Nathan Moffitt

Data Center Modernization: It’s More Than Happy Little Trees

Blog Post created by Nathan Moffitt Employee on May 9, 2018

Looking At, And Beyond a Storage / Server Mindset


For those that want to skip ahead: Data center modernization – creating the next generation data center – requires you to consider systems, protection and operations. Many vendors think all you need is new systems - WRONG! As we’ll discuss that mindset will end up raising costs and can inhibit innovation. At the end are links to dig deeper on this topic. Check out the press release too!


ross.jpgEver seen Joy of Painting? If not, check it out. Bob Ross was a great painter and a calming force, which is impressive given his history as an US Air Force drill sergeant. A recurring component of Ross shows and paintings is ‘happy little trees.’ In fact, happy trees show up so often that there are memes, shirts and more for the phrase.


Interestingly, there’s a strong correlation between happy trees and vendors simplifying data center modernization as nothing more than a refresh of systems – storage, server, networking. That may appeal to the IT junkies in us, but thinking modernization only equals new systems is counterproductive to success.


Why? Because data center modernization encompasses a lot more than systems. People may love Bob Ross’ happy trees, but without the rest of the landscape it isn’t a picture. It’s incomplete. Similarly, if you don’t look beyond systems when modernizing, your costs may go UP instead of down and innovation may slow down.


Why Modernize?


To understand why a system-only mindset can hurt you, it helps to consider why IT leaders modernize to create next generation data centers. Priorities vary, but the reasons I continually here are:


  • Increase operational efficiency and reduce capital expenditures
  • Accelerate time to market for new projects and programs
  • Improve customer experiences
  • Minimize risk to the business


Said another way, data center modernization is about supporting and accelerating innovation. Refreshing systems to get new functionality and meet evolving SLAs is absolutely a part of this, but it only gives you modern systems – not a modern, next generation, data center. So, if your vendor only focuses on systems… watch out!


Why Systems Alone Don’t Modernize a Data Center


car.pngIf I put a jet engine on a 1970s Chevy, do I have a modern car? That’s pretty clearly a big ‘no.’ I may have a new engine, but everything that surrounds it is not optimized for the jet engine. The stability of the vehicle, the quality of the driver experience and more need to be modernized to support that engine! And since the owner is likely to spend more time fixing things than driving, where’s the ROI!?!?!?


Here’s one that hits closer to home (thanks Gary Breder). If you have a single camera checking the entrance to a data center, you can have one person monitoring it. But what if you add 4 or even 100 cameras to cover the inside and outside of the facility? Can one person watch the all those feeds? Not well. You could linearly add staff as camera counts increase, but that adds cost and eats up your staff’s time, keeping them from more strategic work! Instead, you need to rethink – modernize – management.


The same is true with data centers. You must modernize processes – and protection – to scale with the changes in your environment. Otherwise you have inefficiencies that cost you time, money and agility.


A More Complete Approach to Modernization


There are several ways to ‘slice’ a broader view of data center modernization, but I like to keep things simple, so let’s break things down into 3 categories to start:


  1. Agile Data Infrastructure
  2. Modern Data Protection
  3. Intelligent (AI) Operations


These categories allow us to cover areas where we are mostly likely to enhance systems, software and operational processes for increased operational efficiency, faster time to market, improved customer experiences and accelerated adoption of new business models. We can define each area as follows:


Agile Data Infrastructure: The combination of systems needed to consistently deliver data at high speed for the best possible experience. These systems should be resilient, support a broad diverse range of use cases and enable the business to quickly without being constrained.

    • Buying Consideration: If you have more than one application in your data center, odds are you’ll need a few different types of systems, so look for a vendor that can offer a range of choices to meet your needs..


Modern Data Protection: Software and processes that ensures continuous availability of data – independent of external influences – in support of the customer experience. Modern protection also supports adherence to compliance requirements, new regulations and data security.

    • Buying Consideration: With new data privacy guidelines and concerns about security, data protection is becoming even more complex. Look for a partner that has a solid consulting team and knows how to integrate their offering into your existing framework.


Intelligent (AI) Operations: Integrated software that leverages AI and machine learning to analyze, predict, prescribe and execute changes to achieve data center SLAs. This software ensures systems are continually optimized for peak performance, stability and cost efficiency. This frees data center staff to focus on strategic initiatives / implementing new technologies, accelerating innovation.

    • Buying consideration: This is an emerging area that will change a lot over the next few years. Be sure to look at vendors with an API integration focus. This will let them integrate their products with other vendor offerings to create a ‘collaborative’ AI or a ‘hive mind’ for deeper insights, more robust automation. Check out our AI Operations portfolio including Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor and Automation Director.


modern.pngIf I go back to the car analogy, a next generation car will certainly have a engine (system), but it will also have a new user interface and challenge our thoughts on driving (AI operations) as well as the rules / regulations of the roads (protection). Kind of like this image of how the inside of a self-driving car might change in the future.


Or as Bob Ross might say, happy little trees are wonderful, but without the sky, clouds, and other things, it really isn’t a complete picture.


Hey, That’s It?


Hold on! We didn’t describe each of the areas! I know. That happens in other blogs coming!


In the mean time check out the press release for our new VSP systems and AI Operations software. Also check out this video series we did on data management and creating an integrated, AI operation portfolio.