The world around us is being digitized, driven by mobility, social media, IoT and cloud computing. These modern communication technologies and services are creating vast amounts of data every second, requiring businesses to change how they operate and impacting the role of enterprise data centers.
Indeed, digitization and virtualization are creating opportunities to deliver an array of flexible IT services and support new technology-centric solutions, such as mobile apps. All of these use cases require a highly flexible IT infrastructure and operating ability.
As a result, enterprise IT managers have to identify the right balance for their business between agility, cost and speed. Therefore, they need to re-evaluate their overall operational approach to the data sourcing question "buy or build" to keep pace with changing business requirements and market needs. On one hand, they must be able to plan their IT, network and physical infrastructure in detail, and maintain full transparency across all technology assets. On the other hand, they have to start managing IT services in context with their entire delivery chain in order to transform themselves into an enterprise IT service provider.
This evolving management approach requires a new way of thinking for enterprise IT operations -- one that includes improving data center operations and running it as a business. Here are three keys to making that happen:
Break down siloes: see data center operation as a part of the whole delivery chain
Modern data centers are a complex ecosystem. For this reason, traditional data center infrastructure management (DCIM) solutions centralize various aspects of IT operations and offer a central platform to manage and optimize the usage of infrastructure components within the data center -- from IT systems through to power supply, climate control and other critical capacities. All this effort is just for one reason: to provide business services.
Although these solutions cover a variety of functions and analytics, DCIM on its own is no longer able to meet the emerging needs of a rapidly evolving market since it is limited to the management of technical infrastructure components and capacities.
So while data center operations have to focus on their core of expertise, they have to understand that they are only one part among the entire delivery chain for business services. For example, the facility management provides services in the form of space, power and cooling. The data center consumes these resources by operating IT equipment in order to provide services like server capacities, which in turn will be consumed by subsequent IT operations, such as database systems, application software and so on.
By considering the complete delivery chain, it becomes clear that data center operations cannot see themselves isolated in the IT organization. They have to accept that -- just like enterprise IT departments, facility operations and other associate divisions -- they have to work hand in hand with the other related departments. To support that initial step of breaking down the silo mentality, it is advisable to use a central platform to document, manage and plan all IT assets in a holistic system that is able to map all relations and interdependencies throughout the entire enterprise IT.
Be the supplier and the customer: establish new roles in the delivery chain
Since many companies now use a mix of traditional in-house IT, outsourcing and cloud-based applications, the challenge of creating cost-effective and marketable business services is even more complex because the changed operational approach leads to a number of difficult questions:
- How should business services be provided within the limits of fixed IT budgets?
- Which external components should be included in those services and how can they be combined meaningful with internal services?
- How can they be ensured that the service commitment is fulfilled?
- How can customer expectations be met on a high degree of personalization and how can services be tailored to precise requirements?
In fact, to design tailorable and personalized services, each team in the service delivery chain involved in creating a business service must assume both the role of a customer and a supplier. They have to acknowledge that their provided services are one key factor influencing the end-product -- no matter if the service is delivered by an enterprise IT or external service provider.
The other key factor for successful business services is the management of the entire service delivery chain, including the relevant deliverables from the various internal and external suppliers. Given the emerging complexity of managing business services, you should consider to utilize a tool that allows you to see the deployed IT resources in context to the business service and that helps you to make more informed decisions.
Structure, transparency and management of this end-to-end delivery chain offer considerable scope for improving efficiency, agility and quality -- this is what is known as value-driven service management. The service delivery chain also represents the IT value creation chain through which the business service is provided.
Industrialize your production: standardize products and processes
Value-driven service management can already be found across industries and market sectors, such as the automotive industry. Car companies have spent years developing cost-efficient solutions for industrialized production with manageable levels of complexity -- think of the various components of an engine, powertrain, suspension system and chassis, as well as the interior components and instrumentation. Each is supported by a series of highly sophisticated systems and parts that are designed to build a car.
Today, the basic principles of industrial production are now being applied to data centers through the industrialization of IT. The standardization of selected products, such as pre-defined configurations of standardized servers, is already well-known today. But the further standardization of processes and products, modularization and increased outsourcing allow enterprise organizations (and the data centers that support them) to focus on core competencies while maximize their operational efficiency -- and save money while gaining speed for their business.
In summary, operating enterprise data centers isn’t the end in itself. The significance of these divisions will change in the next few years fundamentally as organizations continue to embrace bi-modal IT applications, implement new technology-centric products and services and seek ways to differentiate their business.
Integrating a service-oriented mindset that focuses on the entire stack, instead of a single component, will enable you to run your data center as a business and position your company for the changing times ahead.
— Oliver Lindner, senior consultant, Server Management, FNT Software, special to The New IP