Gartner: The data centre professional's agenda

Modern infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals are faced with unprecedented levels of change as technology trends such as cloud, social, big data and mobile place huge demands on IT.

These forces, coupled with strong pressure to deliver savings and cost optimisation — and even revenue growth — against flat IT budgets, result in many complex challenges that I&O and data centre professionals need to address.

Here we outline the most pressing issues and trends that I&O and data centre professionals need to prioritise in 2013:

Extreme data growth and how to cope

We recently estimated that IT spending in the big data market will rise from will rise from $28 billion in 2012 to $34 billion in 2013 - growth of 21 per cent. This spending will be mostly on IT services to support big data use cases. By 2016, spending will grow to $55 billion and will continue upwards through 2018.

In this climate, I&O professionals will need to support organisation-wide use of MapReduce or Hadoop to support big data initiatives. It’s vital to understand the total cost of ownership of the different solutions and begin planning for the changes they will cause within the data centre. In addition, it will be necessary to evaluate storage infrastructure and implement new storage technologies to cope with the increased volume and velocity of data — these choices will have long-lasting implications and warrant immediate consideration.

The I&O impact of mobile as well as new methods of communication being adopted by end users

The reality of modern IT is that users are bringing in and using their own mobile devices whether sanctioned by the IT team or not, commonly referred to as "bring your own device" (BYOD). At first glance this is a headache for I&O professionals, but there are also benefits to be exploited.

For example, by shifting the cost of hardware to the end user there are substantial savings to be made — but it’s important that I&O professionals make a case to receive some of these savings to cover the cost of the infrastructure build-out required for additional network security and data protection. For example, investment in extending network bandwidth availability could severely dwarf capital cost savings. If the process isn’t already started, now is the time to be carrying out due diligence checks on an organisation’s readiness to cope with vastly increased use of personal mobile devices, as well as looking at the infrastructure and storage demands of enterprise collaboration tools that increasingly incorporate social aspects and encourage the production of user-generated content.

How to evolve the service desk to reflect the impacts of mobility, social networking and IT service management demand

Support costs will be one of the most visible expenses of BYOD programmes and the implementation of new social initiatives. Self-help portals offer one of the best opportunities to share the support burden of increasingly diverse and complex IT infrastructures with end users.

This will require the appropriate investment in mobile device management tools, but will save money on the cost of support in the long term. Social communities within the organisation can, while presenting challenges for IT, also reduce the burden by facilitating peer support communities for day-to-day issues. Understanding how to harness new mobile and social technologies to work in your favour, rather than viewing them as another burden on limited resources, will define the successful I&O professional of the future.

Implementing and managing a hybrid cloud environment

Gartner predicts that most private cloud environments will evolve over time into a hybrid model that spans both private and public implementations. The first step is to ensure that private cloud deployments are designed with a hybrid future in mind.

Choice of vendors and technologies is paramount, because these choices will define the technologies and vendor choices of the future. Larger organisations in particular, should consider the evolution to hybrid cloud as part of a wider strategy to position IT as the broker for a broad mix of IT services delivered in many different ways.

The role of cloud in aligning businesses continuity and risk management with strategic goals and business agility.

It’s important that organisations evaluate public cloud infrastructure when developing a business continuity strategy. Implemented properly, cloud computing should enable organisations to make individual resources as disposable as possible while eliminating single points of failure.

Infrastructure-as-a-service solutions tend to offer greater flexibility and portability when compared to platform-as-a-service offerings, but will present the challenge of greater complexity. The right choice will depend on the specific needs of each organisation, but it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of the cloud options available.

Furthermore, IT operations will have to adopt new frameworks (such as DevOps) to provide agility in this complex and rapidly changing environment.

These are just some of the challenges and possible solutions facing I&O and data centre professionals in an age where the data centre is becoming an increasingly pivotal part of business strategy and value.

Gartner analysts will further discuss these trends, but also examine important topics such as Windows Server 2012, fabric computing, and new approaches to operations management such as DevOps, at the Gartner Data Centre Summit 2012 held from 27 to 28 November in London.

Posted by Andrew Butler and Milind Govekar, co-chairs of the Gartner Data Centre Summit 2012, 27-28 November in London.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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