Fred Mitchell, Security Business Unit Manager at Drive Control Corporation
Managing the data centre is no new challenge for IT executives, and aspects such as the need for robust security, disaster recovery capabilities, high data availability and adequate data backup are issues that are well understood. However, IT trends such as virtualisation, cloud computing, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), increasing volumes of unstructured data and an enormous variety of mobile devices have vastly increased the complexity of managing data centres and other data oriented IT resources. Reducing this complexity and ensuring that new challenges can be addressed entails an understanding of the issues at hand along with an intelligent data strategy and solution, to ensure expensive data centre investments can be optimised for maximum business value.
Increasing complexity in the data centre does not simply affect the data centre, but has knock on effects to all aspects of computing, including security and infrastructure, disaster recovery, storage and compliance. The reasons for this increasing complexity are many-fold, from the increasing number of business critical applications that need to run, to the explosion of data, the rise of mobile computing, virtualisation of the server environment, tight budgets and even the evolution of the cloud.
The effects of increased complexity are also diverse, with increased costs being the factor that is most felt in light of budget constraints. Other effects such as reduced agility, long lead times with regard to migrating and provisioning of storage, slower response with regard to finding information, lost and misplaced data, downtime and compliance incidents all have a negative impact on business. In today’s business environment users need to have access to data, no matter where they are, which requires close to 100% uptime as well as high levels of reliability.
Mitigating the effects of data centre complexity requires a multi-level approach, including standardisation and information governance. Applications, hardware and security should all be standardised across an enterprise, which will automatically work towards reducing complexity of the IT environment as a whole and of the data centre. Information governance is a critical step as well, given the increased volume and complexity of data, the importance of security and the availability of software and solutions that ease the governance of information.
Implementing an information governance strategy will help to enhance information security, make finding information a simpler task, and help to reduce the cost of information management and storage, while at the same time assisting with legal and compliance risk management. This requires C-level ownership however, as building an information-responsible culture and creating an umbrella of governance requires a top-down approach that will then filter throughout the rest of the organisation. This in turn will help to ensure that information governance culture permeates the enterprise, and synergies between various areas can be leveraged to further reduce complexity.
The traditional gap between IT and business needs to be bridged, as IT plays an important role in reducing complexity as well. It is vital that IT and business users alike understand the business services that IT provides as well as the business value delivered by these services and the dependencies of each, in order to reduce downtime and miscommunication. This links into another need, which is for business to understand what IT assets the organisation has, how they are being consumed, and who is consuming them. This then assists with reducing both costs and risks, as servers and storage will not need to be purchased unless they are necessary, and teams can be held accountable for the storage and space they use. It also ensures that the business never runs out of capacity, as this will be highlighted before it occurs and corrective steps can be taken.
Finally, when it comes to reducing the complexity of the data centre, reducing the complexity and volume of required storage is crucial. Many organisations run multiple backup applications, which are often unnecessary and increase expenses. Reducing the number of backup applications required to meet organisational needs will reduce capital expense, reduce operational expense, reduce training costs and greatly improve the complexity of the environment. Deduplication is another important technology, as employing this will ensure that only a single instance of any data is stored, rather than creating multiple copies. This in turn helps to address demand for storage created by the data explosion, and reduces the rising costs associated with backing up massive volumes of data. Intelligent backup appliances can also be used to simplify backup and recovery operations, once again decreasing complexity.
When it comes to data, complexity is only set to increase along with volumes, and data strategies of the past are simply no longer sufficient to meet modern needs. Reducing complexity in the data centre is at the heart of improved service and better business operations, and data lies at the centre of this process. Harnessing intelligent, consolidated backup solutions that include deduplication, as well as adopting a dynamic information governance strategy, are key elements in reducing data centre complexity and ensuring IT services business according to its needs.