A Primary Goal of an Agile Data Center – Portability

Data Center PortabilityIf 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?

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

Disaster Recovery and the Agile Data Center

cloud-disaster-recoveryIf there was one time that a data center and an IT group absolutely need to be agile, it would be the time immediately after a disaster strikes.

Disaster recovery planning is a challenge for every organization. The challenge doesn’t come from understanding the ‘what’ of disaster recovery; everyone knows what should be done to appropriately protect for disasters. The challenge for most organizations comes with the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ in disaster recovery planning.

Understanding (and implementing) the “how” of disaster recovery involves a great deal of thought and preparation to ensure that data is backed up to the appropriate location at the appropriate time to ensure disaster recovery processes work without a hitch when the time comes. Also, backup systems must be implemented and prepped to be able to take on the burden of systems that are lost during a disaster.

In addition to preparing data and systems for disaster, the “how” of recovering from any disaster must be considered. How will data and systems be restored? How will staff access systems and data in order to recover from any disaster? While these questions might be considered basic disaster recovery questions, they are the important ones to answer before disaster strikes.

A challenge that arises along with the “how” of disaster recovery is the “when” of disaster recovery. When should data be backed up? When should data be replicated across multiple locations to ensure redundancy? When should restoration procedures be tested? When is your disaster recovery plan ‘good enough?’

Adding to the many challenges of disaster recovery, IT professionals have a very keen focus on getting their systems and data (and organization) as quickly as possible. In the times of disaster, the IT group needs to be able to bring their business back online as quickly as possible. To do this, the key driving factor for IT and disaster recovery must be agility.

The cloud has brought a level playing field to the IT professionals for many aspects of business but it especially shines in the realm of disaster recovery. With the flip of a switch, organizations can have fully redundant systems and backups for all aspects of the business. Additionally, when disaster strikes an organization’s data center, it is fairly easy to flip another switch and recover their systems, data and functionality from these cloud-based systems.

While the cloud isn’t the answer to every disaster recovery problem, it is an answer to those organizations looking to enable or expand agility within their data center, IT group and disaster recovery plans.

An effective disaster recovery plan requires an agile data center requires and an agile IT group.   How effective (and agile) are your disaster recovery plans?

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

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.

An Agile Business Needs an Agile IT Group

Agile EmployeesIf you ask any business leader whether they’d prefer that their organization be thought of as ‘slow moving’ or ‘agile’, most would respond with ‘agile’ as their preference.   Those that don’t respond in the affirmative toward agility are most likely running a dying business or are just out of sync with their industry and their organization.

While everyone most likely knows what agility means, let me take as second to define the term and set the stage for the discussion. One of the most common definitions of agility is “nimbleness” or “the power of moving quickly and easily.”

With that definition in mind, think about your own business. Is your business agile? Are you nimble? Does your CEO or top leadership talk about agility or push for an agile mindset in everything you do? If not, you might want to start talking to your leadership team about the importance of agility for businesses today.

I’m not going to dive into why businesses must be agile today. I’ll leave that to the likes of Forrester, McKinsey and others. I will only say that I truly believe that every organization must incorporate the idea of ‘agility’ into their culture to be successful long-term. There’s just too much disruption happening in every industry to not be willing and able to quickly and efficiently make decisions and change direction to meet these disruptive forces.

At the heart of every organization’s move to be a more agile business is the IT group. In order for the organization to be agile, the IT group must approach everything they do with agility at the front of their minds.

In order to make decisions quickly, all areas and levels of the business needs access to data and information about the business in ways that makes it easy to consume and use. For many companies, this concept requires a change in thinking from the ‘old’ way of only allowing data to be accessible via specialized IT analysts to allowing access to just about anyone in the organization.

In addition to information accessibility, an agile business needs agility within the data center, which has always been a complex and structured environment. I’ve written about the Agile Data Center previously but I’ll reiterate that building agile data center doesn’t mean a complete rebuild with new systems or new people but it does require a changing of the mindset. Processes need to be rebuilt to remove slow moving (and often bureaucratic) thinking and replace them with agile client-focused processes that help the business move quickly and effectively.

An agile business requires an IT group that is just as agile as the business. Agility hasn’t always been the forte of CIO’s and IT groups in the past but the future of the IT group depends on the ability to transform into an efficient, nimble part of the business.

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

The Right Services in the Right Way

I’ve written a bit about the agile data center lately. I’ve previously defined the agile data center as something that “allows organizations to efficiently and effectively add, remove and change services at the speed of the business, not the speed of technology.”

I still stand by that definition but I wanted to expand on it a bit. Agility does allow organizations to ‘add, remove and changes services’ quickly and easily. I recently watched a talk by Symantec’s Jeff Hausman and Drew Meyer that described the agile data center a bit better than my original definition. During Jeff and Drew’s talk, they used a slide (shown below) to help define the agile data center perfectly. They define it as “Delivering the right services…in the right way…to the right user.” (Note: The slide uses ‘resources’ instead of services…I paraphrased a bit). That’s a perfect definition (and one that I wish I had come up with).

Symantec-Agile-Data-Center

My original definition still stands as it fits well into this new definition but I really like having a focus on the ‘user’ that this new definition brings. By expressly adding the user to the definition, it forces us in IT to keep our users and clients in mind when designing new systems or applications and/or making changes to existing platforms.

Building (and managing) an agile data center allows the IT group to do exactly what is described in this slide. An agile data center allows the IT group to deliver the right services in the right way at the right time for the right user(s) within the organization.

In addition to the definition itself, the above slide provides some excellent insight into the use of Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) technologies, Platform-As-A-Service (or Software-As-A-Service), agile / elastic infrastructure and ‘metadata’ to help organizations make this new definition a reality. In addition, each ‘sphere’ shown in the image above helps to drive agile thinking within the data center and within the IT group as a whole.

If CIO’s and IT professionals keep this new definition in mind when designing and planning their data centers (and anything else they do for the organization), they’ll quickly earn a reputation as a business solutions team rather than a technology management team.

Delivering the right services at the right time in the right way to the right user is a perfect mantra for each and every IT professional today. Now, they just need to find a way to make that mantra a reality within their organizations by building the idea into everything they do.

Additionally, with this mantra in mind, it becomes much easier to plan, build and manage the agile data center within the organization.

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

 

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.

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