Own our own data center? Why would anyone do that, CIOs ask

Own our own data center? Why would anyone do that, CIOs ask

Summary: The data center may hold your company's most vital assets, but that doesn't mean you have to run it yourself, say tech chiefs on the CIO Jury.


Data centers hold the crown jewels of any organisation — the mission-critical information that keeps every business in operation is stored in those servers.


As a result, for a long time that data center would be hidden away, often in the bowels of the corporate headquarters, and certainly somewhere the CIO could keep an eye on it.

But in an age of cloud and ubiquitous mobile remote access to business information, does it make sense that businesses need to own and operate their own data centers?

Few CIOs, it seems, see the benefit of keeping too tight a grip on their servers any more.

When asked the question "Is it always better to own your own data center?" ZDNet and TechRepublic's CIO Jury panel of tech decision makers responded with a resounding no by a margin of 11 to one.

Matthew Oakley Group head of IT at Schroders said that while you don't always have to own the data center, what does matter is knowing where your data is "and understanding the controls around securing it and the infrastructure it runs on."

For smaller organisations it's an easy decision to make, according to Alan Bawden, commercial director at The JM Group, said: "For an SME it is much better to outsource it and hand it over to the professionals — you will however have to pay a little more to ensure that the provider can meet your security and uptime requirements." Michael Hanken, VP of IT at Multiquip added: "With the right outsourcing partner you can leverage scale and free up your team from routine operations. The key is, however, to find the right partner."

In an age of cloud and ubiquitous mobile remote access to business information, does it make sense that businesses need to own and operate their own data centers?

Matthew Metcalfe, director of information systems at Northwest Exterminating, makes a similar point: "There are many factors that determine whether owning the data center makes sense to a company. It makes sense for those companies who have a 'facility' or more of resources to manage, while it doesn't make sense for those smaller companies who may have a handful of servers but require the uptime associated with true data center architectures."

Will Weider CIO at Ministry Health Care said his organisation had made the decision "to get out of the data center business."

He explained: "It is one of those areas that is deceptively complex filled with trial and tribulation. When I first made the decision to get out of the data center business my sense was that the technical team disagreed. But I am starting to hear members of that team say we could never have built a new data center on our own, and we made the right move." Weider said part of the reason was the scale of his organisation — 1,400 servers and $2.2bn in revenues.

"We are large enough to require a high level of engineering. But we are not large enough to employ people with dedicated experience."

Gavin Megnauth, director of operations at Morgan Hunt, said that increasingly managed services are becoming the norm, and that as cloud management is "officially the fastest growth industry sector in the UK" hopefully cost will come down and quality improve.

But John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union cautioned: "There is no one-size-fits-all, 'always' answer."

You can find more verdicts from the CIO Jury on TechRepublic.

This week's CIO Jury was

  • Rohit Killam, CTO, Masan Group
  • Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
  • Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
  • Michael Hanken, VP of IT, Multiquip
  • Alan Bawden, commercial director, The JM Group
  • Shawn P Beighle, CIO, the International Republican Institute
  • Will Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care
  • Matthew Metcalfe, director of information systems, Northwest Exterminating
  • Kevin Quealy, director of information services and facilities, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia
  • Matthew Oakley, Group head of IT, Schroders
  • John Gracyalny, VP IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
  • Gavin Megnauth, director of operations, Morgan Hunt

Want to be part of TechRepublic's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT decision-makers? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company, working in the private sector or in government, and you want to join TechRepublic's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should, then get in contact. Either click the Contact link below or email me, steve dot ranger at techrepublic dot com, and send your name, title, company, location, and email address.

Topics: The 21st Century Data Center, Big Data, CXO

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  • •Will Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care

    Bet he is the ONE who wants his own data center. Most likely has HIPAA data to protect...as I do...and I do not trust ANYONE else with it...period.
  • Outsourcing your Data Center is not always, not never

    You may have obtained the same response by asking “Is it never better to own your own data center?” i.e. a resounding no by a margin of 11 to one. Why? Because, as in most real world situations, always and never are rare. i.e. “It depends” is the correct answer most of the time. If you are a SME (less than 2,000 employees) or have a seasonal business (e.g. selling Christmas ornaments) then always outsource your Data Center. If you are a very large organization (greater than 100,000 employees) or have the security requirements of the CIA then never outsource your Data Center. Most organizations fall in between, which means they will out source some stuff and in source other stuff i.e. hybrid cloud. Cloud is generally a good idea but whether it is public or private depends on the requirements. There is no easy answer. So analyse each situation and optimise.
  • It Depends On Who You Ask

    I for one will not minimize the value of outsourced data center services. That said, this article is flawed on so many levels. The most apparent flaw is the group of individuals that formed the basis of the survey.

    An Exterminator
    A Roofing Supply Company
    A few Executive Search firms
    A few small hospitals

    In fact, there are only one or two firms in your sample that have more than 1,000 staff members - I assume that is the one that said it makes sense. The companies on this panel all appear to be excellent firms doing a fine job. Only one or two appear to be firms that would leverage IT in a fashion that will require more substantial control of the data center.

    There are many industries where regulatory requirements would drive the need for company owned and operated data centers. Data Security is obviously one of the key drivers to keep it in house, but so as such factors as latency for certain high-velocity applications. Other factors such as agility (the ability to configure or reconfigure space quickly) and cost are important. Finally, many companies have requirements for redundancies (to drive availability requirements) which prevent them from being on shared MEP infrastructure.

    As Walter noted above, for larger technology users, the answer is never "always yes" or "always no". I have yet to see even medium size companies that do not have a mix - one or more company owned sites and one or more colocated sites.
  • Hire your own CIO? Why would anyone do that?

    Look, cloud and *aaS is just outsourcing. Any company needs to decide how far to in/out-source, but it's just stupid to imply that some part of the continuum is off-limits. This is totally uninteresting.

    So, what *would* be interesting? How about helping people evaluate which responsibilities to outsource? How do they tell that it's working? How do they get a handle on the new domain of costs?