A Gartner Research report recently caught my attention called “The Data Center is Dead, and Digital Infrastructures Emerge.” In the report, Gartner analyst David Cappuccio highlights strategies like prioritizing workload placement, building an ecosystem of visionary partners, investing in talent and training, and leveraging distributed digital infrastructure. All of these are valid for any IT organization.
Yet I couldn’t get past the title. Is the data center dead?
Not in my opinion. I look at data centers differently and how they have matured like the stages of human development. Data centers have grown from simplistic infants to complicated adolescents to matured adults.
As infants we built data centers of brick and mortar, typically using a cookie cutter approach. We calculated the wattage per square foot (SQFT) and, based on the results, plopped in racks and deployed pizza boxes of storage dedicated to specific workloads. We built data centers all over the world and made sure they had N+1 power backup.
As high schoolers, our data centers needed to be cool and co-exist. We embraced co-lo data centers which were overly designed and built. Like adolescents, we adopted an “all-me-all-the-time” attitude with dedicated infrastructure and deployed two of everything. We overprovisioned, became obsessed with uptime, and staffed them with dedicated resources who physically managed everything end-to-end. It was complicated and costly.
As our data centers matured into adulthood, we did some self-reflection and realized it’s best to rent commodity software via SaaS providers for things like email, collaboration, ERP, and CRM. We embraced virtualization, microservices and containers to help build more flexible cloud aware apps and architecture. Scripting and self-healing capabilities removed manual processes and people costs. And just like aging adults, data centers have shrunk in their physical build thanks to more efficient hardware.
For some organizations, data centers continue to serve as a favorite childhood security blanket with its innate ability to protect, control, and maintain ownership of corporate data. It provides reassurance from malicious actors, activities, and threats. For other IT organizations like ours, we have ventured outside the data center to the cloud. To maintain secure control of our data, we rely on NetApp Cloud Volumes and NetApp Private Storage for Cloud residing at the cloud edge.
For NetApp IT, our next generation data center will support approximately 27% of our enterprise apps that have been categorized as tolerate, i.e. applications that support an existing, valid business process that cannot be eliminated. These apps do not require an incremental investment, so they will continue to run from our traditional data center for the foreseeable future. For these reasons, I don’t think the data center is dead. It has just matured into its next generation form.
The NetApp-on-NetApp blog series features advice from subject matter experts from NetApp IT who share their real-world experiences using NetApp’s industry-leading data management solutions to support business goals. Visit www.NetAppIT.com to learn more.
Stan Cox is the director of Customer 1, the team that provides strategic oversight of IT infrastructure at NetApp and is responsible for early adoption and integration of NetApp products to run IT. Stan and team design, manage, and operate NetApp's storage, global data centers, hosting, and cloud strategy and delivery.
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