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Moving your datacenter?

30 Aug

I recently moved residences, and since my current project is a Data Center Relocation, I thought I would compare the two moves.  Relocation is one of the largest projects a person or business can undertake. It’s disruptive, but with careful planning, it can be the biggest event a business undertakes that most people never know about.  Relocation of a home or a data center requires planning (more than you think you need to do),  communications,  relocation of services, migration execution, and follow-up.

Planning:  Step 1: Identify Need

There has to be a reason you do this, and it better be good.  I’ve moved several times in my life, and other than the anticipation of getting to school, or the move in to the first real house that I owned, I never have enjoyed it.  There is an overwhelming amount of work that needs to be done in order for it to be done right. Yet, it’s done every day!

In the case of my move, my lease was going to expiring.  My kids and I were living in a 900 square foot duplex: 3 bedroom and the bathroom downstairs; and one large room upstairs divided into the kitchen, dining area, and the rest set aside for TV, couch, desk, etc .  If it was just me, it would have been fine; for 4 of us, with books and Legos and Polly Pockets and work and homework and the need as humans to s p r e a d  o u t so we were not rightontopofeachother drove the need to find a different place to live.

Such is the same for a business relocating their data center.  Is your data center location lease  coming due and the new terms aren’t acceptable? Maybe your business is growing and you are out of space in the data center, and/or have no additional power and/or cooling capacity left?  Has your business decided that owning and maintaining a data center just isn’t one of the core competencies that they support?  While our economy relies on technology, many businesses have made strategic decisions to selectively outsource elements of their IT operations, which includes data center operations.  There is a tremendous amount of work involved in maintaining a data center, and for many, the easier decision is to contract for those services.

There is a considerable amount of work required simply in identifying the need, and careful analysis of alternatives is required.  In my case, the advantages of staying where I was were outweighed by the identified need to have some additional space for the 4 of us.  I couldn’t virtualize and consolidate kids like I can with servers and network and storage!  While we could reduce the amount of stuff we have, the fact is that the kids are growing, and for our collective mental health, moving was something that was going to have to happen.

Are you constrained in your data center by space, power and/or cooling? Do you need room to grow your IT footprint so that you can support the business?

The role of the CIO is changing–and with it, the role that IT plays in delivering core IT services to the business

9 Mar

The role of the CIO is changing–and with it, the role that IT plays in delivering core IT services to business end users.  Gone are the days when IT existed as a cost-center / corporate utility operating in a pseudo-vacuum apart from business priorities.

The proliferation of new market options for procuring IT services is forcing IT professionals to get strategic.  Globalization, competitive pressures stemming from the recession, cloud computing [both public and private], and IT governance are transforming the role that IT plays in helping companies achieve mission critical strategic objectives, as well as the skill sets IT needs to deliver the required value to the business.

Accordingly, IT is at a crossroads:  in order to ensure a “seat at the table,” IT leaders needs to adapt their orientation toward strategy.  This is the only way to ensure that the most impactful multitude of available technology options will be selected by business end users, giving the business what it needs to succeed.

Cloud Readiness: the often overlooked variable

13 Feb

The prospect of transitioning IT services to the cloud offers an intriguing value proposition for many organizations—with cost, performance, scalability, and extensibility all being key factors.  But many organizations lack the readiness to maximize the competitive advantages afforded by the cloud.

As organizations begin shaping their IT strategies toward cloud computing, many are creating teams or pools of resources that will be responsible for architecting, developing, and supporting cloud infrastructure.  Without building the internal skill sets / competencies needed to maximize cloud benefit, organizations will never realize all the competitive advantages that the cloud has to offer.  Without question, the cloud is redefining what skill sets IT resources need.

A poorly conceived cloud strategy can have disruptive impact in unforeseen ways.

Additionally, cloud utilization is redefining many important business technology relationships.

The bottom line: organizations need to be prepared.  The cloud offers compelling benefits that can only be attained if your organization is positioned to take advantage of them.

Optimization is only the first step

24 Jan

It’s tough to get from point A to point B without defining where you’re trying to go, which is why the term “optimization” can be misleading.

“Optimized” to what?  Some external benchmark?  Individual preferences?  Is it about efficiency?  IT cost avoidance?  Performance?

You can “optimize” an individual component of IT—say, storage—but still fall short everywhere else.

And how do you even know if you’re “optimized,” if the engagement isn’t joined at the hip with enterprise strategy? Is IT architected properly to support strategic business objectives?

Are your risk mitigation activities aligned with corporate risk tolerance thresholds?

Is your IT as resilient as it needs to be?

Is your IT governance truly effective, or is it focused on the wrong things?

And are you tracking the right information to answer any of the above?

IT is a corporate utility that exists to enable the rest of the organization to achieve.  Therefore, it is important to figure out what your organization is trying to accomplish [vision], and then determine whether your IT is architected to support this vision [strategy].  The first step in this process is to develop a framework for assessing IT activities / projects / etc. to determine whether or not they contribute value to where you’re trying to go as an organization.

Cloud Skills

18 Jan

The cloud has emerged. Visionary companies identified early on how they were going to exploit the power and agility that the cloud offered. Others have been more cautious in moving to the cloud. Both types (and all in between) are right; there is a lot to consider when moving services to the cloud. As the economic cases become clearer, as well as other issues (data security, identity management), more companies will be moving services into the cloud.

In addition to the economic and security cases, IT executives need to identify the skills their staff require to enable the success of the business when IT services are provided by the cloud. Dan Sullivan highlights a few of these in “The Evolution — Not Revolution — of IT Skills for The Cloud” (registration required).

Additionally, companies want to have strong skills in:

  • Vendor Management – development and enforcement of contracts and SLAs established with cloud vendors
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity – clear, tested plans for restoring business services in the event of primary data center failure, and trained people to execute the plans
  • Release Management – Coordination of hardware and/or software releases within a company, and also considering business initiatives to reduce complexity of a release

Sending IT Services to the cloud does not mean everything will be seamless and smooth and always available (in the last 13 months, Amazon has had 5 service outages). Before moving out of a data center to the cloud, we need to think outside of our cubes about the impact of cloud-based data centers and develop the skill sets in our teams to ensure that when we do, we are able to support the business.

DC Power…in your D.C.

22 Dec

Due to rising costs of energy and the need to keep operating expenses as low as possible, data center managers are always looking for opportunities to increase energy efficiency in the data center.  Much can be accomplished through server virtualization and consolidation, storage consolidation, and through implementing best practices in cool air distribution / hot air reclamation in the data center.

Within the electric power ecosystem, opportunities aren’t as easily identified or implemented.  Newer UPS systems are highly efficient, and the latest generations of servers are significantly more efficient than the generations available just two years ago.  Because of transformation of power in a data center from Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC) (or vice versa) there is a tremendous amount of energy loss resulting in heat.  What if these conversions could be eliminated, saving an additional 15% on the power demand and energy usage through establishment of a standard for DC power in the datacenter?  A new study has demonstrated actual savings of that magnitude:

“Symanski presented results of a DC implementation in a Duke Energy data center which balanced the load across AC and DC distribution systems in the same environment. “We were trying to get as close as we could to an apples-to-apples comparison,” said Symanski, who said the DC system showed energy savings ranging between 14.9 and 15.6 percent versus AC distribution systems in multiple tests with different IT workloads. The test used HP and IBM servers and EMC storage arrays on the IT side, with a distribution system featuring Delta rectifiers, Starline busway and Dranetz-BMI metering.”

An industry group, Emerge Alliance, has been formed to help develop and drive adoption of 380V DC power for commercial buildings, including the data center.

These innovative standards integrate interior infrastructures, power, controls and devices in a common microgrid platform to facilitate the hybrid use of AC and DC power throughout buildings for unprecedented design and space flexibility, greater energy efficiency and improved sustainability.

The Alliance will simplify and accelerate market adoption of EMerge Alliance standards. The Alliance will ensure that its standards deliver:

  • Required solutions based on market requirements and ecosystem approval
  • Buyer assurance with products base-lined to the standards
  • Increased supply choices in the value chain that span the needs of different commercial interiors

Establishment of an integrated standard that manufacturers like HP, IBM and EMC can design products to is an important step towards implementing more DC-based systems and lowering corporate OpEx spend.

Welcome!

26 Sep

Greetings! 

I look forward to using this blog as a forum to engage in dialogue about innovative applied concepts, strategies, and technologies that are changing data center operations.

IT is on the cusp of significant transformational change–it’s an exciting time to be an IT professional!

Stay tuned for more…