Good data centres begin at home

When did you get your first computer? When did you start providing IT services for your family? For me, I became my first CIO 10 years ago. I reminisce now on those days. Frankly, I wonder why I ever did what I did. I got my first computer when...

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When did you get your first computer? When did you start providing IT services for your family? For me, I became my first CIO 10 years ago. I reminisce now on those days. Frankly, I wonder why I ever did what I did.

I got my first computer when I was 11. Since then, I have attempted to learn every aspect I can about computers and computing. I’ll never forget the time when a pair of capacitors dissipated 13,000 volts into me. I was 15. I ignored the bright and bold cautionary stickers on the back of a CRT monitor. Naturally, it warned me not to open the case of the monitor!

Even as recent as 10 years ago, I still insisted on owning and running my own mail server, file server, web server from home. All of these servers were already virtualised, and my entire home was wired with Category 5e cabling. At that time, I was married, and my wife is a technophobe.

Things have changed. I am no longer married, and my girlfriend is proficient with technology. My 5½ year old son programs the DVR with ease! But, with the exception of a high-end consumer NAS device that doubles as my media server, I no longer run my own IT servers or services. No more racks of equipment in the basement.

While on a plane, I sat back and wondered, what happened? Me, the geek!

I realised that essentially, I have fired my IT department! (Oh no, I’ve fired myself!) I have completely outsourced my IT functions, in my case, to Google. Google now hosts my collaboration services - mail, calendar and contact list management. It also hosts family websites.

So what, you ask? For me, it's about delivering a consistent service. I travel over 60% of the time. I no longer have the desire or the ability to sustain a state-of-the-art data centre. I have also saved hundreds of dollars a month on power.

Additionally, I get to outsource the liability of the service level to someone else. I no longer have to have a helpdesk function (i.e. frantic calls from a spouse on why something is not working). These have had a positive impact on my family's finances.

Don't get me wrong. You might be happy to know that not all of my geekness has gone away. (My home is now wired using Category 6 cabling!)

In a series of keynote speeches that I have been delivering across the county, I have had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of end-users about challenges facing datacenters. Increasingly, core IT services are being outsourced, or are being considered for outsourcing. These include:

  • Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Email, and other collaboration tools

While large enterprises will maintain their own data centres and probably continue to provide IT services internally, an increasing number of small and medium business leaders are moving towards hosted services.

Additionally, many of these decisions are not being driven by the IT department, but by business unit leaders. The success of hosted services such as Salesforce.com is a perfect example of this.

What does that mean to traditional data centres? It means that the professional outlook for some IT professionals will be supporting laptops and sustaining an internet connection.

What can these IT professionals do? They need to start thinking more like service providers. IT departments need to deliver to business unit leaders the cost of IT as a fixed function of a business metric (such as the cost of IT per unit of revenue, or the cost of IT per employee, or the cost of IT to process a business transaction). The traditional chargeback methodology is no longer valid.

My advice to IT professionals is to take a look around your home, and ask yourselves these questions:

  • Do you have a good data protection policy?
  • What is the main IT service you provide to your family?
  • What have you outsourced or can outsource?
  • What services are so critical to your family that it should be provided internally?
  • Can you express the cost of IT services per family member? (Don't forget to include all mobile devices!)

For me, good data centres begin at home!

Post by Benjamin S. Woo

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