The data center is dead! Long live the data center!

by Gary Middleton

02 May 2019

A picture of a server room

The evolution of the data center

A lot of talk has been on the growing use of public cloud platforms as an element of IT infrastructure. The reality is that this focus on the cloud, with statements like ‘cloud only’ and ‘cloud first’, means that many organizations haven’t paid enough attention to their own data centers – and they’ve started to lag. 

Applications and data dictate infrastructure investments, and they’re not all are suited to public cloud. The promise that hyperscale cloud platforms would free companies from having to invest in and manage their own infrastructure should be tempered through a more balanced view. The pendulum needs to swing back for a more rounded perspective of the critical role organizational data centers play in an overall hybrid infrastructure. 

In reality, organizations have discovered that moving applications to the cloud is a non-trivial exercise, both from a technical point of view, but also from ensuring that the applications comply with evermore complex regulations and governance requirements. 

On top of this, companies quickly discovered that not only was the cloud not as cheap as envisaged, with some organizations receiving large bills at the end of the month, but they couldn’t accurately predict what the expenditure was going to be from month to month. 

Even companies that built their infrastructure in the cloud from day one - so-called born in the cloud digital companies – are seeing the benefits of locating certain key applications inside their own data centers to guarantee performance and control. 

A modernized and well operated on-premises data center can be cheaper, despite everything that has been said about the consumptive pricing models offered by cloud providers. 

But, to play its part as a platform supporting the modern, agile and rapidly moving business, the data center needs to evolve into a higher form of itself. This is evolution at its finest and we can see it happening right in front of our eyes. 

A man standing next to servers with a laptop

Modern data centers need the following attributes: 

  • Applications need to drive decisions. The modern enterprise consists of hundreds (or thousands) of applications that each have their own infrastructure requirements. Achieving business objectives is directly linked to the success of applications, so it’s critical they drive and direct modernization and architecture decisions.
  • Your architecture must break down silos. The data center needs to operate as a cohesive whole to deliver the best possible outcome. Stakeholders, including the network, security, data center, cloud and operations teams, can no longer afford to do things in isolation.
  • Your network must support your ambitions. Getting modern applications and business services to perform at their potential requires the support of the network. The network is often overlooked when planning modernization efforts and doing this will have a negative impact on the success of these projects.
  • Secure by default. When planning your data center, the most modern and up-to-date security strategies and controls need to be on the table from day one. Security posture and governance requirements are determined by the industry you operate in, and this needs to be factored into the process early on.
  • Plan for automation. Core to modernizing the data center is embracing software-defined infrastructure. Getting the benefits from this demands that many functions that previously required manual operations are now automated. This will have an impact on how you resource your IT team and the skills they need. It also opens the door to working with partners who can manage the data center remotely, freeing up your team to focus on business innovation.
  • Plan to expand. While some applications remain in on-premise data centers, many of them will still need to share information with applications hosted elsewhere, either in co-located data centers or in the cloud. High speed WAN connections and placing applications in data centers with high speed access to the hyperscale cloud providers, ensures that an optimal user experience can be delivered.
  • Finding skills. With the industry-wide skills shortage, it’s not possible – or even desirable – to have all the skills needed to run the modern data center in your team. Partnering with companies who have invested heavily in these skills and are committed to keeping their people keep up to date with the latest developments, allows you to benefit from advances without having to keep those skills onboard. 

The data center continues to evolve, and the focus should be wide enough to include on-premise data center and cloud platforms. For organizations looking to ensure they’re ready to deliver the applications the business needs today and, in the future, ensuring your data center can keep up is critical. 

For more information on how we can help you to modernize and automate your IT infrastructure, to deliver services at the speed your business requires, click here. 

Gary Middleton

Gary Middleton

Principal Director – Group GTM and Skills Transformation, NTT Ltd.