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How to build the data centre of the future

Technology evolution has never been quicker, but you can prepare for change

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Infrastructure in the data centre is growing rapidly. Applications are generating a mountain of data that hungrily consumes all available storage. Business leaders are clamoring for new, flexible services to meet fast-changing needs and compete in the market.

At the same time, data centre technology is changing faster than ever before, with a plethora of new options available. IT leaders must adapt to this dynamic environment as they build the agile, intelligent infrastructure needed to support a digital business.

In a fully realised intelligent infrastructure, the compute environment—consisting of data centre, Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service—will be fully integrated to service the processing (server and storage) needs of a business process and its associated set of applications. Data centre capacity will be automatically provisioned for demand against a predetermined set of optimised business requirements.

Business processes and applications will be orchestrated across the core enterprise legacy and private and public cloud environments. Advanced analytics will help determine the most suitable compute environment to run an application or workload and, once the most suitable environment is identified, workload management will be automated to move applications to that environment. While the current technology options are not quite ready to achieve the full vision for an intelligent infrastructure, IT leaders can begin to prepare.

So, what should companies be doing now in the data centre to capitalise on the opportunities? Here are six key strategies for getting started:

  1. Understand the business: Take the time to understand business requirements and develop an appropriate data centre strategy. The most competitive companies optimise their infrastructure costs while delivering fast, flexible, reliable services. With all the options available, it can be challenging to plan for the data centre the business will need in the future- but if designed with a true understanding of the business lines that the data centre must support, you’re setting up a winning strategy.
  2. Think modular: Flexibility is best supported by modular infrastructure design. Start small, only implement what is needed and add on when necessary. Whether the data centre is cloud based or on premises, it’s important to be able to quickly scale to meet changing needs. Business requirements and technology will evolve. Modular design gives the organisation the ability to adapt to changing needs and capitalise on more efficient, less costly technology as it becomes available - and it will.
  3. Pay attention to power and data needs: Sprawling servers mean rapid growth in power demand. At the same time, applications are generating far-greater amounts of data and moving more of it around the network - often for must-have applications like big data analytics. These demands strain the capacity of storage farms and data centre networks, often slowing things down just when they should be most responsive.
  4. Embrace the new hybrid world: Evolving technology creates huge opportunities to enhance the efficiency and flexibility of the data centre, but some time-honored concepts no longer apply. For example, the “one size fits all” data centre no longer meets business needs. Leverage cloud solutions for commoditised services such as e-mail, but keep it in-house where sensitive data issues or the need to maintain control is critical. With data centre technology changing so rapidly, everything must be reassessed. Blade servers? Convergent Infrastructure? Public/private cloud? Dedicated systems vs. general-purpose? Traditional Storage? In memory Computing? Understanding of the business and data centre strategy will guide decisions.
  5. Design with operations in mind: Virtualisation is here to stay, but implementations need to be standardised to make it easier to deploy, manage and scale. Consider implementing a standard service catalogue to strictly control configurations, but take advantage of the power of virtualisation to quickly adapt to changing business requirements.
  6. Consider software costs: Companies have dramatically reduced data centre costs by optimising hardware, facilities, bandwidth and staffing. However, less attention has been paid to optimising the cost of software. No matter where you are in your data centre initiative, now is the time to consider software costs, such as switching from expensive, proprietary operating systems to Linux, or migrating from custom middleware to a Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering. Remember to analyse and consider how the software is used so you don't over-buy or design it in a way that is unnecessarily expensive.

The data centre has taken a central role in the success of today’s digital business, as technology is opening new markets, reaching customers in new and powerful ways, and creating entirely new lines of business. Planning now for the needs of the future data centre can result in much greater business value from investments.

Posted by Sabino Prizio, managing director, Data Centre Technologies, Accenture

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