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Experts Blog: Forget “Speeds & Feeds,” It’s Time for a New Data Center Playbook

By Pete Schmitt, CTO, cStor


For decades now, infrastructure performance has been a focal point for IT professionals. We’ve made infrastructure investments based how quickly systems can process data (the “speeds”), how fast the data can be moved around (the “feeds”), and of course, the reliability and cost of the system.

Due to the mission-critical importance of performance, we’ve historically stayed fixated on those ‘speeds and feeds’ metrics. However, I would argue that cloud and digital transformation advancements are adding new levels of ‘architectural intelligence’ to the data management game in ways most of us simply didn’t see coming. Nevertheless, it’s the new reality and ‘speeds and feeds’ are no longer the most important metrics to measure. Although they shouldn’t be ruled out either, I believe it’s time to rethink your data center ‘playbook,’ if you haven’t already. I call it a playbook because I believe that’s exactly what it needs to be: your broader data management strategy, as well as a more detailed execution plan, all in one cohesive roadmap.

Here are a few key points to consider when crafting your playbook, as well as some key action steps you can take to advance your efforts sooner versus later.

There Are Big Points to Score Hidden Within Your Data

It’s been said many times before, but it’s worth saying again. Your data is invaluable… that is if you know how to uncover the ‘intelligence hidden within,’ beyond just speeds and feeds. If you’re only planning your IT infrastructure based on storage attributes and using data to react to the business, at this stage of the game, you’re missing out.

There are new metrics that have become far more important when you’re architecting your IT infrastructure – metrics that are about using data to be creatively proactive, such as business impact, customer impact, data management complexity, scalability (both up and down) and flexibility. In essence, you need sound strategies for meeting your data requirements that are focused beyond the speeds and feeds, and instead focused on where your CEO is focusing… the future.

Data analytics is one way to help shift that focus, because it helps you uncover the hidden data gems that you may have been overlooking before now. Therefore, it’s critical to leverage modern data analytics in evaluating how and where to score more value from it. Although the popularity of this capability is growing as the volume of data being created grows, we see many clients still looking at their data management strategy in reverse: from the systems, applications and database view, rather than from the ‘business impact’ view. And with the emergence of a 3rd platform, aka, mobile and social media data, it’s more imperative than ever to get a handle on metrics that are closest to the customer touch point

But remember, your applications and systems don’t give a hoot about where the data lives, whether getting to it is quick or not or whether that storage location (on-premise, in a physical data center, or in the cloud) is low or high cost. They also don’t care how close the data is to where it needs to go, so they don’t inherently factor in network traffic, congestion points and latency. Your users, management and customers, however, certainly do.

Modern analytics tools can help advance the value from your data, identify the best storage location based on data type and usage, and get proactive around using it to improve outcomes. That equates to ‘big points on the board’ for your team, and measurable value to the business.

ACTION POINT #1: shift your strategy focus from provisioning, cost containment and the physicality of the data center to business focused data management requirements, including business impact and outcomes.

Evolving the Playbook to Bring Home a Win

Increasingly, cStor is seeing a dramatic shift in how our clients are advancing IT initiatives and making purchase decisions. Cost containment and reduction are still part of the equation, however, IT leaders are seeing more clearly than ever that reducing cost cannot be at the expense of outcomes. In essence, it’s a much more holistic approach to the IT playbook.

Part of that holistic view stems from the new ‘normal,’ in user expectations. Gone are the days of users patiently waiting one to two months for a new server or application rollout. They demand near-real time response rates, and they’ll go around IT to get it, if needed. It’s no wonder Shadow IT emerged and is taking on new forms (e.g. from a disk drive under a desk, to a new cloud service) and frankly, getting more dangerous by the day (I’ll leave that detail for another post).

And just as your applications don’t care where the data lives, your users don’t care about the platform, where applications reside or the associated costs either. They only care about being able to get the job done when and where they need it. The truth is, your “competition” has morphed into an on-demand self-service model of IT and automated functions (think AWS).

While ‘less is more’ when it comes to delivering results (meaning your users don’t care how it gets done, as long as it gets done, nor do they need to know), you cannot forego things like policy, security and regulatory requirements along the way.

Today’s cloud and Digital Transformation advancements give you the ability to allow users to consume from an OPEX standpoint, paying by the drink for only what you need, when and where you need it. And when you utilize a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), you gain assurances that your policy and security requirements are baked into the playbook as standard procedure rather than an afterthought.

ACTION POINT #2: Don’t over-provision or overspend when it comes to your data management strategy. Deliver smart, efficient solutions focused on business outcomes, which in many cases is best served by leveraging a hybrid cloud approach to eliminate (or at least reduce) your Shadow IT challenges that typically get worse over time.

In the end, the data center metamorphosis is well underway. That world is changing whether we like it or not, whether we take action to evolve (and upgrade) our data management playbook, or not. While some IT leaders continue to fear the added risk and loss of control that this evolution brings, their fears could ultimately be their demise.

So don’t look at this new playbook strategy as “me versus them,” or as data being “here versus there.” See the new playbook as one of your most critical new tools in winning the game you’re in, and driving the business forward, faster and more efficiently than ever before. Your users are changing the way they work. Your customers are changing the way they purchase, communicate and engage. Embrace the changes, and you’ll get the W in the win column.

If you’re struggling on where to start evaluating your current data management playbook, drop cStor a line and we can help.

Pete Schmitt
About Pete Schmitt
As the lead for cStor technology and engineering, Pete researches new and emerging technology to ensure that his team is at the forefront of technology trends and best practices so that they can deliver the best possible technological solutions to cStor customers. He brings an extensive background in information technology, customer service, and professional services and is known for delivering second-to-none customer experiences—a philosophy that is directly attributable to cStor’s long-standing success and reputation.

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