3 Trends in Maintaining the Digital Data Center

Data Center Maintenance

Paul Mercina March 22, 2018

The digital data center, by which we mean the one that will serve the purpose of digital transformation, will be software-defined and highly automated, and it will be supported in a new more proactive and customized manner.

Periodically on the blog, we look into digital transformation, the sometimes ill-defined but no less essential shift toward customer-centric operations imbued with technology. Although much of the transformation “to do” list is driven by big picture items, like managing cultural change and reengineering business processes, the integration of technical solutions brings the data center clearly into play.

When we talk about analytics, machine learning, IoT, edge computing, and other emerging technologies, we need to keep in mind that all of these advancements ultimately rely on—and in many ways transform—the underlying IT infrastructure: the storage arrays where the data is housed, the servers running applications, and the network facilitating transmission of all this information.

These resources may be in a public cloud or a hosted private cloud, or they could be on the premises or co-located (whether in traditional or cloud set-up). Most enterprises have investments in most of these places. But they all fall under the IT organization, and they must be managed and maintained.

Unfortunately, that job is getting tougher, not easier, as we strive to become digital enterprises rather than just enterprises using digital.

Added Complexity

If you thought the cloud would simplify IT, you’ve probably got some other thinks coming. Today, nearly all companies (95% according to Entrepreneur) are using the cloud, but 47% of their implementations are hybrid. So as ZDNet reported, IT organizations are moving to the cloud, but investments in existing data centers are staying flat or receding only modestly.

For example, IT leaders say they’re putting mobile apps in the cloud but keeping ERP where it was. Some even go so far as to speak of “cloud solutions of engagement,” which are the fast, agile elements added on to the bedrock IT systems the business built some time ago.

The moral to the story, as we’ve said before, is that CIOs aren’t getting off easy. Instead of swapping one set of responsibilities (call it “keeping the lights on,” traditional IT, or whatever) for another (the Fast IT, agile, DevOps, transformed IT basket of goodies). They’re being asked to do both—and more—often with less budget than ever.

This makes digital transformation as much a question as it is an answer. While it may provide customers, employees, and other stakeholders with new solutions, it also poses various challenges for IT in trying to bring all of the element together in a high-availability environment with all the self-provisioned, elastic, scalable, reliable, high-density, secure bells and whistles the business expects.

3 Answers to the Data Center Question

These factors bring us back to the data center, to those physical requirements of the storage arrays packed with compliance data, the servers computing away, and the network shuffling traffic back and forth to the cloud. How can these systems be maintained so they will function at peak performance but with less investment of time and resources from IT?

We can’t claim to have all the answers, but here are three trends coming to bear on the problem:

  1. Software-defined everything. The software-defined data center is becoming a must in supporting digital transformation. In its virtualized infrastructure lies a business-centric (as opposed to component-centric) approach and the ability to combine and manage new and old hardware, public and private cloud, hosted, on-premises, and co-located components, while supporting any workload through a single, highly automated platform. Additionally, software-defined power and facilities management are forthcoming. SDDC may be the tool for creating the future-proofed data center with command and control at the fingertips of IT.
  2. Next generation equipment monitoring. Machine learning and AI have come to IT hardware maintenance. Services like ParkView use advanced technologies to proactively detect faults and automate trouble ticket creation, so alarms never fall on (human) deaf ears. Just as industrial maintenance is proceeding from reactive maintenance to scheduled maintenance to predictive maintenance, the IT field is, too.
  3. Smart outsourcing. With the ongoing talent crunch and the ever larger list responsibilities before CIOs, taking advantage of outside resources is vital. Taking care of storage, server, and networking equipment is a great place to integrate third party solutions. In the complex, digital, hybrid-cloud-supporting data center, expertise is essential. It cannot be restricted to hardware or firmware or software, nor can it be tied to specific OEM vendors. Support needs to respond to the needs of the entire IT enterprise and be formulated with the business’ interests in mind.

The digital data center, by which we mean the one that will serve the purpose of digital transformation, will be software-defined and highly automated, and it will be supported in a new more proactive and customized manner. The best part, it will take the IT evolution to that end goal CIOs had long envisioned—the point where a few tasks, at least, can be taken off their plates.

About the Author

Paul Mercina, Director, Product Management Marketing
Paul Mercina brings over 20 years of experience in IT center project management to Park Place Technologies, where he oversees the product roadmap, growing the services portfolio, end-to-end development and release of new services to the market. His work is informed by 10+ years at Diebold Nixdorf, where he worked closely with software development teams to introduce new service design, supporting implementation of direct operations in a number of countries across the Americas, Asia and Europe.