Sunday, 17th January 2021

Your data centre may not be dead, but it's morphing

As interconnected services continue to proliferate, with increases in cloud providers, edge services and SaaS offerings, the rationale to stay only in a traditional data centre topology has limited advantages. This is not an overnight shift, but a change in thinking how we deliver services to our customers and to the business. This trend, coupled with the new reality that external factors might limit physical access to data centres (such as emergency quarantine), is driving new thinking on how I&O leaders need to plan their infrastructure. By David Cappuccio, Distinguished Research VP at Gartner.

It is not about moving everything to the cloud or the edge, but rather changing the focus on how IT delivers value to the business. As IT evolves, its primary function will be to enable the business to be more agile, enter new markets more quickly, deliver services closer to the customer and position specific workloads based on business, regulatory, and geopolitical impacts. The role of the traditional data centre will be relegated to that of a legacy holding area, dedicated to very specific services that cannot be supported elsewhere, or supporting those systems that are most economically efficient on-premises.


Workload Placement Has Become the Key Driver of Digital Infrastructure Delivery

Many organisations are developing updated infrastructure delivery strategies and are wrestling with the issue of cloud adoption. I&O leaders are not concerned with whether moving workloads to the cloud is an option or not. Instead they need to determine which workloads would make the most sense to develop for or migrate to the cloud, and which would have the most optimal benefit to the business.

These organisations have realised that while “cloud first” may be the trend, a more realistic model is “cloud first but not always.” Determining the right workload to migrate, at the right time, for the right reasons will be the key to success over time. I&O leaders are, therefore, beginning to build IT strategies with a focus on their application portfolio, rather than on the physical infrastructure they’ve built.

To rationalise workload placement decisions, establish a standardised set of rules to follow. These rules should focus on areas such as compliance, data protection, security, latency, resiliency, reputation, location, availability and performance.

Once established these rules become guidelines for determining where current and future workloads belong and become the baseline for developing an overall infrastructure upgrade strategy. This is not a migration strategy because some workloads may not move at all, rather a strategy designed to optimise business impacts and not just I&O costs.

An Ecosystem Will Be Required to Enable Scalable, Agile Infrastructures

As digital business evolves, the need for geodiversity is evolving as well. Data location, regulatory requirements (such as the GDPR) and customer requirements (such as low latency) may drive the need for workloads to be accessible from multiple locations. Having a partner ecosystem that supports strong interconnection services can be a key enabler for these workloads.

An evolving trend in the colocation market has been the introduction of enhanced services that go well beyond traditional shared power, floor space and support services. These enhanced services include carrier neutrality, access to multiple cloud services via secure networks, cross-connects to partners on the same premises or interconnect fabrics to other sites or services. By using these fabrics, enterprise customers could have access to many different providers and services and be able to switch between or swap services when contracts or performance requirements change.

I&O leaders should pick partners based on their vision, capabilities and their partnerships. When considering ecosystem partners, in particular colocation providers, it’s critical that you understand their long-term vision of the market and how its evolution is changing their strategy. You’ll find many vendors’ “vision” is to produce and provide more of the same — just in more places. That may work for you today, however, the important question is how they are preparing for the future of digital infrastructures and how that development will enable you (as a customer) to service your business more effectively.

Hybrid Digital Infrastructure Management is a Key Enabler for I&O’s Transition to Digital Business

As businesses move toward hybrid digital infrastructures, one of the key pain points are operational process and tools. I&O has become great at managing silos, but staff tend to see the world from the construction of silos.

In highly distributed environments where a workload could be anywhere, the physical location of an asset (or process) will not be as clearly defined, and yet its attributes, performance, KPIs and cost will have an increasingly important impact on how I&O delivers services to end customers. As such, I&O remains responsible for both the assets and the end-user experience and will need tools to actively monitor and manage any asset or process, anywhere, at any time.

Invest in the technologies needed to discover and manage a hybrid IT model so I&O can have more proactive and business-relevant insight because, over the long term, this is not about transforming the infrastructure. It’s about transforming how I&O is providing value in a digitally distributed ecosystem. In this new hybrid world, the I&O role is migrating toward integration and operations.

IT Talent Management and Retraining Existing Staff Are Critical Success Factors

I&O leaders are faced with a seemingly impossible challenge: to develop their staff skills to deliver against the business demand amid a new and unfamiliar level of infrastructure complexity. They cannot afford to lose staff, yet have restrictions placed on new headcount at a time when they feel like 10 times as many resources are needed, especially those with institutional knowledge.

The most effective IT people are always looking for new things to learn, and in many cases the most interesting areas are the unknown areas. Enabling learning, even incentivising it, is a critical success factor as we move toward fully digital infrastructures.

When employees realise that their value is not only how much they know in a discipline, but how much they understand the linkages between disciplines and the impact on the business. IT as a whole will become a much stronger organisation and better able to adapt to these changing environments.

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