The traditional datacenter; that dedicated facility that houses the equipment necessary to support an IT workload, is clearly going the way of the Dodo. Regardless of how much your business wants to keep direct control of its IT assets, the concept of the datacenter simply can’t be what it used to be, if you want a successful business.
Consider this; the planning for datacenter construction has almost always presumed that the facility would have a 20 year life span. Ignoring the IT part of the equation for the moment, this meant that the supporting infrastructure was also designed with that 20 year number in mind. Disregarding the items that could be considered consumables, such as the batteries in your backup systems no one building datacenters expected to make changes to the cooling, power distribution, backup generators and UPS systems during that 20 year lifespan. And it can be conceded that no one was actually putting up building that wouldn’t last much longer than the 20 year lifespan of the datacenter.
Conversely, the components that actually performed the IT workload; servers, storage, networks, etc., very rarely had an expected lifespan of more than 5 years. This meant that in your average datacenter, the IT equipment would be completely replaced four times of over the expected datacenter lifetime. This also meant that large scale app dev projects had an underlying infrastructure issue; there was always the specter of the dreaded hardware refresh cycle to worry about, plus the potential refresh of operating system software done in parallel.
The rate of technology change has accelerated significantly for both the basic infrastructure of the datacenter and the applications running within. A datacenter built only 5 years ago, to the standard of the day, is likely hopeless archaic when it comes to energy efficient cooling and power, especially given that it’s design may even be a few years older. Where the focus was once solely on the ability of the datacenter to deliver the necessary IT services there is now a much higher level of concern on what it actually costs to deliver those services, over and above the direct costs of the IT workload.
Where facilities and IT once worked without ongoing interaction; each unit carefully hoarding their perceived prerogatives, the reality has become a tight integration of the two delivers the greatest benefit to the business. Its ability to respond to changing businesses climates by modifying the way IT works has to be matched by the ability of a facilities organization to deliver that same sort of rapid response.
Both IT and facilities have to learn a valuable lesson in when to let go. IT groups threatened by the cloud are learning to integrate cloud-based development and services into their planning. Facilities related to IT can no longer be focused strictly on building and infrastructure maintenance and development, and will need to look outside the box (literally) for things that will improve their response time to business changes.
Flexibility on delivering datacenter level services to the business is a requirement for future growth; being bound to anything, be it technology or a facility, or a way of doing business, prevents all parts of your organization from seeing the best possible growth path for the company.