Modernising the Data Centre

Data centre modernisation solutions are widespread in the IT industry these days. They’re good solutions – excellent in many cases – but that’s not much help if there’s no budget to pay for it. The IT department is finding itself wedged between a demanding business and an aging data centre – and it isn’t a comfortable place to be. So, how do you find a way out?

A Fowl Tale of Data Disaster

A story from the UK hit mainstream news recently, where fast-food giant, KFC, switched to a new logistics provider. We all know that data migration, especially on that scale, isn’t an easy task. The worst happened – 900 KFC stores were forced to close due to chicken shortages, with staff losing income, and customers distraught at missing their fix of their favourite tasty fast-food.

Anyone craving a Zinger burger will be glad to know that thanks to the loyalty of KFC customers and staff, the business is working on recovering lost ground. KFC’s experience highlights sharply, the degree to which modern businesses depend on data and the potential impact if that fact is not fully respected, or understood. The story that came out of the UK was that it was a supply chain issue, although I disagree – more about that later.

Understanding the Role of Data

When we think of data, we envision a data centre, but the truth today is far different. As the hype of cloud settles into a more realistic approach, and many organisations take a step part-way back to the on-premises approach, the view of data is still of a structured situation that is managed by IT. The reality is that, according to Gartner, at least 80% of today’s data is unstructured.

Of course, that accounts for data held by individuals, not just by organisations – but the lines are blurring. When Colin Powell’s Gmail account was hacked to retrieve details of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, unrelated sensitive data about Salesforce – of which he was a board member – was also released.

It isn’t just hackers we need to be concerned with. Closer to home, it is likely that employees outside the IT department are using handy apps to make their workload more manageable or collaborate with team members – all with little regard for the management and security of that data.

The Data Gap Behind the KFC Closures

A better understanding of unstructured data would have saved KFC from the worst supply chain issue since the pub with no beer. Forecasting data that was vital to the logistics company was unstructured. Effectively, without such data, the systems in place believed that nobody in the UK wanted to eat Southern-fried chicken treats.

IT pervades every part of every business, and the IT department has a digital estate to manage – one that includes the data centre, as well as data store in the cloud, structured or not. The modern data centre is a concept, not a location. When we see it this way, we are better equipped to align with the business.

By the Numbers: IT and Business Futures

In my presentation at JuiceIT recently, I borrowed some statistics from Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) that make sobering reading. 45% of business leaders believe that their business, in its current state, could be obsolete in three to five years. 52% have already experienced disruption in their industry in the last three years. On these figures, the business shockwaves are set to continue.

Contrast that with an experience from the livestock industry. Farming has embraced technology more than most people realise, and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) has an outstanding transformation story. They learned about their unstructured data relating to cattle, and they tracked it. What they learned was that they were able to track every piece of beef right back to the calf, through every step of its journey to the plate. Because of this, their MLA certification means they can command three times the price on the Asian market. Watch the video below to learn more.

Elsewhere, organisations investing in analytics are outperforming competitors – they are, said Dell EMC at its Dell Technologies World 2017 Conference, 60% more profitable. Little wonder then that digital transformation is ranked among the highest priorities for business leaders. Transformation is the best chance of survival.

Finding Budget for Transformation

There is a business case for funding transformation, and the numbers are compelling. As IT professionals, instead of a grand plan over three years – which will undoubtedly be outdated before that time is up, given current change – we must directly link incremental improvements to specific business needs. When an IT leader faces a boardroom and talks technology, they are likely to be met with a sea of blank faces. Opening with a way to earn three times the price for beef exports, or to cut production costs by 20%, and you’ve got their attention.

In recent years, investment in data centres has stalled or slowed. The expectation was that the future was cloud. As the more practical hybrid approach takes over, that lack of investment is often exposed. Look at what is needed in a cloud-enabled platform that aligns with your business goals and lets you drive your data – then review what is needed to get there.

At JuiceIT, I presented a technology-agnostic model we use to plan that journey – I’m happy to share that outline free. Regardless of where you’re starting from and the technology you already have in place, you can build in the required characteristics to support your business – one simple step at a time.

Is it time to break down digital transformation into manageable, business-aligned projects? I’m always happy to talk through your situation and connect you with the help you need.


Tags: Cloud, Data & Analytics, Data Centre, Data Centre Infrastructure, Hybrid Cloud, JuiceIT, JuiceIT 2018



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