Microsoft has spent a fair amount of time talking about the concept of the Modern Datacenter, such as here and here. Why is the Modern Datacenter important? In this post I’ve attempted to address five of the big reasons why I think this matters.
Because we are asked to do more with less
The days of IT being a cost center with no scrutiny are over. The business expects IT to deliver capabilities effectively and efficiently. In many ways, the business is also now asking IT to reconcile its internal services with those offered by cloud providers. The effective IT Director will analyze where it is best to use cloud services and where it is best to use on-premise. When cloud computing was in its infancy those differentiations were easily dismissed, but now the basic assumption of many companies is to leverage the public cloud first, not second. In order for effective differentiations to be made good information about costs, models, and capabilities need to be clear. Even so, many business units can “go rogue” and start leveraging cloud providers without business IT approval because of the perception that corporate IT is slow to react to needs. The modern datacenter positions its services as a mechanism to quickly respond to customer needs, whether it is provisioning services from on-premise or those deployed to public cloud providers. For example, “where should I provision my next 5 TB of storage? What opportunities does Azure IaaS align with? Should I consider non-SAN storage for some workloads?” The time to analyze, understand, and address your datacenter is now.
Because people are capable of great things
I believe that people deserve to be able to use their gifts to their creative potential. I also know that when people have that opportunity, they ultimately build a better company because they are focused on creating solutions and inventing new opportunities. The modern datacenter is about giving IT the opportunity to be creative again, vs. performing simple and repeatable resolution activities. This requires many IT people to learn new skills, such as PowerShell, Orchestrator, and private / public cloud management. That change might be threatening, but overall what it does is provides the IT engineer the opportunity to spend their time creating vs. fixing. It is time to release the potential of your IT engineers.
Because plumbing is a pain
I’m not a great home plumber. I’d be an even worse home plumber without standardized parts that I can pick up at a common hardware store. Imagine trying to perform home plumbing without standardized parts, the right fittings, and without a consistent plan. The modern datacenter is about simplifying plumbing by making the connections standardized. This is made possible through datacenter standards (PowerShell, WinRM, etc.), virtual templates, normalized virtual host builds, virtual networking, storage abstraction, and self-service. I find that in many organizations that try to take a “best of breed” approach, they end up spending most of their time integrating and much less of their time actually benefiting the business. In a scenario where the plumbing has been completed, I can now focus on the faucet, the hose, and the sprinkler. Stop integrating and start executing.
Because we need to manage by more than what is broken
The management of IT is more than about addressing symptoms. The goal of IT is to deliver services to the business that help the business be effective at its mission. In the delivery of those services we need to care about availability, addressing defects, fixing broken items, managing change, and reducing risk. I spend a great deal of my time assisting companies with improving how they organize the delivery of IT services to their customers in the business. This is made possible by the modern datacenter model by addressing the service management functions of IT in an integrated, visible, and controlled way. Raise the maturity of your IT organization beyond fire-fighting into taking control.
Because your organization needs a competitive advantage
If we are effective at IT we have empowered the business with capability that makes it more effective, efficient, reliable, or customer-centric. The deliverables of IT should focus on something that provides a concrete benefit to the business, whether it is helping employees to better understand the organization, sell more product to customers, serve customers better, or address customer concerns more effectively. I really enjoy this age of IT because I feel that I have an opportunity to make a difference in the competitiveness of companies I work with, the skills of their employees, and the culture of the business in general.
I am excited about where these technologies are going. We have an immense opportunity to change the way we deliver IT to our businesses, to give people more opportunity, and be creative.