Ever see the Joy of Painting? If not, look it up and watch an episode or two. Bob Ross was a great painter and a calming force, which is impressive given his history as a U.S. Air Force drill sergeant. A recurring component of Ross’ shows and paintings is ‘happy little trees.’ Happy trees has become somewhat of a cottage concept; with memes, tee shirts and more, celebrating the phrase.
Interestingly, there’s a strong correlation between happy trees and vendors simplifying data center modernization as nothing more than, “a refresh of systems” – storage, server, networking. While appealing to IT junkies, viewing modernization as just “new systems” is counterproductive to success.
Why? Because data center modernization encompasses a lot more than systems. People may love Bob Ross’ happy trees, but without the rest of the landscape it isn’t a picture; it’s incomplete. Similarly, if you don’t look beyond systems when modernizing, your costs may go up instead of down and innovation may slow down.
To understand why a system-only mindset can hurt you, it helps to consider why IT leaders modernize to create next-generation data centers. Priorities vary, but the reasons I continually hear are:
- Increase operational efficiency and reduce capital expenditures
- Accelerate time to market for new projects and programs
- Improve customer experiences
- Minimize risk to the business
Said another way, data center modernization is about supporting and accelerating innovation. Refreshing systems to get new functionality and meet evolving service level agreements (SLAs) is a part of this, but it only gives you modern systems – not a modern, next generation, data center.
Why Systems Alone Don’t Modernize a Data Center
If I were to install a jet engine on a 1970s Chevy, would I have a modern car? Clearly not. The engine may be new, but all of the peripheral parts supporting the engine (and vehicle) are not optimized for the jet engine. Vehicle stability, handling, braking, etc. require modernization to support that engine and ensure a quality driving experience. The lack of ‘homogeneity’ with the parts and the vehicle’s design specs would undoubtedly require constant repairing and patching, eliminating any potential ROI.
Here’s another, more relevant example. The entrance to your data center uses a single camera for surveillance; requiring only one individual to monitor it. But what if you added four, 20 or even 100 cameras to monitor the facility? Could one person adequately watch all those feeds? Not well. Linearly adding staff as camera counts increase, could be done but the added expense would be cost prohibitive and would consume valuable staff time otherwise used for more strategic duties. The process would require a comprehensive and modernized redesign from the ground up. The same is true with data centers. You must modernize to ensure your center is fully secure and scalable. Without, inefficiencies will emerge that cost you time, money and agility.
Framework for Effective Data Center Modernization
The framework for modernizing your data center can vary. I like to keep things simple, so let’s break things down into three categories to start. Each category allows us to cover areas where we are most likely to enhance systems, software and operational processes for increased operational efficiency, speed to market, improved customer experiences and accelerated adoption of new business models.
- Agile Data Infrastructure: The combination of systems needs to consistently deliver data at high speed for the best possible experience. These systems should be resilient, support a broad diversity of use cases and enable the business too respond quickly without being constrained.
- Buying Consideration: If you have more than one application in your data center, odds are you’ll need a few different types of systems, so look for a vendor that can offer a range of choices to meet your needs.
- Modern Data Protection: Software and processes that ensure continuous availability of data – independent of external influences – in support of the customer experience. Modern protection also supports adherence to compliance requirements, new regulations and data security.
- Buying Consideration: With new data privacy guidelines and concerns about security, data protection is becoming even more complex. Look for a partner that has a solid consulting team and knows how to integrate their offering into your existing framework.
- Intelligent (AI) Operations: Integrated software that leverages AI and machine learning to analyze, predict, prescribe and execute changes to achieve data center SLAs. This software ensures systems are continuously optimized for peak performance, stability and cost efficiency; freeing data center staff to focus on strategic initiatives, implementing new technologies and accelerating innovation.
- Buying Consideration: This is an emerging area that will change a lot over the next few years. Be sure to look at vendors with an API integration focus. This will let them integrate their products with other vendor offerings to create a ‘collaborative’ AI or a ‘hive mind’ for deeper insights and more robust automation.
If I go back to the car analogy, a next-generation car will undoubtedly have an engine (system), but it will also have a new user interface and challenge our thoughts on driving (AI operations) as well as the rules/regulations of the roads (protection). Kind of like this image of how the inside of a self-driving car might change in the future. Or as Bob Ross might say, “happy little trees are wonderful, but without the sky, clouds and other things, it isn’t a complete picture.”
For more information, I encourage you to check out the Data Center NEXT Partner brief, as well as the video series on data management and creating an integrated AI operation portfolio. If you have more questions on data center modernization, contact the Tech Data Hitachi Vantara team at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Nathan Moffitt is the senior director of Infrastructure Systems and Software for Hitachi Vantara.