IT as a service is here to stay. IT organisations must embrace five major trends in data centre and operational transformation says Drue Reeves, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.
The economic downturn of 2009 still profoundly affects businesses and IT. Many IT organisations were faced with little or no capital budget, no additional head count, and growing demand for IT services. To survive, businesses needed to save money or earn every penny by automating processes, finding additional revenue streams, increasing user productivity, and scaling resources up and down dynamically as the market demanded. These dynamic business demands, combined with budget restrictions, have become part of "the new normal" — the expectation that budgets will not return to pre-2009 levels and that IT resource scaling can match the pace of business.
The demand for IT as a service, combined with the need to reduce costs, has pushed data centres to the brink of a second transformation.
What's more, in 2010 and 2011 the desperation felt by many businesses began to inspire innovation. Public cloud computing became an increasingly popular choice for IT services and, although numerous issues remain, many organisations have grown accustomed to consuming IT as a service.
The demand for IT as a service, combined with the need to reduce costs, has pushed data centres to the brink of a second transformation. The rise of public cloud computing and a growing and increasingly complex mobile and remote workforce is pressuring IT organisations to offer IT infrastructure as a service that can not only compete on price and agility with external providers, but also offer the security and assurance needed to house business-critical applications and data.
In 2012, five overarching trends will transform the data centre:
Hybrid IT: Perhaps the greatest effect of public cloud computing on IT concerns operations. IT organisations realise that not only do they need to compete with public cloud service providers (CSPs), but also act as intermediaries between internal customers and all IT services (internal or external).
IT organisations are becoming brokers of a set of IT services hosted partly internally and partly externally
IT organisations are becoming brokers of a set of IT services hosted partly internally and partly externally — that is, of hybrid IT. As intermediaries, IT organisations can offer internal customers the price, capacity and provisioning speed of the external cloud, and the protection and security of the internal cloud.
Internal clouds: When businesses grow accustomed to consuming IT as a service, IT organisations will be compelled to build internal clouds. Unfortunately, building an internal cloud is hard work and few blueprints exist. Although vendors are building products that will help customers build internal clouds, there is no turnkey solution. IT organisations will struggle to cobble together the necessary pieces to build internal clouds. Nevertheless, building them will be a key data centre trend in 2012 because of the need to compete with external cloud computing.
Hybrid clouds: Hybrid clouds are connections between two clouds, usually an internal private cloud and an external public cloud. They are constructed using software that enables applications and data to migrate more easily between clouds. For example, many applications depend on identity management systems to authenticate users, have gigabytes of data, and have input/output latency dependencies for storage. These attributes often prevent applications from migrating to the external cloud, but hybrid cloud solutions them in unique ways. For example, hybrid cloud software can enable WAN acceleration and VPN connections between clouds that allow IT organisations to keep application services and critical data in the internal cloud, and to move the workload itself to the public cloud. As IT budgets continue to shrink and capital resources remain scarce, hybrid clouds will become a more popular option for augmenting IT capacity and enabling disaster recovery than building another data centre or signing a long-term outsourcing agreement.
User-centric computing: To compete in a global market and retain key employees,organisations often have to accommodate staff who live in remote locations and use personal devices for work. Some organisations are attempting to radically reduce the operational expense of supporting numerous desktop devices for large groups of users with various application requirements. These needs create new challenges for IT organisations to secure data; back up data; support smaller, less functional devices; and support a broader range of devices. Therefore, many IT organisations are rethinking their desktop and mobility strategies and adopting a user-centric, rather than a device-centric, point of view.
Competing with the external cloud requires IT organisations to strive for hyper-efficiency in their data centres
Data centre efficiency: Competing with the external cloud requires IT organisations to strive for hyper-efficiency in their data centres. If critical data and applications are to be housed in an internal private cloud, IT organisations must deliver internal IT services in an efficient, cost-effective manner. This requires them to squeeze further costs out of their data centres by virtualising as many applications as possible, using storage efficiency technologies such as data deduplication, and buying servers that enable them to maximize space and power and to consolidate applications.
The new data centre
In 2012, the data centre will continue its transformation from a traditional, virtualised, consolidated and centralised IT infrastructure into a service-oriented and economically efficient internal cloud. The new data centre will enable internal customers to consume IT as a service, host critical applications and data, and augment capacity by using an external cloud. This transformation is the result of the pressure public cloud computing exerts on IT organisations to compete with cloud providers, as well as the need to support a growing mobile workforce. To support this transformation, IT organisations must change from a command-and-control mind-set to an IT broker mind-set that facilitates IT service consumption for their internal customers.
The business may bypass IT altogether
The consequences of not embracing this transformation could be profound. If IT organisations fail to offer IT as a service from internal and external clouds, or resist supporting remote users, internal customers will spend more of their IT budgets elsewhere, and could eventually bypass the IT organisation entirely.