March 6, 2017

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Smart DC Why we need them

As enterprises gradually embrace IoT, machine learning, and digital transformation initiatives, while continuously expanding organically and/or otherwise, IT is being propelled – moved up the value chain, from its support function to become a “make it happen” boardroom player. The advent of digital technologies like IoT and the constant need for agility and scalability has pushed IT from being the back-end, siloed enabler it was a decade ago – to a primary business platform and a competitive differentiator.

However, datacenter continues to be the primary load-bearer for both decade-old, legacy IT and today’s strategic IT. So far, the datacenter has weathered this storm by being a huge repository of equipment, where the answer to every question was more equipment/tools. But as the CIO gradually becomes someone crucial to enabling business operations, the increasing expectations from datacenter are forcing him to think differently.

According to IDC, “By 2019, 25% of an organization’s datacenter investments will be supporting next-gen contextual workloads such as cognitive/AI, machine learning, and augmented reality.” IDC further states, “45% of the ICT spend in 2018 will be a mix of colocation, hosted cloud, and public cloud datacenters.” Thus, there is a whole new set of problems for the CIOs, who otherwise spend a fair share of their time in cautiously “keeping the lights on”, than in strategic action.

According to another estimate from Gartner, “By 2020, more than seven billion people and businesses and close to 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet.” In all aspects, directly or indirectly, datacenters will be the core of the network of interconnected things built by IoT and machine learning.

Datacenters would be the core of the network of interconnected things built by IoT and machine learning.

While IT teams grapple with this exponential demand for connectivity, information processing, and the real-time aspects of business enablement, end users often care only about being connected. They demand an experience that’s defined by “instant gratification”, open mobility, and more importantly, not the “how” of things but “why not” – further pushing these boundaries. Such estimates and expectations are only expected to increase in the future.

Returning to IT, the estimates would typically mean faster workload and data pattern changes than what is being conceptualized/implemented currently, and data that’s more distributed and closer to end users than ever. Further, the demand will rapidly shift from an app (or mobile) experience to an immersive one (AR/VR), from information to “intelligent” real-time insights. This will compel data collection, processing, and distribution patterns to alter significantly, in order to keep the user/customer engaged. This has already begun – where “experience” and not “equipment” defines short-term loyalty and differentiates customer choices.

While organizations do continue to have mixed environments, involving public cloud and their own to counter the threat of becoming irrelevant, not all of them are ready to benefit from automation, agility, or scalability – often seen as the stepping stone for moving on to the next phase. At the backend, it’s more often than not the datacenter (combined with other aspects) which makes or breaks the user experience. Hence, it needs constant doctoring to be able to work more efficiently and productively over time to meet or exceed expectations.

It’s more often than not the datacenter (combined with other aspects) which makes or breaks the user experience.

Are current datacenters evolving, becoming ready to handle this (not so) futuristic load? The answer is probably “yes,” but at a rate that is will be outpaced by the millennial’s expectations very soon. Can they be made smart with enhanced metrics, automation, tools, and next-gen infrastructure? Well, probably yes, but for a “smarter” datacenter, you would need to create a secure environment  - moving beyond architecture that is scalable, agile, and, more importantly, not a mere repository of equipment, but a repository of information processing. The environment must be built for rapid evolution – adapting to business changes rather than IT changes alone.

For a “smarter” datacenter, you would need to create a secure environment - moving beyond architecture

When will we need these smarter repositories? Well, in some aspects when we say “Why is this not possible on our mobiles” or “Why can’t I have this information straight away,” we are already questioning the pace of upgrading our datacenters (infrastructure), and will need them sooner than we expected.

“The sooner, the better” might be the answer to some of these intelligent questions.