Jonas Caino of Etix Everywhere looks at how data centres fit into the constantly evolving world of digital transformation, and how they need to change or be left behind

Change or die! I have taken the shocking title of Alan Deutschman’s 2005 article in Fast Company magazine so that the gravity of the words can slowly sink in. Change or die! Some will read this statement and conclude that the words are a cynical marketing ploy to shock us all into believing the hype that sells products; others may be indifferent, yet some may look deeper and see the glimmer of truth in these words.

In our line of business, concepts like big data, internet of things, virtualisation, software-defined-X, cloud computing, augmented/virtual reality, blockchain, etc, are no longer new buzzwords. Yet there is only one single driver for all this change and that’s the organisation’s attempt to stay relevant in an increasingly hyper-competitive environment through influencing customer demand and experience.

The data centre is no longer a backroom processing workhorse existing only to cut costs and increase efficiency

The management world seems to have suddenly arisen from a deep slumber and realised that data (and the innovative capture, analysis and use of it) is the only currency needed to survive, let alone thrive. So, the buzzword that far-sighted management thinkers are using now is ‘digital transformation’.

Digitalise your business processes, mine structured and unstructured data, use this data to find new markets, new customers, better ways of working, producing, processing; re-invent customer experiences and go global fast!

A new role for the data centre

All of this demonstrates that the data centre is no longer a backroom processing workhorse existing only to cut costs and increase efficiency, but is fast becoming a real boardroom player, providing what is needed directly to drive business growth. We can, or at least should, see the new role of the data centre from afar. The question is, can the data centre, in its current form, live up to this role? Is the design, financing, and operating of today’s data centre adequate for today’s (let’s not talk about tomorrow’s) business needs?

I would say that data centres are meant to produce a real-time, flexible, available, service on demand, instead, they are still being created with the old order of focusing purely on efficiency. Those who design, build and operate data centres need to develop plans through the lens of the as-a-service (XaaS) model.

The big four hyper-scale cloud providers have embraced this philosophy in every aspect of their data centre development and economics thereby providing management and cost efficiencies; agility and elasticity to their customers. Why shouldn’t all data centres (on or off premises; private or co-located) do the same?

Data centre management is a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplined and dynamic area of IT that is critical to the digital transformation process

When it comes to data centre management, the focus of CIOs, DC heads and managers – as well as service providers – should be the speed of infrastructure expansion and contraction, little physical installation and maintenance, different availability SLAs according to the needs of the business in real-time, and the innovative provision of business services on demand.

It is evident that the transition here will stem from a focus on hardware and physical infrastructure to that of software, artificial intelligence and services.

Change and fly!

There are a number of schools of thought out there on the future direction of data centre design and management; such as the software-defined data centre, where all hardware is commoditised and cheap and all processes are virtualised relying on software to optimise efficiency and resilience; or edge computing where a cluster of smaller tier one facilities are created with self-healing capabilities all geared towards agility and elasticity of infrastructure; or maybe a combination of on-premises and off-premises services depending on the organisational requirements.

All of these methodologies will have an impact on the data centre’s financing, design, operation and economics. IT leaders and their managers need to recognise that data centre management is a multi-dimensional, multi-disciplined and dynamic area of IT that is critical to the digital transformation process where the data centre infrastructure drives businesses into the future and where the new mantra is: change and fly!


This post originated at Data Centre Management magazine, from the same publisher as The Stack. Click here to find out more about the UK’s most important industry publication for the data centre space.