To fully unleash the advantage, IT must move beyond supporting data centers and instead realize data is at the center for the business.
Mention the data center and, to most, images of machine rooms filled to the brim with equipment and the sounds of IT whirring away are what come to mind. For decades, businesses have equipped data centers with silo upon silo of servers, applications, networking, and storage in their insatiable quest to deliver business insight to line-of-business (LOB) leaders, their management, and the C-suite. Even the name data center was given based on the theory that most business-critical data would be found there, centralized, and ready for the business to derive competitive insights to bolster its marketplace advantage.
However, the data center, as we have traditionally known it, often falls short in its mission to deliver business advantage. The premise is sound, but the execution has been limited by the technology at hand. For many, the problem is the data center is not a centralized repository of data; rather it is a centralized collection of applications, each with its dedicated compute and storage resources (physical or virtual, it doesn’t matter), surrounded by edge computing facilities driven by LOB concerns.
In other words, we have an increasing number of application and data silos. Sharing the insights and processed data from these applications is sometimes haphazard, as each application is at the center of its own universe rather than the business’ data being at the center of the universe.
This is further complicated by movement toward hybrid IT infrastructure, wherein on-premises resources are combined with the public cloud, remote data centers, edge data centers, and the rise of the IoT. Granted, with this approach the data center is more dispersed, but is data more universally accessible and logically centralized to derive insight? Possibly, but most likely not.
Putting Data @ the Center
A business’ data is one of its most unique, differentiated, and competitive resources. But to fully unleash this treasure trove of advantage, IT needs to move beyond supporting data centers to instead realizing data is at the center for the business.
The physical location of data is only a matter of convenience – logically it must be in the center of all business processes, including LOB applications. By focusing on Data @ the Center, it is possible for one application’s output to easily become the input to multiple others; thus, feeding additional applications. As a result, we can achieve a virtuous cycle of driving insight through data driving additional insight through data.
Rethinking How We Approach Data Infrastructure
To make this happen, our architectures must move from being server or application centric, to being data centric. The working assumption must be that all data (with appropriate ACL and compliance controls, of course) is available to any application anywhere at any time. Further, the assumption should be that there is no one physical data center at the center of a data solar system, but rather a collection of distributed systems that freely share data; a data galaxy, if you will.
Thus, from an infrastructure perspective, a disaggregated approach to compute and even storage is essential with technologies such as NVMe-oF™ and software-defined composability. This new data fabric will provide the means to bring the silos together and enable businesses to tackle many of the competitive challenges that they face.
With the potential of fast access to all data from any application, a business can achieve a full view of its operations at any time. This enables the ability to answer queries multiplies, with the potential scope (and competitive advantage) of any query growing exponentially. Market makers on trading floors know the literal value of time to action (hint: it’s money) and their success factor is being first to strike. By placing Data @ the Center, any business could theoretically cultivate a similar competitive advantage.
What it Takes
Changing technology is easy. Changing human behavior—now that’s hard. To fully benefit from data at the center, business workflows may need to change as well; this is the trickier part. However, for those who can embrace, and successfully reinvent their data and data center strategies, the potential benefit could be transformative both operationally and financially.
What would it take for your data center to move from being a necessary business expense to a next-gen resource that powers and drives your business? At minimum, some clear strategic thought, investment, and execution. Why not take the first step and change the conversation from your data center(s) to empowering your business by placing Data @ the Center?