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.

Flexibility as a Feature

flex2While working technology selection projects, one feature that I like to look at is flexibility. In the past, flexibility wasn’t exactly a feature that was touted by many vendors, but in recent years, we’ve seen more folks highlight their solutions as  being flexible, customizable and able to do multiple functions for a business.

Flexibility – if designed and implemented correctly – is ideal for technology solutions and is wonderful for IT groups since we are constantly being asked to do more with less. Flexibility allows IT groups to choose solutions and approaches that best fit their current needs and best prepare for their future needs. Building solutions that are flexible is good business. It is good business for the vendors and good business for IT groups.

There will always be a need to replace some systems as an organization evolves, but selecting and implementing a solution that can change and evolve over time helps the business grow more efficiently without having to replace all systems regularly. Solutions with flexibility as a feature allow organizations to focus their time and resources on growing the business, not changing out systems and solutions every few years.

One of the best examples of flexibility as a feature can be found in cloud computing.  When I use the cloud, I can design a solution that uses best-of-breed today and be confident that i can easily replace and tweak the systems in that solution as needed moving forward. When I need more processing power, I push a button. When I need more storage, again…I push a button.

Compare the above to on-premises systems. You can’t quite just push a button when you need more processing power or storage…you have to find more hardware, install it and add it to the system (or re-purpose other hardware in your data center).  The same is true for storage…you may have plenty of storage today, but what about next year? How will you add storage to your already full data center?

Flexibility as a feature is what every CIO and IT Professional is looking for today. We are being asked to do more with less and need to be able to use our systems and solutions in different ways as we grow and change.

Is your organization looking for ‘flexibility’ as a feature set in your technology selection projects?


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