If you ask one hundred people (or companies) what it means to have an agile data center, you’ll most likely get a large number of diverse answers. While you’ll most likely hear different answers from different people, I think many of those answers would fall into line with what I wrote in “The Right Services in the Right Way.” In that article, I wrote that having an agile data center means that organizations are capable of “delivering the right services at the right time in the right way to the right user.”
The above definition is fairly broad but I think it is a good one. It encapsulates the entire range of things that an agile data center can do for an organization. Building and managing an agile data center isn’t easy nor is it ‘cheap’ in the short-term, but building a data center that provides agility should provide long term benefits including the potential for lower operating costs over the long term.
When I talk to people about the agile data center, I use the concept of ‘portability’ as an example of what it means to own and manage an agile data center. When I talk about portability, I’m talking about the ability to move an application around to ensure it is in the ‘right’ location to deliver the best results to the business. Whether that location is the cloud or the data center shouldn’t matter to the organization.
Trevor Clark, partner at Tech Research Asia (TRA), claims that approximately 78% of companies surveyed want or expect portability of their data center applications and systems. While that survey was conducted mainly in Australia, I’d suspect similar results regardless of where the respondents are located.
Portability of applications (and data) is only achievable if a data center is built and managed with an agile mindset. If your data center is slow moving and legacy-driven your ability to move data and applications to the ‘right’ location will be negatively affected. That doesn’t mean that you can’t push for portability within a non-agile data center but it does mean that it isn’t going to be as easy and cost effective to accomplish as it would be for an agile data center.
Having the ability to move applications, data and even workloads from the data center to the cloud (or to other data centers within your organization) is vital to ensuring that your systems and networks are optimized and running as efficiently as possible.
There are many challenges that need to be overcome in order to make portability a reality. Applications need to be rewritten, data portability processes and issues need to be addressed and vendors need to be chosen and contracts negotiated. Even with these challenges, the act of portability should be pretty straightforward for those companies who have built an agile data center and an agile IT group.
Portability isn’t the only goal of an agile data center but it should be one of the primary ones. How well is your organization positioned for data and application portability?