The data centre is on the cusp of a transformation.
The changing nature of how we work, coupled with the drive towards hybrid working, means that IT and data centre managers must take the time to review the existing set-up of their data centre to ensure it is fit for purpose in this ever-changing, data-hungry new world. In doing so, attention must be given to whether the existing estate meets the business’ needs, not only as we move into the “new normal”, but in preparation for any future challenges caused by external forces – be it regulatory or another unprecedented global crisis.
The grip of the pandemic saw many businesses rethink their physical office and IT needs which has had a correlation on where budgets were allocated. For example, according to data from Synergy Research Group, in 2020 we finally saw cloud spend overtake that of investment in on-premise solutions; growing by 35% to reach almost $130 billion versus just $90 billion for data centres. However, as the working world adapts again, it is possible that office spend and, as a result, on-prem infrastructure spend will see gains into 2022 and beyond.
So, where should IT and data centre managers start when it comes to addressing the needs of the data centre of the future?
Stronger, better, faster
In returning to a physical work setting, an audit of ‘haves and needs’ must take place to remind IT managers of the current IT estate and consider where adaptations or improvements might be needed to suit new operational processes. In moving to a hybrid working model, it is vital that the data centre architecture is equipped to cope with a high level of traffic as team members access files from multiple locations. As a result, a review of storage capacity and networking capabilities must be conducted. This is particularly important as we continue to see employees use online collaboration tools, like Microsoft Teams, to edit documents in real-time, as well as access internal servers.
In doing this, IT managers must look at the connectivity and bandwidth of their networking systems within their data centre. They must look towards digital maturity as part of wider transformation projects – not simply seeking to fix short-term issues or challenges. Considering the full use of the IT estate and consultation with the wider organisation to understand how they consume it must be done to make informed decisions.
Reviewing the tools, processes and practices that occur at all levels will better inform the technical team of any enhancements that are needed within an organisation’s data centre – and beyond. Only once this has been done can changes be made to strengthen the data centre and make it fit for purpose in the future.
Build in flex
As demand grows from organisations considering upgrades to their networking infrastructure, another trend we are experiencing is the move towards hybrid IT. This could also benefit those looking to include dynamism in their IT estates. After all, if the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that we need systems and processes in place that can be flicked on/off when our technology and operations require change – potentially overnight.
While we saw this happen most obviously in March 2020, it still caught many by surprise and no one could have envisaged that it would only be two years later that we would be considering returning to the office again. As a result, embedding flexibility within data centre architectures to scale up (or down) according to the current organisational needs is an absolute must.
To achieve this, advance planning is a must. This will not only mean consideration of what’s needed right now is taken into account, but also allows for the flex for extra capacity down the line. That’s not to say that IT managers should automatically spend their budget on the biggest capacity system – but decision makers should select a configuration that is upgrade friendly instead.
For instance, half populating a server’s memory slots with 32GB Dimms may be more prudent than completely filling them with 16GB Dimms. Another example would be purchasing a 48-port switch over a 24-port switch. The former option provides the additional ports to use if required; the 24-port option would require an additional switch. Taking all this into account will ensure the IT estate has the flexibility embedded from the outset to futureproof, which may also mean budgets are better managed.
Consideration for data migration must also be top of mind for IT managers. Again, due process must be given while a migration is happening, with temporary solutions in place to limit downtime. This is where utilising refurbished enterprise IT equipment can help. Rather than following an ‘invest to upgrade’ strategy, companies may choose to rent the equipment that’s needed on a short-term basis until the migration is complete. There are a number of companies, including ETB, that can help organisations of all shapes and sizes source this stop gap, enabling them to continue operations until the migration is complete
Supply chain issues? Enter the refurb market
Another area where the refurb market can assist is in addressing the current supply chain crisis. We have all likely seen the news of delays in the supply chain not only because of a global semiconductor shortage, but also due to staff shortages to deliver said equipment. This is leaving some businesses having to wait up to 100 days for brand new servers and networking equipment. However, given the pace that IT requirements can change – which is faster than ever – and knowing how quickly organisations are looking to drive recovery, a more than three-month wait is not an option.
These supply chain challenges are driving organisations to consider alternative routes to get the equipment they need. As a result, we are seeing refurbished enterprise IT equipment become a real option for businesses that might have ignored the sector in the past. Gone are the days when refurbished equated to old and slow; indeed, even equipment that is just one generation older than its ‘brand new equivalent’ can often be used for as long as its newer peer, with the added benefit of providing a significant cost savings. Equally, the refurb market also presents a stronger opportunity for spare or replacement parts to be sourced in a short amount of time – sometimes seeing processing and shipping times cut by 10 times than when buying new.
The opportunity to upgrade equipment is also greater when it comes to refurbished tech, as specs can be adapted to better suit the user. All this means that businesses can reinvest any savings in other areas of the IT estate or business to drive recovery, or mitigate any impact from rising costs resulting from changes to inflation.
Put simply, when it comes to the data centre this year and beyond, speed, flex and source of technology must be high on the agenda to make sure organisations have a data centre to meet their needs – both now and in the future.