IT Focus Area: Data Center
March 1, 2017
Are You Ready for the Rise of Hybrid IT?
A few years ago, expanding your data center meant getting more space, power and cooling.
Enterprises turned to colocation providers, along with cloud services, to improve their data center facilities. They hoped to greatly reduce their capital expense (CAPEX) and facility costs by moving their legacy infrastructures and applications to the cloud.
But the cost savings weren’t as great as expected. This was because many IT environments weren’t standardized enough to take full advantage of the cloud.
Now, enterprises are struggling to manage hybrid IT environments that contain a mix of legacy, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures. They’re also struggling with the business, process and operations sides of hybrid IT.
Enterprises simply aren’t getting the speed and agility that they had wanted from the cloud. When enterprises can’t use cloud services fast enough, they run the risk of shadow IT. If business units don’t want to wait for new apps and services, they may go behind internal IT to get what they need. And when shadow IT occurs, it creates a flood of security, compatibility and management issues.
Bringing in new IT services without first building a strategy also drives up your costs when you move to a hybrid model. For example, you may not get enterprise cloud pricing if you don’t purchase all of your services through a single procurement. And companies who take a "cloud-first strategy" and move their IT services to the public cloud can shortchange the business as shown with the recent Amazon Web Services outage.
However, things are changing. It’s now easier for IT organizations to support hybrid environments and benefit from cloud.
How Hybrid IT Can Help You Cut Costs, Be More Agile and Improve Your Resiliency
Today’s colocation providers offer more than just floor space. Many are now data center solutions providers who can help you take advantage of hybrid IT.
With a data center solutions provider, you can move as much or as little of your IT environment as you want to a hybrid data center. If needed, a data center solutions provider can host all of your legacy and cloud infrastructure. You can also find a balance between managing some systems internally and some systems through your provider.
This allows you to leverage a hybrid model to be faster, more agile and flexible. It also allows your IT team to focus on driving value back to the business, as opposed to managing your data center.
Other benefits of a hybrid model include:
The move from CAPEX to operational expense (OPEX). Forrester reported that building your own data center costs $200 per square foot. Improving your current facilities can be just as costly, while adding the risk of construction within a live environment.When you lease data center space, you can free up your CAPEX for key business initiatives. You can also direct your funds towards technology refreshes, which will slash your IT maintenance costs.
Greater data and physical security. Storing your data in the cloud can put you at risk. Using a hybrid IT model allows you to move some data to the cloud while keeping your most sensitive data in your legacy systems. This lets you take advantage of the cloud without it taking advantage of you. In addition, more data center solutions providers now offer strong cyber and physical security. This helps you meet your security and compliance requirements.
Scalability. With a hybrid model, you can move workloads on the fly to meet customer, business or seasonal demands.
Improved disaster recovery and operational resiliency. Hybrid IT gives you more flexibility in how you look at business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR). The cloud helps you handle disaster events and scale up using a flexible cost model.
How to Prepare for Hybrid IT
These steps will help you prepare for the rise of hybrid IT:
Align your business and IT needs. When the business and IT aren’t unified, the IT organization will have a hard time helping the business reach its goals. In turn, the business will have a hard time seeing the value of internal IT.
To unify the business and IT, determine where the business wants to go and how the IT organization can help it get there. How will IT support the business both now and in the future? For example, which service level agreements (SLAs) do you need to meet? What are your operational resiliency and uptime requirements?
Change your IT operating model. In the past, IT organizations filled requests for new technology. Now, businesses are purchasing their own technologies and putting your data at risk with shadow IT. This has caused successful IT organizations to take a more proactive and consultative approach — moving from technology builders to technology brokers.
As a broker, you evaluate the landscape and think about how changes in the market will impact your business. You recommend technologies and service options that help business units reach their goals. When you embrace the hybrid IT model, you can offer the business a range of flexible IT options. This makes it possible for the business to innovate and be more competitive.
Take stock of your applications. When you move to a new house, you don’t want to take all your old junk with you. It’s the same when you migrate to a new data center. You don’t want to take all of your unused apps with you. Doing this will drive up your costs and the complexities in your new environment.
Perform an application placement analysis to determine which apps you need to remove, hold or buy. Compare your app portfolio against your business, regulatory and compliance requirements. This will help you decide which apps are critical. It will also help you determine which apps to manage in house and which ones can run in the cloud.
Determine your costs. Before you move to a hybrid IT environment, it’s important to understand the true cost of your data center. Then, talk to the business to determine if CAPEX or OPEX will fund your IT environments.
Your best IT options may not be the lowest-priced options. For example, many IT organizations purchase cloud services based on price. However, you may gain better efficiency by going with the service that is the best choice for your business — even if it is priced higher than other services.
There is also a misconception that cloud services will save you money. However, this is not always the case. For most organizations that have a significant virtualized server environment (>300 virtual instances), a total cost of ownership (TCO) will likely reveal that maintaining these services internally costs the same or less than running them through the cloud.
When you develop your strategy, decide which systems should be internal and which should be external. Start by looking at your security. How can you stay secure and compliant while meeting your SLAs? For example, you likely have legacy environments that generate revenue. These environments need security and stability, so you might not want to put their data in the cloud.
However, if you need to turn up systems quickly to improve your speed to market, consider the cloud. You won’t get this type of speed with traditional IT or a traditional colocation provider.
Standardize processes. It is important to standardize processes to help eliminate shadow IT. By standardizing processes, you can also improve time to market for applications, lower costs, ensure a smoother path to automation, enable easier management and reduce complexity. By creating a catalog of standard IT services that people can pick from, you can deliver the services they need (in a secure way) so they won’t turn elsewhere for them.
3 Things to Look for in a Data Center Solutions Provider
Managing a lot of vendors can cut into your cost savings. It also makes it difficult for you to deliver consistent SLAs.
When moving to a hybrid IT model, it’s easier to work with one data center solutions provider who can evolve with you over time — as opposed to partnering with multiple vendors for different services.
Here are three key things to look for in a provider:
1. The ability to scale
Select a partner who lets you go at your own pace, moving as much or as little as you want into their space. For example, you may not want to move an app to the cloud now, but you may want to do so later. Your data center solutions provider should make it easy for you to do so. You don’t want to commit to a lengthy contract with a provider who isn’t flexible.
Also look for a partner who offers value-added services, such as managed IT services. You may not need these services now, but they can help you scale quickly and easily in the future.
2. Higher power densities
Make sure that your provider doesn’t have the same challenges that you currently face. For example, many colocation providers have older data center facilities. These facilities lack the high-power densities to fully take advantage of today’s technologies. Some providers will say that they can accommodate high-power densities, but then add costs to your contract to do this.
Modifying your data center to accommodate today’s power densities will increase your capital expenses. But most organizations can’t get approval for capital expenditures to build a new data center facility or improve their existing one.
If you don’t do the remediation, you’ll have more square footage than you need, as you’ll only be able to load your cabinets to 30 or 40 percent of their capacity. This creates a lot of empty space that you’ll need to pay for. The inefficiencies with cabinet utilization will also impact cooling costs and increase your data center’s OPEX.
Most IT security conversations discuss cyber security. However, your data center’s physical security is just as important. Since authorized personnel are often the source of a breach, it’s crucial to ensure that your data center is secure.
Also, look for a provider who can meet your auditing requirements. More audits are taking a close look at data center security.
Moving into a colocation data center is usually a long-term commitment. Before you sign a contract, understand that the SLAs are geared to protect the provider. Ask for flexibility in your SLAs so you can meet your objectives. You should also receive compensation if your provider experiences downtime. Very few SLAs will cover the full amount of downtime, but you should receive some compensation when downtime occurs.
It’s a Hybrid World
Every IT organization now faces the challenge of managing a hybrid IT environment. Issues such as shadow IT and security make managing a hybrid environment even more complex.
However, if you don’t move to a hybrid IT model, you won’t be able to keep up with your more agile competitors.
Develop a strategy that outlines where you want to be in one to three years. Then, find a partner who can help you embrace the hybrid IT model and reach your business goals.
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