IT Focus Area: infrastructure operations
August 10, 2016
The New Data Center Strategy Requires an Integrated, Hybrid and Dynamic Approach
In the 80s and 90s, IT ran like an HMO — it had to take care of 100 percent of what the company needed delivered, at a fixed cost.
Many companies still run this way today.
Data center demands have changed. Today’s data center construct goes beyond the traditional four walls of the data center facility and requires thinking beyond traditional strategies. Indeed, the words “data center strategy” may soon become obsolete terminology, as more companies start thinking of their data center as an IT service brokerage strategy.
A contemporary data center strategy requires an integrated approach. It should consider legacy, on-premises private cloud and public cloud infrastructure requirements to offer the greatest predictability.
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Companies today require speed and agility to keep up with — and stay ahead of — competition from known and unknown sources. Traditional data center strategy is being replaced with a dynamic sourcing strategy. The IT organization must look beyond the traditional four walls of a corporate owned facility to a new world where units of work are procured dynamically. Fixed cost models for technology and manpower are giving way to variable cost models based on demand.
There are three main reasons data center strategy is changing:
1. Data center strategies are no longer real-estate centric. Previously, data center strategies focused on how many data center facilities a company needed to support the business. IT would perform studies to determine the amount of data center space, power and cooling it required. Data center strategies would also determine the financial implications over the strategic duration. In most instances, companies realized that a significant capital expenditure would be required to align their data center strategy with their current data center facilities. Data center options that required a limited capital investment became more viable to the business. Data center facility costs transitioned from capital expenses to operational expenses.
2. Companies are looking to get out of the data center business. The corporate mindset has changed over the past two to three years and companies are looking to get out of owning and operating their data centers. Leadership is looking for IT to support the business and not spending valuable time and resources allocated to facility support. The popularity of the colocation market is allowing companies to "outsource" the facility functions to allow IT to focus on IT. Furthermore, colocation vendors have the capabilities to provide additional services.
3. Data centers are transitioning from being a physical place into an ethereal concept of where computing happens. Companies now look beyond the four walls to seek a hybrid data center approach that delivers the greatest predictability, transparency, and repeatability to the business. Business value and functionality are intertwined. As long as business units get the functionality they demand to do their jobs, they don’t care how IT is delivered to them. It’s all about running applications on the right systems for the right workload.
What Has Changed?
Supply has become more varied and complex because as organizations look to optimize their IT portfolio, they aren’t tied to a specific vendor for all of their IT needs. They can mix and match to create idealized IT solutions. Demand is growing more complex as well. The quickly evolving technology landscape allows companies to adapt more swiftly. The new data center strategy requires an integrated and hybrid data center approach to meet your company’s needs for greater speed and agility. And ultimately, better business results.
Finding the Right Data Center Option
There are a multitude of new data center options available these days. It’s not just about how big or small the data center is; it’s about speed, investing in IT differently, agility, standardization of IT services and responsiveness.
New applications drive different strategies, and newer, higher density IT equipment has dramatically changed data center facility design because they require more power and cooling to run. The combination of increased power demands with rising power costs means that the need for denser and more efficient data centers is only going to accelerate. And, with increasingly global business demands, companies must power their apps to global customers at the right time in the right place on the right system.
Workload demands also require companies to move from a siloed approach to a hybrid data center that includes both traditional and cloud elements. Demands have to be able to move through rapidly and repeatably, which disrupts the ability of a data center to function in silos.
IT should think about how to achieve specific performance requirements based on the service it is delivering, including integrated capacity and the need to standardize to scale. Therefore, data centers should be flexible about capacity, offering the workload quickly and delivering it in an integrated way.
Develop a Roadmap for the Future
The key is to develop a long-term roadmap for three, four or even five years down the line that looks at financials, key technology decisions and how to structure the IT organization to better react to business needs and free up IT to create more business value.
In order to outline the roadmap, the IT organization should look at its data center strategy holistically because it can’t deliver a service well unless it delivers all elements effectively. By developing and using a standardized approach, IT can deliver services more quickly and at a higher quality.
Utilize the Strategy to Improve IT Processes
Organizations should look at gaps in the current environment such as performance of their data center facilities infrastructure, response times to the business through service level agreements (SLAs) and the problems the business is trying to overcome with help from technology. Analyze the business from a technology perspective: For example, how quickly can IT respond to service requests? Is IT able to talk in detail about all of its costs?
After conducting this analysis, IT can take this information and outline how it will pursue new capabilities each year.
5 Things to Consider when Developing a Data Center Strategy
1. Facilities are a component of the data center strategy but they are no longer the most critical. The ability to support the business while being agile to accommodate new technologies has become the priority.
2. Understand the benefits and implications of a capital expenditures (CAPEX) model versus an operational expenditures (OPEX) model to determine what best suits your company. Outsourced models can be very favorable from a capital expense perspective, but more costly over the long term compared to an internal model.
3. Technology comes in waves, but new platforms don’t completely replace old platforms. They build on each other and lead to new developments and possibilities—but overtime that also leads to an incredibly complex IT environment.
4. Creating a roadmap is critical to the process. When you have a plan in place, it is easier to deal with changes and adapt with agility to your organization’s evolving IT needs.
5. Integration may get harder and harder, and IT never completely finishes transitioning to a new technology platform before it’s time to move to the next. But a well-orchestrated data center strategy helps organizations advance out of the past while taking with them the valuable lessons learned.
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Thinking Beyond the Four Walls of the Data Center
The traditional data center strategy has evolved from how many data centers should I have and where should they be located. Companies want to be agile and able to scale technology to align with the business. IT organizations should look beyond the four walls of the data center and shift toward an integrated, dynamic and hybrid data center model based on demand, rather than the traditional fixed model for technology and manpower.