Recently, in a discussion about data centre management and data backup, I found myself crystalising the emphasis that companies should place on the statement that It’s not about backup; it’s about restore.”At another meeting, a similar discussion ensued resulting in this statement: “It’s not about your data centre; it’s about your internal and external customer.”
The aim was to get a data centre manager to see how his actions have a direct effect on end users attaching to his data centre and the customers his company serves.
Such an IT-centric view is not helpful to the more modern aims of an IT function. When an IT team’s intention is to assist the business it is employed by, then its aims and actions must complement not conflict. Remaining in the technical silo and playing “top trumps” with vendors’ technical features simply will not do.
In the reseller world, vendors are constantly pushing out training programmes that give their representatives the opportunity to gain mind share of the reseller sales person. The aim, of course, is to ensure their product or service sits ahead of the competition. I have sat in many a meeting where a highly competent vendor trainer takes a whole team through the intimate details of the latest hardware generation or software version, dazzling the audience with features and market positioning that he believes will assist his company’s cause.
That kind of presentation helps build an understanding of the overall IT landscape, but it can be dangerous as the objectives to assist a business in becoming more efficient, competitive and, hence, more valuable become diluted. A single vendor approach to data centre management can provide benefits, but a mixed approach can too. The value-added reseller must provide a more rounded view of virtualisation and its components from a range of vendors’ perspectives, and it should assist an organisation with a comprehensive assessment before decisions are made. Pumping a single-vendor message into a sales team potentially narrows the available knowledge they will present to an end user and narrows technology discussions with customers.
Business departments and data centre management
If you listen to the vendors and their resellers, your virtualised data centre would be improved by the introduction of newer, more efficient, technologies that would drive benefits. The difficulty, however, is to translate those benefits into believable improvements that a company’s department heads can see.
So why not reverse the process?
IT systems serve internal and external customers. Some business department heads do not understand IT but do understand the needs of their team. Where those teams are in regular contact with the company’s customers, further suggested improvements can be found from those that ultimately matter – the company’s customers. CEOs recognise this and are demanding more agility and effectiveness with a greater return on investments.
A modern company cannot function without IT, which makes the CIO and IT team members pivotal to a company’s success. Ensuring that every decision made receives consideration by IT departments, and how they can improve service levels means customers must be a priority. The comfort zone for an IT department is the technology itself as well as control over that technology so it can accomplish data centre management goals. Years ago, when I first saw VMware demonstrate how an Exchange Server could be completely rebuilt on a virtual platform, I was impressed. The engineers attending the event were left drooling. The technology and its features are what motivated their enthusiasm, not the recovery features and the benefits that ability could provide to a business.
Technical vs. end-user needs
Last autumn, I witnessed a marketing manager licking his chops at the prospect of accessing applications through his virtual desktop with Citrix Systems’ Dazzle -- and without the need for red tape and delay. His IT department head was less impressed and saw such a feature as a real threat. Dazzle allowed the “lunatics to take over the asylum.”
Vendors and their resellers will focus on the latest feature releases that they are motivated to promote and will present those to end users as benefit-driven enhancements for CIOs to take advantage of. From a technical perspective, these features can help, but from an end-user and/or customer perspective, they may not.
Beyond the IT staff versus end-user needs debate, CIO’s are under more pressure than ever to ensure return on investment when it comes to data centre management. Where IT systems were previously built to a performance standard, CEOs now want those same systems delivered within financial constraints.
The virtual data centre has a pivotal role in ensuring a company’s success. The IT teams that manage and control those resources must ensure that every element of that function meets, or is directly complementing, the overall company objectives. By being virtual, IT can be more responsive and more agile. End users can access data centre resources they require through the device of their choice, and IT departments can demonstrate they are technically ready -- but they must demonstrate they are ready culturally as well through allowing an array of mobile devices on the network.
Those using virtualised data centre technologies are in the best position to respond to the assumptions that have previously been held about delivering services through several devices outside of traditional working environments. Users of a virtualised platform havea more flexible approach to providing end users with the applications, data and services they need. The question is, can the IT department fully utilise those resources for the people they serve if they don’t change the cultural approach they have traditionally held?
Andrew Cross is the sales director of virtualisation reseller company Sol-Tec and a contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK.