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As data center technology evolves, where should I focus my efforts?

When data center admins are flooded with new technology, they must first prioritize their business objectives before deciding which tools to deploy.

What should data center administrators, who are faced with a never-ending list of new technology to investigate, be looking for and focusing on?

Given the rapid-fire transformation of data center technology in recent years, who could blame administrators for feeling a little like they are trapped in a cyclone? This dizzying advance in innovation leaves many IT organizations struggling to map out their future deployment strategies in the face of this onslaught of new, cutting-edge solutions and delivery models. Which storage technologies will be the best fit as data volumes continue to expand at an exponential rate? What role will virtualization and the cloud play going forward? How will on-demand service models change the role of the central IT organization? And what impact will software defined networking (SDN) have on the network?

The pressure is on IT administrators to sort out the wheat from the chaff and put the right technology to work for their business. But while there is certainly merit in looking at technology for its own sake, administrators really need to start the exploration by understanding what their own pain points and objectives are and then looking for the right solutions to address those issues.

At a fundamental level, all businesses are facing similar challenges with respect to resource constraints and the requirement to increase efficiency, productivity and scale in order to meet business objectives. Individual IT organizations should concentrate on how they can use not just specific technologies but also different strategies to optimize operations.

Most IT organizations have deployed virtualization to consolidate servers and improve utilization. Many are also exploring how standardization of technology and processes can not only lower costs and decrease support issues but also improve the overall stability and performance of enterprise data center infrastructure.

Automation and orchestration enabled by SDN and other advances also hold significant promise for data center administrators. Automation allows IT to provision, upgrade and manage systems in a more efficient and effective manner. Orchestration can help optimize performance and open up new options such as more accurate accounting for the purposes of assigning costs to specific lines of business.

Cloud also continues to dominate the IT conversation but the IT organization needs to tread carefully and deliberately into the on-demand realm. The business needs to take an application-centric approach here, taking into account the performance, security and compliance requirements of a particular application before going all-in on any cloud deployment. For a messaging application or a tertiary storage need, the very economical public cloud may be the best choice. But in the case of a more mission-critical application, a private cloud deployment might be the right fit.

That said, the cloud isn't always the right option. For example, in cases where the application re-engineering involved may too cumbersome, the enterprise may opt not to take the cloud route.

It is also crucial that data center administrators keep security top of mind during any technology exploration. Recent high-profile breaches reinforce the importance of effective threat management but to address this issue properly, enterprises really need to look at a policy-driven process and not merely a set of discrete technologies.

The best way for data center administrators to ensure they are concentrating on the right technologies is to keep the agendas of their respective organization in mind. From this point, the IT organization can best prioritize where to focus its efforts and investments in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.

This was last published in May 2014

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