This eighth post in our series on Digital Transformation continues to lay out what a truly modern approach to IT “looks like”—this time with regard to the Data Center.
Leveraging the cloud is at the heart of your Digital Transformation, but the tough decision is what to leverage the cloud (public cloud) for and what to leave on-premises (private cloud). Companies of all sizes have different views on this point. Some companies feel that all workloads are better served in the cloud, while others feel that only specific workloads that meet a certain ROI are candidates to run in the cloud. Regardless of your perspective, the cloud is driving change in the way companies define, build and manage the Data Center.
Data Center Challenges
Whether you are looking to run your business totally in the cloud or you are evaluating workloads individually, running a Data Center has challenges either way. Before we dig into specific challenges for both options, let’s review what are the attributes that help define a well-run Data Center.
Any CIO will tell you to fully understanding the cost associated with your current data center is critical before you decide to move to a new environment cloud or not. By this day and age, most budgets have properly accounted for the labor to run the data center, capital investment in hardware and software, facilities cost based on square footage, utilities for electric, HVAC and fire suppression, and physical security. The more difficult costs to understand and track are related to other services. These services might not directly hit the Data Center budget but have a huge impact the on the business. For example, the time and effort to provision new equipment, individual servers or VM (Virtual Machines) have a far greater impact on business innovation and growth than people care to talk about. So does inconsistent or lack of performance and scalability/capacity limitations.
Before making the decision to move or not move to the cloud, you should ask and answer some tough questions. These question, while humbling, will help define the basis of whether to consider a move to the cloud or not. The main question is, how well am I running my current data center today?
- Is it providing enough value to the business for the dollars invested?
- Is it able to respond to the needs of the business?
- Is it an asset or a liability for the business?
- Will it support the business needs for the next 5 years?
- Is it delivering the right service level?
- Do I have the skills to secure my data center of the next 5 years?
- What will my capital investment requirement be in the next 5 years?
With the questions above answered, you can then start to compare your existing environment to a future environment. Keep in mind whether you move to a public cloud or stay in a private cloud model, challenges will exist in both.
Challenges in Both Private and Public Clouds
There are five core areas to evaluate for either decision: cost, operational effectiveness, knowledge of security, hardware and software management, and future planning. Whether you stay on-premises or not, cloud integration and management must be a key competency going forward.
Private Cloud, or on-premises data centers, come with many challenges. While I have outlined a few above, the following list details the four most critical ones to consider:
- Lack of cost transparency – the raw dollars associated with a data center is only one measure of the cost. The more critical area is the opportunity cost either provided or denied based on your current environment. Does your current Private Cloud deliver all the required capacity and capabilities for the Modern IT workplace?
- Lack of flexibility and scale - line of business leaders are constantly pushing the need for more compute power. As this need is requested, does your current data center offer the flexibility and scale to match the needs of the business. Whether the need is an internal need to analyze data or an external need to pilot a new offering, does your Private Cloud deliver the resources in a timely manner?
- Lack of operational capabilities for Modern IT – the fact of the matter is the future is changing and evolving at an accelerating rate. IT service levels and service management are in a state of constant evolution and adoption. Management tools, governance and IT policies must keep pace with the ever-changing future; can your Private Cloud keep up the pace?
- Sufficient only for traditional challenges – over the last five years, mobile, social, security and data evolution have pushed the limits of IT organizations. Traditional capabilities and new technology adoption models are being pushed to the limits as the business evolves. Customer demands, employee requirements and partner integration options are constantly driving new requirements into IT; can you Private Cloud handle the future?
Public Cloud or cloud data centers, come with several challenges. Again, I have outlined a few above, and the following list details the four most critical ones to consider:
Data Center Characteristics
- Easy to run up a big bill – you can talk innovation and flexibility all day long but the buck stops when the bills come in and get paid for any company. Being able to budget, predict and control the cost of any service is critical in business. Moving to the cloud offers great expansion and scale with state of the art feature; how can you control the cost of your Public Cloud?
- Integration challenges in hybrid datacenter – unless you are a born-in-the-cloud company, chances are you have existing platforms and workloads that are going to stay on-premises for the foreseeable future. These platforms are critical to run the business and you need to keep them running well. How will these key platforms integrate with your new public cloud platforms, and will your Public Cloud deliver the capabilities you need for the aligned cost?
- Requires new approach and technology for management – the hype for the future is wonderful but at the end of the day IT must be a balance of control and security, oversight and integration, and governance and scalability; how will your Public Cloud deliver all this?
- Innovation pipeline is too much – there is only so much change that an organization can handle at once and for so long. While cloud capabilities are evolving constantly, there needs to be a vetting process that reviews, accepts or rejects options. A company cannot live in a constant state of change forever; how will you govern the Public Cloud?
The way IT leverages datacenter resources have evolved to demand a cloud-centric operational model. Modern Cloud & Datacenter characteristics need to offer similar capabilities and cost to get into the game, while constantly pushing the envelope to provide future options that deliver huge upside for the business. The cost of entry cannot break the bank or be to frightening to enter. The following are keys to understanding and evaluating the future:
Cost Transparency -
The extent to which the business can identify the relationship between IT datacenter costs
and the business’s end product:
- Definition of IT services – what does the service catalog offer in a Public Cloud that is overwhelming better than Private Cloud?
- Relationship of services to cost centers – how does the cost of compute and capability compare across Public and Private cloud options. What is the delta?
- Relationship of datacenter costs to services and cost center – for service that are offered and available in both models, which is the greatest short term and long term value? Which services only exist in one or the other?
Modern data centers are managed by code
processes using dashboards and automation:
- Operationalize IT services – regardless of Public or Private cloud, the future of Data Center Management is one that is automated by processes and scripts that can respond to the changing future.
- Predictable and repeatable processes – implementing a Modern Data Center without the controls and processes in place to run it, is like handing your 16-year-old drive the keys to a Porsche, it is just a matter of time before something bad happens.
- Increase IT efficiency – at the end of the day capacity, scalability, flexibility, and lower cost have to deliver increased IT value.
Infrastructure and Datacenters need to quickly adapt to changes in business needs:
- Software Defined Services
- Extensible Identity management
- Continuous integration
Along with reacting to changes in business requirements, the Datacenter needs to be able to scale to respond to those changes:
- On-premises systems with unparalleled scalability
- Hybrid concept – easily burst to the Cloud
- Second largest and most reliable Network with over 100 world wide Datacenters
Security is an integral part of the foundation of a successful IT infrastructure:
- Operating System focused on security
- Industry certifications
- Managed Remote Access
Modern infrastructure needs to continually have new features to help the Business evolve
and ultimately survive:
- Leveraging features to differentiate from competition
- Reimagining legacy processes
- Ensure your business survives
While I have covered many points with this blog, I hope the largest point I have made is that moving to the cloud is not a simple and should not be a quick decision. Before you spend time planning your cloud move, fully understand your options, directions, and the outcomes you want to bring about. The planning and execution can come later—first, understanding what will work for you and your organization when you get to the cloud needs to be the priority.