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People, processes become focus for data centres.

By Heather Wright
Mon 16 Jun 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As data centers rapidly evolve, the people, processes and management involved is coming under scrutiny, Gartner tells Heather Wright.

Ask Gartner's Michele Caminos what the key issues data center customers face are and, in something of a surprise move, her answer isn't related to to any of the technology trends currently impacting data centers.

“The technology is there, but people, processes and management haven't kept up.”

Gartner's managing vice president for technology and service provider research, Caminos says the increasingly fabric-based infrastructure means management, processes and skills need to change to stay in line with where the technology is at.

“The trend in ANZ is to hybrid IT and data centers, using traditional IT infrastructure as well as cloud,” she says. “That's gaining a hold in the market place as a result of Amazon Web Services in Australia, which has increased visibility and interest in some very core IaaS.

“But a number of challenges come into it. It's not so much what to outsource, but how to manage it all.

She says using cloud for some services, and having priority services operations in the data center changes the skills companies need in house, along with the organisational structure needed.

“The skills are fundamentally different and the people, processes and management have not progressed in keeping with the technologies.

“New Zealand businesses were very quick to move to a virtualised environment. The next stage is to take that virtual environment and overlay it with services.  We're at a pivotal point now, where we need to ask, 'how do we manage this?'. Infrastructure is maturing, but we can't leverage it to the degree we would like.”

Caminos says the siloed approach – of having staff who have deep knowledge of, say, storage, or networking or applications – changes under the new model.

“In a virtualised environment, if a system goes down, a business process or service is gone.”

Instead of having 'super deep, concentrated skills in a particular area, IT professionals now need to be more general in their skills, capable of working across network, storage, apps and so on. “They have to understand the flow of information and how everything changes in a virtual environment.”

And it's not just the IT professionals who need to change. “There's a different organisational structure required that enables you to have an overarching team, and you're not just supporting devices, you're managing an end to end service, which often leverages cloud in some capacity.”

The tools needed to manage infrastructure also change, requiring better visibility into the system.

“Things are more interconnected. Things aren't so siloed, they're across all, so you have to change your thinking.”

Virtualisation, power drives continueArron Patterson, EMC New Zealand chief technology officer, says data centers in New Zealand continue to become more heavily virtualised, driving higher levels of utilisation and efficiency.

“We're also leading the way with deployment of advanced management, abstraction and policy-based automation although the number of true private clouds is still quite small.”

Patterson says Kiwi businesses, having already embraced VMware compute virtualisation, are now embracing network and storage virtualisation and accelerating towards 'the truly software defined data center'.

“This is being driven by increased reliance on IT to provide not only a reliable, dependable infrastructure to support business, but also to enable competitive differentiation and to unlock new business potential.”

The result of the changes and the higher levels of efficiencies and utilisation, is a freeing up of resources to invest in innovation. “New Zealand businesess are leading the way with adoption of cloud technology driving data center change.”

Power too, continues to be an area of concern – and possible cost savings – for data centers.

Les Day, Aline Technologies managing director, says he's seeing a increasing demand for hot/cold aisle containment for more efficient and cost effective air conditioning, and power monitoring solutions.

“Environmental efficiencies are becoming a major focus for many,” Day notes.

“A lot of the data centers we work with are also looking for transparency for PUE through DCIM systems. Monitoring is really in demand at the moment.”

He says in the early days, many data centers sold a footprint, but found customer's upgrading their own equipment could quickly blow out the kilowatts consumed per rack, resulting in data center revenue going backwards.

“The power monitoring solutions we implement provide full transparency of usage for each individual rack.”

On the cabling side, Day says he's seen a big increase in 'the type of high speed infrastructure required'. “One data center we've been involved with has got some pretty coal face equipment for SAN and high speed requirements.”

Going hosted?If you are planning to move to a hosted environment, here’s a list of questions Vocus' Steven Stanford suggests asking a data center provider:

• How stable is your business? Find out how long the company has been operating – is it stable, profitable and viable?

• Do you own your own facilities? Do they own their own hosting environment and do they have direct control over the facility?

• What’s your business focus? What size clients do they serve? Is their focus on the business or consumer markets?

• How redundant is your network and systems? What level of redundancy do they guarantee? Ask if their mains power system is scalable and able to grow. Do they have centralised UPS and backup generator systems in place?

• Connectivity to the outside world? Find out how many upstream international bandwidth providers they use and how they are load-balanced across upstream providers. How many fibre optic circuits do they have into the data center? Do they have primary and secondary circuits for redundancy?

• How secure is the facility? How do they control access to their environment? Do they have monitoring and alarms on keypads, and CCTV monitoring entranceways and colocation rooms?

• What is your disaster recovery plan? Find out if they have insurance to cover a major catastrophe and whether they can provide multi-site hosting for redundancy purposes.

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