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Data centers need a reboot

Greater agility, higher capacity crucial to digital world

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Data centers need a reboot

The structure and role of data centers—even their “personalities”—will need to be changed or business agility and competitive strength will be compromised, according to Gartner, Inc.

"For over 40 years, data centers have pretty much been a staple of the IT ecosystem," says Rakesh Kumar, managing vice-president at Gartner. "Despite changes in technology for power and cooling, and changes in the design and build of these structures, their basic function and core requirements have, by and large, remained constant. These are centered on high levels of availability and redundancy, strong, well-documented processes to manage change, traditional vendor management, and segmented organizational structures. This approach, however, is no longer appropriate for the digital world."

Gartner highlights five reasons organizations need to revamp data center strategy:

1. Make the data center behave more like a factory and a laboratory.

By 2020, more than seven billion people and businesses, and close to 35 billion devices, will be connected to the internet. This will result in a significant increase in the speed and volume of data that needs to be handled by data centers. In this sense, data centers will need to behave like theoretical factories with production lines that can scale up to handle ever-increasing volumes of work.

They will also be expected to churn through huge volumes of data to connect applications and allow for better real-time analytics. Therefore, certain parts of the data center need to behave like a laboratory, forensically analyzing this vast ocean of data to provide insight and actions for the business.

2. Manage the pressure on the data center to become agile and innovative.

The disruption triggered by digital business is fluid and nonstop, with the potential for massive innovation driving significant changes in IT service delivery. In order to deal with these rapid changes, become agile, and, at the same time, maintain process-driven integrity and safety of existing systems, many organizations have begun operating in two modes or speeds of IT. Gartner calls this "bimodal IT."

Without adapting the mentality and approach of data centers away from continuous stability to managed change and innovation, data center managers will find it increasingly difficult to prove their value.

3. Manage different types of risk.

Digital business will not only see a huge number of devices connected, but will also see data centers as the focal point of these connections. Traditionally, data centers have focused on risk management, which is normally associated with downtime, system availability, and application-centric breaches. Data center strategies fit for the digital world must have a key focus on a broad approach to risk management.

Another important risk for many digital business transactions is that no single entity will own availability and performance service levels for the complete end-to-end transaction. This will create a whole new set of service assurance challenges.

4. Make the data center part of a broader hybrid topology.

Traditionally, IT spending has been through IT departments with data centers delivering IT services. This is rapidly changing. Currently, 38% of total IT spending is outside of IT, with a disproportionate amount in digital projects; by 2017, it will be more than 50%.

Lines of businesses will spend with cloud and third-party service providers if they feel their data center is either too slow to respond or too closed to new technologies. As a result, infrastructure and operations leaders must ensure that their internal data centers are able to connect into a broader hybrid topology.

5. Embrace new technologies in a different way.

The digital world is bringing a host of new technologies that will need to be managed differently in data centers. At the edge, there will be mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, which will need the operational control of data centers, such as software configurations, standardized operating environments, and security patching.

At the same time, there will be changes in the more traditional data center hardware of servers, storage, and network equipment, forcing data center managers to rethink their procurement, management and support strategies. Yet another change will be in vendor relationships. The digital world is reshaping the vendor landscape and the technologies and vendors that have traditionally been instrumental in strong data center services are going through changes, meaning infrastructure and operations leaders will need to reshape their strategy for providing IT services.

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