars which is pushing the envelope, we are still far away from truly matching our brain's power.

Now the brain cannot work out of isolation. It gets all the data it needs from our sensory organs - eyes, nose, tongue. We interact with the world with the help of our sensory organs. Eyes gives us visual data , nose gives us smell related data while the tongue allows us to taste. Do you know that our tongue alone has millions of sensors which allows to distinguish various tastes from sour to sweet and from hot to cold! Imagine the status of all restaurants if we did not have these sensors. On the other hand, our nose has sensors to not only detect various smell but also acts as a self-defense organ.

In our data centers, we need similar capabilities. Inside the compute, we have sensors which tells us that the filesystem is getting full or inside the router we can tell if we have packet drops happening. We name them as alerts and in a given day millions of alerts are generated by all the systems running in an enterprise. The difference here is what do we do the alerts? If every alert is dependent on human to take manual intervention it will be as good as our tongue telling you that the coffee you are drinking is very hot and waiting for an action to be decided by you on whether you should stop drinking. Your tongue sends alert to your brain, your brain processes information and decides it's too dangerous and immediately takes action to control your actions. Now you may still drink it cause harm but the body takes immediate action to prevent the harm.

Similarly, with the alerts coming from our systems, we need to develop systems which can take immediate actions (self-heal) and not wait for human intervention all the time. If the filesystem is full, take immediate action to detect and fix what is causing it to be full. If the security intrusion detection system has detected malicious emails, block the emails immediately. If network port is dropping packets, isolate the port and move traffic to alternate port. The more autonomic actions we can take, the better we will be in managing our data center.

To summarize here's what we need in our data center: L-C-C-A

  • Lightning fast network of intelligent sensors across the data center stack
  • Central monitoring system which can monitor alerts/error logs at all layers from application down to the server
  • Co-relation engine which can correlate various alerts and error logs and pin points where in the data center there is issue
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) capable run-book automation engine which can trigger autonomous action (self-heal) based on the issue identified and implements the fix

In our next article on human body and data center automation we will focus on our circulator system which is responsible for flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients in our body and we will learn how our data center should learn from same. Until next time.

About Ashish Nanjiani
Ashish Nanjiani is a Senior IT Manager within Cisco IT managing Cisco worldwide IT data centers as an operations manager. With 20 years of IT experience, he is an expert in data center operations and automation. He has spoken in many inter-company events on data center automation and helps IT professionals digitize their IT operations. He is also an entrepreneur and has been successfully running a website business for 10+ years.

Ashish holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics and a Masters in Business Administration. He is a certified PMP, Scrum master. He is married and has two lovely daughters. He enjoys playing with technology during his free time. ashish.nanjiani@gmail.com

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HEDGES
Cloudata

DUFOUR
Webroot

ROBERTS
Platform

JONES
Deep

PFEIFFER
NICTA

NIELSEN
Redis

PAOLAL-
ANTORIO

DataArchon

KAHN
Solgenia

LOPEZ
Kurento

KIM
MapR

BROMHEAD
Instaclustr

LEVINE
CytexOne

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

GORBA-
CHEV

Intelligent
Systems

THYKAT-
TIL

Navisite

TRELOAR
Bebaio

SIVARAMA-
KRISHNAN

Red Hat
Cloud Expo New York All-Star Speakers Included

DE SOUZA
Cisco

POTTER
SafeLogic

ROBINSON
CompTIA

WARUSA
-WITHANA

WSO2 Inc

MEINER
Oracle

CHOU
Microsoft

HARRISON
Tufin

BRUNOZZI
VMware

KIM
MapR

KANE
Dyn

SICULAR
Basho

TURNER
Cloudian

KUMAR
Liaison

ADAMIAK
Liaison

KHAN
Solgenia

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

SUSSMAN
Coalfire

ISAACSON
RMS

LYNN
CodeFutures

HEABERLIN
Windstream

RAMA
MURTHY

Virtusa

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE MENO
CommVault

GRILLI
Adobe

WILLIAMS
Rancher Labs

CRISWELL
Alert Logic

COTY
Alert Logic

JACOBS
SingleHop

MARAVEI
Cisco

JACKSON
Softlayer

SINGH
IBM

HAZARD
Softlayer

GALLO
Softlayer

TAMASKAR
GENBAND

SUBRA
-MANIAN

Emcien

LEVESQUE
Windstream

IVANOV
StorPool

BLOOM-
BERG

Intellyx

BUDHANI
Soha

HATHAWAY
IBM Watson

TOLL
ProfitBricks

LANDRY
Microsoft

BEARFIELD
Blue Box

HERITAGE
Akana

PILUSO
SIASMSP

HOLT
IBM Cloudant

SHAN
CTS

PICCIN-
INNI

EMC

BRON-
GERSMA

Modulus

PAIGE
CenturyLink

SABHIKHI
Cognitive Scale

MILLS
Green House Data

KATZEN
CenturyLink

SLOPER
CenturyLink

SRINIVAS
EMC

TALREJA
Cisco

GORBACHEV
Systems Services Inc.

COLLISON
Apcera

PRABHU
OpenCrowd

LYNN
CodeFutures

SWARTZ
Ericsson

MOSHENKO
CoreOS

BERMING-
HAM

SIOS

WILLIS
Stateless Networks

MURPHY
Gridstore

KHABE
Vicom

NIKOLOV
GetClouder

DIETZE
Windstream

DALRY-
MPLE

EnterpriseDB

MAZZUCCO
TierPoint

RIVERA
WHOA.com

HERITAGE
Akana

SEYMOUR
6fusion

GIANNETTO
Author

CARTER
IBM

ROGERS
Virtustream
Cloud Expo Silicon Valley All-Star Speakers

TESAR
Microsoft

MICKOS
HP

BHARGAVA
Intel

RILEY
Riverbed

DEVINE
IBM

ISAACSON
CodeFutures

LYNN
HP

HINKLE
Citrix

KHAN
Solgenia

SINGH
Bigdata

BEACH
SendGrid

BOSTOCK
IndependenceIT

DE SOUZA
Cisco

PATTATHIL
Harbinger

O'BRIEN
Aria Systems

BONIFAZI
Solgenia

BIANCO
Solgenia

PROCTOR
NuoDB

DUGGAL
EnterpriseWeb

TEGETHOFF
Appcore

BRUNOZZI
VMware

HICKENS
Parasoft

KLEBANOV
Cisco

PETERS
Esri

GOLDBERG
Vormetric

CUMBER-
LAND

Dimension

ROSENDAHL
Quantum

LOOMIS
Cloudant

BRUNO
StackIQ

HANNON
SoftLayer

JACKSON
SoftLayer

HOCH
Virtustream

KAPADIA
Seagate

PAQUIN
OnLive

TSAI
Innodisk

BARRALL
Connected Data

SHIAH
AgilePoint

SEGIL
Verizon

PODURI
Citrix

COWIE
Dyn

RITTEN-
HOUSE

Cisco

FALLOWS
Kaazing

THYKATTIL
TimeWarner

LEIDUCK
SAP

LYNN
HP

WAGSTAFF
BSQUARE

POLLACK
AOL

KAMARAJU
Vormetric

BARRY
Catbird

MENDEN-
HALL

SUPERNAP

SHAN
KEANE

PLESE
Verizon

BARNUM
Voxox

TURNER
Cloudian

CALDERON
Advanced Systems

AGARWAL
SOA Software

LEE
Quantum

OBEROI
Concurrent, Inc.

HATEM
Verizon

GALEY
Autodesk

CAUTHRON
NIMBOXX

BARSOUM
IBM

GORDON
1Plug

LEWIS
Verizon

YEO
OrionVM

NAKAGAWA
Transparent Cloud Computing

SHIBATA
Transparent Cloud Computing

NATH
GE

GOKCEN
GE

STOICA
Databricks

TANKEL
Pivotal Software


Testimonials
This week I had the pleasure of delivering the opening keynote at Cloud Expo New York. It was amazing to be back in the great city of New York with thousands of cloud enthusiasts eager to learn about the next step on their journey to embracing a cloud-first worldl."
@SteveMar_Msft
General Manager of Window Azure
 
How does Cloud Expo do it every year? Another INCREDIBLE show - our heads are spinning - so fun and informative."
@SOASoftwareInc
 
Thank you @ThingsExpo for such a great event. All of the people we met over the past three days makes us confident IoT has a bright future."
Yasser Khan
CEO of @Cnnct2me
 
One of the best conferences we have attended in a while. Great job, Cloud Expo team! Keep it going."

@Peak_Ten


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@CloudExpo Blogs
The high barrier to entry prevents many companies from tapping into the full potential of machine learning. But what if you could make it more accessible? We’re in the midst of a data explosion, with today’s enterprises amassing goldmines of information (25 quintillion bytes of data every day, according to some reports). But what exactly are they doing with this data? Considering the volume of data being collected is quickly becoming unmanageable, now is a good time to shift from manual machine learning to a cognitive approach. This enables businesses to better capitalize on their data and fa...
The notion of improving operational efficiency is conspicuously absent from the healthcare debate - neither Obamacare nor the newly proposed GOP plan discusses the impact that a step-function improvement in efficiency could have on access to healthcare (through more capacity), quality of healthcare services (through reduced wait times for patients) or cost (through better utilization of scarce, expensive assets).
Most of us understand that artificial intelligence (AI) offers opportunities for productivity improvements in the form of speed, automation, standardized actions and responses, plus the opportunity for continuous improvements via machine learning. These opportunities are enabled by data inputs that are analyzed and processed through AI algorithms that execute a desired decision and action. For all of the great capabilities and benefits that AI can provide, there is also a potential dark side. AI solutions can easily codify our prejudices, bias, gender stereotypes and promote injustices intenti...
Our work, both with clients and with tools, has lead us to wonder how it is that organizations are handling compliance issues in the cloud. The big cloud vendors offer compliance for their infrastructure, but the shared responsibility model requires that you take certain steps to meet compliance requirements. Which lead us to start poking around a little more. We wanted to get a picture of what was available, and how it was being used. There is a lot of fluidity in this space, as in all things cloud. The fact that DevOps Security plays into the cloud compliance model – particularly in dynamic ...
Blockchain offers impeccable security with its cryptography-based decentralized system as well as the plethora of possible uses retailers could exploit in the near future. In a world of increasing cyberattacks, internet fraud and online hacking, blockchain comes as a breath of fresh air. With its encrypted data and decentralized network system, it's a thorn in every hacker's side. Generally being associated with the finance sector, blockchain is now taking retail by storm. It's on a course that will change the retail industry as we know it. But how exactly is it going to achieve such a feat?
The goal of Microservices is to improve software delivery speed and increase system safety as scale increases. Microservices being modular these are faster to change and enables an evolutionary architecture where systems can change, as the business needs change. Microservices can scale elastically and by being service oriented can enable APIs natively. Microservices also reduce implementation and release cycle time and enables continuous delivery. This paper provides a logical overview of the Microservices Reference Architecture that highlights various sub systems needed to support Microservic...
Gone are the days when application development was the daunting task of the highly skilled developers backed with strong IT skills, low code application development has democratized app development and empowered a new generation of citizen developers. There was a time when app development was in the domain of people with complex coding and technical skills. We called these people by various names like programmers, coders, techies, and they usually worked in a world oblivious of the everyday priorities of the business world. However, with the passage of time, this scenario is much more democr...
In an attempt to put the patient first in healthcare, Congress and President Obama in 2015 approved a bipartisan bill for United States healthcare reform. The bill is known as “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” or MACRA. Among the major provisions of MACRA is the Quality Payment Program. Under the Quality Payment Program, physicians and nurses receive positive, neutral or negative Medicare payment adjustments based upon a “Patient Satisfaction Score,” that is, patient satisfaction scores have a direct impact on how physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and hospital’s g...
It’s conference season and, as you might expect, Jason and I have been on the road covering a bunch of them. It’s always great to see what the disruptive players in the market are doing — and this year did not disappoint. But there is one thing that repeatedly happens that just gets under my skin: transformation-washing. As Jason explained in a Forbes article over a year ago, ‘washing’ is when a vendor (or pundit) applies a buzzword loosely in an overt attempt to attach themselves to its buzz. And transformation-washing is rampant.
Networks have become large, complex entities that are increasingly difficult to manage and control. Security, audit, risk and compliance professionals know that their organizations rely on them for effective risk management, control and governance processes that are essential to the safety of their network environment. Yet compliance and security are more challenging than ever before as additional layers are added to this environment. One of the challenges lies in the fact that there is an ongoing, huge access gap in network security and compliance – and it has been residing within the enviro...
Some journey to cloud on a mission, others, a deadline. Change management is useful when migrating to public, private or hybrid cloud environments in either case. For most, stakeholder engagement peaks during the planning and post migration phases of a project. Legacy engagements are fairly direct: projects follow a linear progression of activities (the “waterfall” approach) – change managers and application coders work from the same functional and technical requirements. Enablement and development mirror one another, progressing from proof-of-concept planning to final product delivery. Exce...
While Artificial Intelligence (AI) may not be a new concept, its contribution to automation may just change the face of business. AI's conception dates as far back as 1950, when Alan Turing proposed the Turing test in order to evaluate a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior. Fast-forward a couple of decades and research led to the creation of well-known theoretical tools such as Fuzzy Logic, Bayesian Networks, Markov Models and Neural Networks. Concurrently, new types of programming languages such as Prolog, LISP and Smalltalk set the scene for most of the modern interpreted langu...
Fingerspitzengefühl: A German word used to describe the ability to maintain attention to detail in an ever-changing operational and tactical environment by maintaining real-time situational awareness. The term is synonymous with the English expression of "keeping one's finger on the pulse". The problem with fingerspitzengefühl traditionally, in addition to pronouncing it, has been it is hard for an individual to scale up. Today that is changing. In a world of sensors, AI and mobile devices, having real-time situational awareness is far easier than ever before. In fact, today the challenge i...
The “Internet of Things” is an exciting area of tech, one in which industry experts estimate there will be more than 30 billion connected IoT devices by 2020. IoT is the inter-networking and instrumentation of physical devices – everything from streets, cars, factories, power grids, ice caps, satellites, and clothing to phones, microwaves, milk containers, planets, human bodies, etc. IoT creates an opportunity to measure, collect and analyze an ever-increasing variety of behavioral statistics. That being said, data, and more importantly insight into the data, is key for enhanced business val...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal today!
Gaining visibility in today’s sprawling cloud infrastructure is complex and laborious, involving drilling down into tools offered by various cloud services providers. Enterprise IT organizations need smarter and effective tools at their disposal in order to address this pertinent problem. Gaining a 360 - degree view of the cloud costs requires collection and analysis of the cost data across all cloud infrastructures used inside an enterprise.
Making informed network investment decisions about emerging technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) can help evolve the network to keep pace with the innovations of the devices and people it’s connecting. As you work with business leaders to make decisions about upgrading your infrastructure with these networking developments, it’s important to understand the similarities, differences, and benefits of dual NFV and SDN implementation. With their ability to offer a new way to design, deploy, and manage the network and its services, NFV a...
For DevOps teams, the concepts behind service-oriented architecture (SOA) are nothing new. A style of software design initially made popular in the 1990s, SOA was an alternative to a monolithic application; essentially a collection of coarse-grained components that communicated with each other. Communication would involve either simple data passing or two or more services coordinating some activity. SOA served as a valid approach to solving many architectural problems faced by businesses, as applications could be developed by more teams working in parallel and more productively by reusing orig...
Many IT organizations have come to learn that leveraging cloud infrastructure is not just unavoidable, it’s one of the most effective paths for IT organizations to become more responsive to business needs. Yet with the cloud comes new challenges, including minimizing downtime, decreasing the cost of operations, and preventing employee burnout to name a few. As companies migrate their processes and procedures to their new reality of a cloud-based infrastructure, an incident management solution can and should be adopted to help overcome these challenges. This is particularly true when larger ...
We’re seeing an emerging trend in the cloud computing world. I’ve been referring to it as cloud fatigue, but it’s more commonly known as repatriation, or moving workloads from the cloud back to on-prem locations. According to a recent 451 Research report, over 21 percent of organizations have plans to pull back from the cloud and return to an on-prem infrastructure in 2017. Considering the vast growth of cloud adoption over the last several years, what’s behind this trend?