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February 03, 2016

Principles for an Agile Data Center

Scott D. Lowe - ActualTech Media


This post is part of a series based on the forthcoming book, ​Building a Modern Data Center​, written by Scott D. Lowe, David M. Davis and James Green of ActualTech Media in partnership with Atlantis Computing.

In our last post in this series, we talked about how expectations of the IT organization, it’s applications, and its datacenter infrastructure are much higher today than ever before in the past. Think about it for a minute - software as a service (SaaS) applications running in the public cloud (think Gmail and Dropbox) are agile enough to add new features and functionality, seemingly on the fly and with zero downtime. These SaaS applications also, seemingly suffer no downtime (at least from the perception of casual end users). This is the exact same level of agility that end users expect today, from their IT organization, its applications, and its datacenter.

In order to help you achieve such high expectations for datacenter agility, we’ve complied the following list of principles and strategies for an agile data center.

Principles for an Agile Data Center

In order to achieve agility, no matter what you are doing, you must adopt 3 key principles. They are:

  • Thinking big
  • Starting small
  • Moving fast

How do these apply to your enterprise datacenter?

Think Big

In practical terms, here’s what all of this means: it’s time to look at the whole technology environment and re-evaluate everything. Does the data center lend itself to emerging constructs, such as pay-as-you-go adoption? Data centers of days past required massive initial investments, which were neither economical, nor particularly practical. Organizations then spent years attempting to recoup these large investments, only to find that they may have never really realized a maximum return.

New thinking may require that you jettison your old ideas around how IT systems are procured, deployed and supported. The end results, though, will result in a streamlined IT function that is laser-focused on the needs of the business.

Starting Small

With an understanding for what agile IT demands, the next question you may have is, “How do I do it?” Even the creators of the most ambitious plans need to start somewhere. It’s not generally feasible to simply throw away everything that already exists and replace it with something new. At the very least, new initiatives need to be staged for implementation in such a way that they minimize impact to production.

So, start small. Find something that needs to be fixed and, well, fix it. Perhaps the physical server environment is not well-managed and you have a desire to increase your use of virtualization. At the same time, part of your “big thinking” plan is to move the entire data center to an HCI solution or one that leverages SDS.

Moving Fast

If you’re asking yourself when you should get started, that’s an easy answer: Now! Don’t wait.

Six steps to accomplish your goals quickly:

  1. Talk to the business
  2. Assess the Technology Environment
  3. Create a Support Inventory
  4. Identify Core Services and Gaps
  5. Decide What to Outsource
  6. Decide What to Improve

Face it, you can’t be agile if you don’t move fast!

The Future

To wrap up what you’ve learned in this blog, you should remember:

  1. Agile IT is a set of principles that require that people think big, start small, and move fast.
  2. The key to success in your endeavors is to make sure that you can align your IT function with what the business needs.
  3. The ability to disrupt the complex and expensive legacy environment that pervades many data centers is the key to success.
  4. By disrupting the cost and complexity equation, companies can begin to shift their focus to value-add services that drive the business.

The next and final article in this series will discuss beginning the actual transformation of your data center. Stay tuned!

SCOTT D. LOWE Contributor

​Scott is Co-Founder of ActualTech Media and serves as Senior Content Editor and Strategist. Scott is an enterprise IT veteran with close to twenty years experience in senior and CIO roles across multiple large organizations. A 2015 VMware vExpert Award winner, Scott is also a micro-analyst for Wikibon and an InformationWeek Analytics contributor.
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