How to create an effective data center transformation strategy

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Today’s IT organizations face a difficult task.

They must keep their businesses responsive in a dynamic marketplace and glean real-time actionable insights from expanding volumes of data. And they must do it while integrating new systems into legacy infrastructures and staying compliant with security obligations.

With the right plan, navigating this complex endeavor is much more manageable. But too often, organizations don’t know where to start – or worse, they start in the wrong spot.

Here are a few pointers to help you start developing an effective data center transformation strategy.

Identify all your business requirements

Too often, businesses focus their attention on infrastructure first, believing that if they simply move their environment to a software-defined model, they can take their time figuring out next steps later.

This mindset has led many organizations to push their legacy applications to the public cloud without optimizing that placement – effectively putting the cart before the horse.

Before attacking your infrastructure, first identify your broad spectrum of business requirements – everything from supply chain management through individual workflows, data capture, and constantly evolving customer experiences. Virtually every aspect of a modern business can be impacted by the infrastructure choices you make.

Define what you are trying to achieve, and how new technology could help you compete in your ever-changing marketplace. As you observe what works for similar organizations, make sure your comparisons are valid.

Take Walmart and Amazon, for example. Both companies seem to occupy a very similar market niche – an “everything” store that offers near-instant satisfaction and deep discounts. But their respective business models drive very different IT infrastructure requirements.

Amazon has essentially revolutionized online shopping fulfillment, delivering products to the doorstep in minutes, whereas Walmart enriches the brick-and-mortar shopping experience with innovations such as in-store product finder apps that guide customers to their item, saving time and energy. Similar markets, vastly different models – and different IT infrastructures.

Customer needs are a subset of your total business requirements, and all should be clearly defined before embarking on any data center transformation journey.

Establish an application-centric mindset

After you identify how business strategies should drive your data center solutions, it’s important to turn your attention the applications that are critical to the success of individual employees and your business as a whole. Look at your current application infrastructure and profile the applications you need to achieve these desired results, including both the transformative applications that drive your current business – and will set the pace for your future – as well as the important legacy applications you require. Additionally, plot out the applications you’re presently building and the ones you plan to build going forward.

With this information, define the requirements for each application. For instance, will it need to scale rapidly, is it going to generate large amounts of data, what levels of security and availability does it need, what is most cost-effective, and so on?

Your business requirements are going to dictate your application requirements. Once you have a clear picture of the latter, you can design an infrastructure solution that will support the needs of both current and future applications.

Build the framework you need

You’ve identified your business requirements and created a plan for your applications, determining which ones to modernize, maintain, or retire. Now it’s only a matter of matching these applications to the appropriate infrastructures. Seems simple enough, right?

Hardly. Businesses are in a significant state of transformation, and there is a fundamental change in the way applications are being written, whether for cloud, on-prem, or a hybrid model.  Moreover, the apps that customers use to conduct business with you are evolving as well.

Your data center infrastructure must be designed with your applications in mind. However, you have your current application landscape and a future transformative landscape to consider. And these are often tied to conflicting interests within a business. And so, it falls to you to prioritize it all to ensure applications are delivering the best value to your customers.

Still another design consideration is building in flexibility to grow and change as new technologies arise, so that your business is not locked into a proprietary solution that precludes taking advantage of tomorrow’s innovations.

Start your transformation journey with a trusted advisor

A modernized infrastructure is essential to remain competitive and secure. But the fact is, achieving a smart, effective IT transformation is harder than ever in today’s dynamic and challenging digital landscape – and missteps and do-overs are costly.

That’s why your first task is to bring in a partner with the experience and record of real-world design wins to help you navigate these myriad alternatives, pinpointing where and how to best invest for success.

An experienced advisor can help ensure that you construct a flexible framework that delivers enough performance to handle demanding workloads today and tomorrow, optimizes app placement, and implements managed security to protect critical assets and keep people safe.

SHI can help you get there with confidence. Contact us to learn more about our experience-based approach to data center transformation.

About the author

Jason Lamb is a Cloud Solutions Specialist at Intel with over 30 years of enterprise data center infrastructure experience. In his role, he advises Intel’s end-user customers, partners, ISVs, and OEMs on best practices for developing cloud and cloud management strategies and architecting and designing data center modernization blueprints with software defined infrastructure projects.