One of the big new buzzwords surrounding Information Technology, particularly in healthcare, is data center transformation. It has become a hot button in today’s business conversation because more executives realize that the next generation IT department will become even more critical to business growth.
Almost every key business objective will have to be supported by a very agile data center, which will provide the foundation pillars for customer retention, security, regulatory compliance, and, of course, revenue growth. While most clear-thinking business executives recognize this as the truth, there are a wealth of opinions on what kinds of strategies are necessary to bring about such data center transformation, so that both IT and the business it supports can propel into the modern age. Here are some of the consensus strategies that will help achieve that transformation.
Create a scalable environment
The next generation data center will have to be ultra-flexible in scaling to meet the demands of increased volumes of transactions, and to make rapid, agile adjustments relative to the demand for IT resources. Moving applications to high-speed servers will be one tactic that helps in this area; and, distributing resources across multiple locations will allow computing power to provide continuous operation, even through unanticipated outages. Businesses which operate on traditionally tight margins will benefit greatly from reduced downtime, which in the past might have dealt a death blow to the business.
Improving market share
The vast amount of data collected by businesses must be converted into usable information about customers that will increase the number of customers, the volume of sales transactions, and encourage customer loyalty to a greater extent. Analytics will play a key role in converting mountains of raw data into valuable intelligence that supports these initiatives, and that means the data center must provide and maintain the analytics tools necessary. With better information in hand, executives will be equipped to make more informed decisions, and steer the way toward true business growth.
Consolidating data centers
In former times, companies desiring to expand rapidly through acquisition were often faced with the prospect of installing IT infrastructure at each acquired company. That scenario makes it necessary to install all the related components such as power, extra floor space, and some kind of cooling system. The next generation data center will completely bypass those needs through virtualization and cloud computing, which offer all the benefits of allocated computer resources without the necessity of physically installing any of the supporting infrastructure at remote locations. Even when entering a new market in a foreign country, a single consolidated data center would be sufficient to service any number of satellite locations in that country.
Mergers and acquisitions
While new product lines often provide a boost to the volume of sales transactions, only mergers and acquisitions are capable of making a quantum leap in business growth. The next generation data center must become capable of quickly integrating new companies under the overall business umbrella for rapid and seamless transition. A primary component of this integration process must be consolidation of databases, applications, and business processes. In order to achieve maximum efficiency in these areas, a dedicated team of experienced IT integration specialists could be highly advantageous.
Support product innovation
In the area of new products, it is absolutely essential to gain all possible efficiencies relative to the time it takes to get a new product to market. This can be supported by the data center by means of providing software tools which promote the sharing and capturing of new concepts and ideas within the company. Virtualization can be used to streamline development and testing, and results can be shared through private clouds to speed up progress. Taken altogether, efficiencies realized through data center innovations can help companies develop new products more quickly and at lower cost, which in turn will promote the increased occurrence of new product innovation.
Establish performance requirements
In setting up the data center’s infrastructure, most companies take the approach of building in more capability than they actually need, assuming that allowing for business growth is the most prudent course of action. In truth, the better approach would be to build infrastructure that is scalable rather than overbuilt, because it’s entirely possible that resources are being wasted by over-building. For instance: it could be a waste to provide excessive power or cooling capabilities, and it could be an even bigger waste to purchase far more server power than is actually called for. By taking a more precise look at actual business requirements, a more accurate budget can be produced, and the company will benefit by having more efficient operations that save on utility costs and maintenance requirements.
Establish success metrics
When planning for data center transformation, a thorough inventory of IT resources and IT capacity must be undertaken, as well as an inventory of personnel skills that will be available in the new data center. Predefined metrics for success should be agreed upon between IT managers and business executives, so that there is a definite goal in mind, rather than trying to hit a moving target. For example, achievable objectives for the IT department might be consolidating 12 data centers down to four, while business managers might seek scalable support for sales transactions that expand to as much as four times normal volume. Whatever these metrics might be, there should be a formal understanding between business executives and IT beforehand so success can actually be measured and the important goals of data center transformation can be recognized.
The days when a data center was considered just another cost center, necessary for the support of the business, are rapidly falling by the wayside. More executives now understand that the transformation of the data center is critical to the continued growth of the business itself, and that both upgrading and modernizing IT is a necessary investment that will provide the foundation for business evolution in the future. The function of the data center is changing, and to meet the needs of more agile business objectives, IT must be transformed to better support the intermediate goals of required computing capabilities, data analytics, the serving of content, and scalability for business transactions as well as growth through merger and acquisition.
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