Tales from The Field – What Does Your Next Gen Data Center Look Like?

One of the very cool parts of this gig is getting to spend lots of time talking to smart IT folks. Many of them are the actual practitioners of technology and it’s great to get real world insight into what’s happening in their world. While it’s critically important to make sure apps are up, users are happy, and the business is being supported, there’s always the need to pay attention to the future. This requires planning and analysis around the future strategy, as well as developing an achievable road map to move in that direction.

Moving in that right direction almost always requires a strategy to modernize infrastructure. Doing that successfully means defining the right requirements upfront to achieve the desired end state. Working to define these requirements often distill into some common high-level themes. Once the requirements become defined, the discussion turns to “how can you help me”?

Here’s the short list of of the common requirements we are hearing from many IT orgs.

IT Requirement 1: Support apps at cloud scale

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The way you effectively manage 10’s to 100’s of apps is very different when faced with exponential growth and having to manage thousands of apps. New apps and new data types are being deployed to drive the business forward. Managing this growth while maintaining reasonable Capex and Opex expenses require IT to drive even higher levels of consolidation, standardization, and efficiency to be successful.

There are lots of technology choices and deployment options available. The trick is to choose the right ones that allow IT to hyper consolidate, standardize with trust, and drive cost and resource efficiency.

IT Requirement 2: Bridge traditional and next generation apps

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As organizations continue their digital transformation journey, they are starting to exploit next gen apps. It includes harnessing the growing wealth of big data to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning. Examples include supplementing human decision-making in healthcare, modeling risk in investment banking, detecting supply chain issues in manufacturing, and analyzing security intelligence data in government. These types of apps allow organizations deliver meaningful business impact from real-time, predictive and cognitive analytics.

And while IT continues to support the infrastructure to optimize core apps, there is a need to build out the environment to also support new apps. Leveraging the core environment helps provide predictable performance and service levels. It can protect critical apps with common and proven replication. It provides security compliance via consistent RBAC, audit, and encryption compliance. It also leverages the built-in efficiencies for things like data reduction and copy data management. And it drives more simplicity via existing automation and app aware integration.

All together these allow IT to accelerate Next Gen app deployments while using proven technology to deliver the right service levels.

IT Requirement 3: Abstract and automate EVERYTHING!


OK, maybe not automate everything, but automate almost everything. Automation of new “greenfield” infrastructure can be achieved by deploying management and orchestration layers above the technology stacks. It shifts management from controlling the knobs and levers on the technology to controlling the outcomes to the users. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will increase the infrastructure’s ability to become more self-managing, tuning and healing. Automation of existing “brownfield” infrastructure can also be achieved, but may not be 100% realistic due to costs, complexity, or other IT priorities.

Applying more automation allows IT to keep things simple, reduce administration effort and workflows, and avoid specialization. This translates into high productivity and lower operational costs, while freeing IT resources to focus on more critical business initiatives.

IT Requirement 4: Enable multiple cloud consumption models

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Unless you’ve been living under a floor tile in your data center, you know that today technology can be consumed in lots of ways to meet the demands of users. Flexibility in these options provide IT with more choice, agility, and often better returns on their IT investments. Delivery of the options however have to be seamless to the ends user. And IT still needs to maintain control to ensure proper service levels, compliance, protection, and costs are being maintained.

The trick is extending IT consumption to leverage these new models and continuing to service the needs of the business. Examples include extending storage to cloud but for the right workloads with the performance, retention, and cost requirements. Another example is using cloud to provide an additional option data protection for recovery.

These new deployment options allow provide cost flexibility to shift Capex to Opex expense to deliver these services.

Getting Going in the Right Direction

Different IT orgs are at different stages in their next gen data center planning.  From a tech providers perspective, it’s pretty cool to be able to work with many of them, address their requirements, and make sure we are helping them achieve their goals. And getting there requires the right plan. Because as the saying goes, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

Special shout out and BIG thanks to my colleague @SolutionGeek for her collaboration and contributions to this blog post. 🙂

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