The Data Center of Tomorrow

Data Center of TomorrowThe data center of tomorrow will look much differently than the data center of today. That particular sentence should not be that surprising to anyone who’s been in an organization that has internal data centers.

Most organizations have been working on data center transformation projects over the last few years. With these transformation projects, companies have been looking for ways to implement automation, virtualization, cloud integration and other efficient technologies to allow the data center to become much more than a just a place to store servers for an organization.

I’ve worked with a number of organizations who have kicked off data center transformation projects. These companies have started their projects with an initial plan to replace aging or under-utilized servers and systems but quickly pivoted from a ‘equipment replacement’ project to a complete rethinking of how they use their data centers.

Many of these companies realized during their initial planning phases that they could do so much more with their data center. They realized the data center could be much more than a cost center if they took the time to think about how best to transform their data centers. By using virtualization, automation, converged systems and other technologies, data centers could be transformed into so much more than they thought it could be just a few short years ago.

With the introduction of virtualization, automation, Software Defined Data Center (SDCC) technologies, converged platforms, cloud systems and other technology platforms and systems, companies can now build out a data center that can deliver any type of functionality and feature the company needs today, tomorrow or in the future.

This new type of data center goes by many names but I tend to use the term “agile data center” to describe the new data center. The agile data center helps organizations deliver the right services in the right way (to the right people) but it also helps these companies contain costs while growing the capabilities available within the data center.

The organization’s that understand the value of the agile data center have changed the thinking about what the data center is and how the organization will use it. This ‘different’ thinking has caused the data center to undergo drastic changes. Some organizations are moving the majority of their data center functionality to the cloud while others are building hybrid systems with public and private cloud systems. Still others are completely gutting their data centers and replacing the systems with converged infrastructure to build container based systems within their data centers.

A few years ago if you asked IT professionals how to build a data center, they’d most likely give fairly straightforward answers based on the ‘old tried and true’ methods. Today if you ask that same question to those same IT professionals, you’ll most likely get as many different answers as you possibly could.

The data center of tomorrow is going to look so much different than the data center of today. Gone will be the bureaucratic processes and legacy systems. The data center will be a combination of internal and external systems that combine to create an agile, efficient and effective technology delivery platform.

The data center of tomorrow will be an agile data center.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

Does your Disaster Recovery Plan Include the Cloud?

Disaster Recovery and the CloudIn years past, companies have relied on multiple data center locations to act as their main disaster recovery (DR) systems and data in case of disaster. This has generally worked well for those companies that have planned and tested their DR systems and plans appropriately.

In recent years organizations have been looking for more robust solutions for disaster recovery than storing their data in separate data centers. With the growth in popularity, functionality and capabilities of cloud technology and cloud vendors, CIO’s and IT Managers began to investigate the use of public, private and hybrid cloud systems for disaster recovery solutions.

It’s taken a while for many companies to feel comfortable with the cloud as a platform that is an integral part of their business systems, but most CIO’s and IT professionals have come to terms with the capabilities and impact of cloud technology. While secondary sites still dominate the disaster recovery planning for organizations, cloud deployment of disaster recovery solutions continues to grow. With a cloud DR deployment, companies can ensure geographic diversity for their data and cloud DR can allow a company to use multiple cloud vendors to ensure diversity of networks and systems for building a very robust disaster recovery plan.

Cloud-based disaster recovery makes a lot of sense, but there are still plenty of people worried about moving to the cloud for their DR. Many people get hung up on a few old myths (e.g., downtime doesn’t cost that much, disaster recovery means long-term contracts,  etc) that keep them from moving their disaster recovery systems and plans to the cloud while others believe their on-premise DR systems and plans will work just fine.

Cloud-based DR can provide an enormous amount of value to an organization. In the event of a disaster, a cloud-based system can help a company recover quickly and efficiently. Not only can data be stored safely and reliably in the cloud but systems and applications can be replicated in the cloud to allow the organization to bring their systems online quickly after a disaster.

Many clients that I work with have cloud-based disaster recovery systems in place or they’ve put them on their roadmap for the coming years. They’ve been able to look past the myths about the cloud and cloud-based DR and see the value. They see the benefits of the cloud for disaster recovery and have started shifting their disaster recovery planning and budget initiatives to the cloud.

From my experiences talking with CIO’s and other IT leaders, there’s quite a lot of interest in cloud technology these days. Many companies are looking at cloud-based disaster recovery for their next iteration of disaster recovery. Thankfully, people are starting to move past the concerns and myths about the cloud and are seeing it for what it is: a great platform for building agile, flexible and cost-effective solutions for their business.

What about your organization? Does your disaster recovery plan include the cloud?

This post is brought to you by the VMware vCloud Air Network.

Building the Agile Data Center

computer-data-centerThe modern data center is a complex environment with many different systems and many different objectives. The data center exists to provide an organization with the networking, storage, processing and connectivity features needed to operate in the fast paced, data-driven world we live in today.

Over the years, many data centers have become the dumping ground for all things technology. Systems and applications were continuously added to the data center to the point where many data centers were completely full with no room for add new hardware to support growing needs for processing, storage and network capabilities.

Many organizations have been undergoing data center consolidation projects in recent years. These consolidation projects have resulted in data centers being closed down and services and platforms being moved into other data centers within the organization. As expected, these projects have added to already overburdened data centers but virtualization has again provided real value to the business and the data center by allowing many physical servers to be combined into a virtualized environment.

The use of virtualized environments has led many organizations to look for other ways to use virtualization within their data centers. That search has led many companies to research and implement Software Defined Data Centers (SDDC) as a way to replace or augment their existing data center infrastructure.   With SDDC, it is possible for companies to replace their data center’s infrastructure with a virtualized environment and then deliver services and software as a service.

There’s some obvious benefits found with a software defined approach to the data center. Organizations can remove underutilized servers, replace aging networking and storage systems and improve / increase security. SDDC allows organizations to replace aging systems with new systems which may be easier to manage and maintain.

There are other benefits to SDDC that may not be that obvious. A few of these benefits include more flexibility within the data center, closer integration with cloud systems and vendors and easier change management when changes are needed within the data center. Having the ability to define the entire data center infrastructure allows to companies to move their data center systems and technologies at the speed of business. When new services are required by the business, the IT group can quickly make the necessary changes within the data center to provide that new service or offering.

Another benefit of SDDC is that it allows companies to spend less on hardware for the data center. Of course, hardware will still be needed for SDDC but the hardware won’t be the infrastructure itself. Hardware will simply be the delivery system for the software defined data center. With SDDC, hardware is simply a commodity that can be swapped in and out as needed. Using commodity hardware for all aspects of the data center allows companies to save a great deal of money within the data center.

When I speak with clients about the software defined data center, the one benefit that the majority of people tend to really latch onto is the ability of SDDC to bring agility to the data center. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled The Agile Data Center that touches on the subject of the agility in the data center. In that post, I wrote:

“Agility doesn’t necessarily mean new systems nor does it mean moving your data center to the cloud. It does mean thinking about your data center and your data center capabilities in new ways and then putting in new processes (and perhaps, new systems) to make the data center flexible and agile.”

As I wrote, converting the data center from inflexible and overburdened to agile and able to grow requires new thinking. That new thinking can come from the software defined data center approach. Not only does SDDC allow an organization to rethink the data center but it also allows the data center to become an agile platform for the company to use to design and build agile services for internal and external consumption.

SDDC isn’t the answer to every data center problem, but it is an approach that can be used to bring agility to the data center.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

The Agile Data Center

Server-Room-726x400I participated in the #DataCtrChat Twitter chat last week to join in on the conversation about the Agile Data Center. If you haven’t joined in on a Twitter chat recently, you should. The #DataCtrChat is a great one to be a part of, especially if you’re interested in the data center.

One of the questions in last week’s chat was a simple one, but one that has a complex answer. The question was:

What differentiates an Agile Data Center from a traditional data center?

That is an easy question to ask but is a very difficult one to answer. The answer really depends on how each organization views and uses their data center, but I’m going to try to develop an answer in this post.

Every company has a different view about their data center. Some organizations may outsource their entire data center, others may have some cloud presence combined with an on-premises data center while others may have a completely on-premises data center.

Because each organization has a different definition for their data center, it’s difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all answer to the differences between an agile data center and a traditional data center.

That said, we can easily talk about the concept of ‘agility’ within a data center. Regardless of how a company views and uses their data center, there is always room for an agile mindset within the data center.

Thinking about agility within the data center opens up many new avenues for companies to explore. With agility in the forefront of data center planning combined with proper planning around security and operations, organizations can begin to think about utilizing their data center in new and innovative ways. With an agile mindset, the concept of the data center moves away from being a liability that continuously consumes resources to being an efficient and effective way to deliver services to internal and external clients.

With all of this in mind, we can now take a stab at making a generalized answer to the question posed previously. The difference between an “Agile” data center and the “traditional” data center can be summed up with the following sentence:

An Agile Data Center is one that allows organizations to efficiently and effectively add, remove and change services at the speed of the business, not the speed of technology.

In the ‘old’ days of the data center, if the business needed more processing power, someone in IT would need to find an underutilized server and then add that server to whatever platform was needed. In recent years, virtualization could have been used to build a new virtual machine to be provide the processing power needed.

Before virtualization, finding and operationalizing the necessary processor power could take days, weeks or even months. With virtualization, it usually takes much less time to get systems up and running but there are still delays in most organizations.

With the agile mindset and proper planning and system implementation, organizations can go from delays of days to delays of minutes. Using cloud systems and automation, that request for more processing power could take a few minutes rather than a few days. That’s the power of the agile mindset when it comes to the data center.

Agility doesn’t necessarily mean new systems nor does it mean moving your data center to the cloud. It does mean thinking about your data center and your data center capabilities in new ways and then putting in new processes (and perhaps, new systems) to make the data center flexible and agile.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.

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