Make the datacenter part of your transformation plan with this 3-step process

Any realistic digital transformation should include a datacenter audit, offload, and relocation

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There’s a disconnect between the vision and reality of digital transformation. A focus on the cloud has led to a de-emphasis of existing infrastructure, in particular, the datacenter.

Yet for most enterprises, the datacenter remains a foundational asset. Greenfield apps may be going directly to the cloud, the ultimate destination for many workloads, but a lot of legacy assets remain in private facilities. The point is that the datacenter is still the base of the enterprise application stack, and so should be part of any transformation plan.

The homeowner analogy

Enterprises considering the cloud are like homeowners who want to make their house more energy-efficient. They’re thinking of installing a smart thermostat or solar panels. But if they do so in a house with poor insulation, drafty windows, or leaky ductwork, what’s the point?

Now imagine those homeowners as empty nesters dreaming of a mobile retirement lifestyle—the cloud endgame equivalent. To transition from house to recreational vehicle (RV) is not a simple cutover. Maybe they can afford both. But even getting to that hybrid state can be a gradual process.

The retirees would first want to take inventory and decide what to keep and what to toss. As a next step, they might want to move. By trading the house that needs work for a low-maintenance condo, they can shed expenses and free up assets along the way.

3 steps: audit, offload, relocate

Most enterprises are in a similar situation: living with an inefficient datacenter but wanting something tighter. Your organization may already be putting new workloads on the cloud and relying on SaaS apps. But you’re probably still running a datacenter operation. And like that old house, it may need some attention.

If that sounds familiar and you’re looking for advice, consider the same three-step model of the homeowners: audit, offload, and relocate.

Audit

First, gather as much information as possible. Maybe your configuration management database is already up to date. That’s good, but go further. Application discovery and dependency mapping can trace the architecture and communication paths of your apps. Last but not least, assess your supporting infrastructure, including power supplies, cooling systems, and connectivity. See if and where you’re coming up short.

Offload

Once you’ve gained visibility, take a good look around. There may be old software, redundant applications or data that no longer serves regulatory or business purposes. These are candidates for the electronic dumpster. Take note of what remains—what should be retained or even enhanced and expanded. Tag apps that have SaaS versions or are otherwise suited for a cloud migration.

Relocate

If you have assessed all options, your organization might be ready for a partial migration to a cloud environment. (For more, see “Datacenter migration in 7 steps” by my colleague Rich Harper.) But refactoring and migrating apps to cloud platforms aren’t the only answers. A partial migration means that not everything migrates. After a thorough audit and purge, you may find that “lift and shift” is also a realistic, logical, and attractive next step.

The case for relocation

The enterprise that moves its IT infrastructure to a third-party datacenter is like the homeowner who downsizes. Both are embracing a more streamlined and efficient operational model. The value proposition is strong.

Instead of dealing with multiple utilities, service providers and vendors, you now have a single point of contact. Customized SLAs can guarantee high availability with redundant facilities, including power and networking. That connectivity piece is critical. Note that some leading IT and communications service providers have divested their datacenter assets, but not all have done so. (Disclosure: I work for NTT Communications, which has invested heavily in both cloud and datacenter infrastructure.)

Dedicated datacenter providers are hard to emulate. (NTT’s own standards, which apply to more than 140 datacenters worldwide, cover more than 300 items.) But once an enterprise decides to partner with a provider and relocate its assets, it has greater room to maneuver. That could mean moving to a private cloud, connecting to public clouds, or leveraging ongoing cloud innovations.

Sometimes the cloud endgame gets all the attention. But moving a private datacenter, after first auditing and shedding unnecessary assets, is also a good intermediate strategy. Relocation makes sense for enterprises that are transforming at their own pace.

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