As enterprises digitise their businesses and adopt technologies such as social media, mobility, analytics including big data, cloud and machine learning along with an increasing amount of open source, their computing needs have evolved. In turn, changing computing needs coupled with new IT buying customers within the enterprise are bringing about vast changes in how modern data centres are designed, located and consumed. Enterprises are demanding new capabilities and competencies from their data centre providers. While cost continues to be important, overall there is a willingness among enterprises to pay a premium of 8 - 10% for differentiated services. So, what are the key parameters against which an enterprise should evaluate its data centre partner?
It is important for a provider to have an industrialised, easy-to-consume catalogue of services that simplify life for an enterprise. Unfortunately, providers offer a fixed catalogue of services and tie down the customer with a fixed long-term contract. However, today’s changing technologies and business environments demand a more elastic approach. Services must be flexible so as to allow for unplanned requirements as well as the deployment of new technologies. Simultaneously, contracts must be responsive to business needs, permitting non-linear consumption largely driven by business owners rather than IT.
Enterprises have bi-modal needs – one to run the business and the other to keep it on the constant path of transformation. This means shopping for data centre services that manage legacy IT as well as drive future innovation. Data centres that operate on traditional generation n-2/ n-3 architecture (multi-tiered architecture) are able to support the “run” requirements but fall short in terms of the agility required to support continuous “transformation”. The enterprises’ that desire to reap the benefits of a modern data centre must evaluate whether the provider offers a next-generation data centre architecture with a focus beyond core infrastructure and ensure that the data centre takes a business and solution centric view. Workloads and underlying infrastructure designed for hyper-scalability, required business performance, resiliency and service continuity are few examples. By implication, the data centre must have innovation hubs that create standard and purpose-built service components supported by enterprise architects and business analysts who are conversant with the needs of the enterprise.
A much overlooked aspect is that of a partner eco-system nurtured by the data centre. Partners across geographies, access to cross-functional specialists, platform professionals and domain experts allow a data centre to tailor solutions specifically for the enterprise. This permits the enterprise to leverage a cost-effective open-standards based brokerage approach to services while the data centre provides management tools that stitch the various systems and services to deliver more value from the investment.
Enterprises have varying needs. These include leveraging cloud environments, wireless solutions, Software Defined data centre and support for DevOps (a software development method) in provisioning IT services to drive agility and reduce time to market while introducing new products or services, or while extending existing portfolio into new markets. Much of this calls for expertise beyond the traditional data centre skills, including networking, application management and storage that data centres have refined over the years.
Furthermore, enterprises may be looking at driving operational efficiencies, reducing the risk of service delivery and improving the quality and predictability of IT services to their businesses. Nevertheless, enterprises must evaluate the data centre vision and the transformation roadmap and investments set forward by the providers and evaluate if the provider’s strategy is geared to fulfil the existing and ongoing needs of the enterprises.
With enterprises having to run the business and focus on continuous transformation, the ideal way is for the data centre provider to work hand-in-hand with IT as well as those outside (such as business owners) while maintaining a flexible approach to contracts.