Does the corporate data centre have a place in 2019?

“The corporate data centre has long been the dependable engine, quietly powering the work of the organisation, only paid attention to when there is an outage, or a large capital expenditure needed” writes Vicky Glynn, Product Manager at Brightsolid.

However, as technology develops, and data increases exponentially, the need for increasing scale and power means that the day of the corporate data centre is coming to an end. Technology developments we see in the workplace today – from IoT, analytics, blockchain and machine learning – are beyond the capabilities of traditional technology solutions that have dominated the years past.

Recent reports outline that 90% of the data available today was created within the last two years, and it’s likely that over the next two years, we will see data grow by a further 40 times. To manage the data boom, flexibility, agility and scalability are becoming key priorities for IT leaders. No longer is it economically justifiable to have an internal infrastructure, when the need for an array of applications and data storage is constantly evolving, and the plethora of credible alternative cloud solutions is strong.

In parallel, there is pressure from vendors to go down the cloud route. Traditionally, the investment of a data centre could span across 10 to 15 years, however with shorter IT contracts frequenting the industry in line with rapidly-evolving technology, it becomes difficult for businesses to forecast larger tech investments.

According to Gartner, by 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data centre, versus 10% today. For these businesses, the crucial planning period will take place over the next three to six years. Establishing an enterprise cloud strategy can be challenging for IT leaders who are unsure how to being the planning stage, what lines of business to include, how to produce a strategy document that details the initiative, and which partners to engage to establish a cloud infrastructure.

Three considerations for IT leaders during the planning phase are:

  • Time for a spring clean? Traditionally, businesses may have kept a hold on to their vast collection of applications – whether used or not – just because they could. Migrating to the cloud is an opportunity to carry out some spring cleaning, establishing which apps you need to keep and which you can cull.
  • Level of control. Businesses with internal data centres have managed all aspects of the data storage themselves, however, different cloud solutions offer various levels of control. IT leaders should consider what aspects they are willing to relinquish control of, and which is important for them to maintain.
  • Regulatory, security and performance constraints. Similar to the above, different cloud solutions offer various regulatory, security and performance levels. Options should be explored to ensure the desired cloud solution is meeting the requirements of the business.

A major part of planning is deciding which type of cloud solution is right for the business. Below are four common solutions, including the benefits and drawbacks of each:

To colocate, or not to colocate?

Colocation provides businesses with a secure environment to house their infrastructure off-premise. This allows the business to forgo the space and running costs of a data centre environment, including the building maintenance, security, air conditioning, power and bandwidth, as well as the need for in-house expertise to run it. However businesses should keep in mind that there is still an investment to be made in hardware and software. In colocating their infrastructure, there is also the risk of outages during the lifting and shifting period.

Keeping things private…

Businesses can turn to a specialist provider to offer them private cloud. These providers typically offer best of breed equipment, which can be customised to the client’s needs. However, there are also constraints within this option. It is still finite in terms of scalability and businesses may be restricted to solutions by vendor lock-in. This can prevent the business securing a competitive price or tie them into using a vendor’s solution that isn’t quite right for them. The boundaries are also blurred in terms of who (provider or client) manages what part of the cloud package.

…or going public?

The benefits of selecting a hyperscale public cloud provider, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform, are the high level of support offered with its services, its ability to innovate at a rapid pace, regularly introducing new services, and the cost-savings it can offer your business. It can also provide ‘software as a service’ for smaller businesses that do not require the infrastructure.

However, with its rapid innovation, comes some disadvantages for the end user. It can be difficult to maintain the training staff require to keep up-to-date with changes in the solutions offered by the provider. Businesses may become reliant on a certain solution and at any given time the provider may choose to discontinue this service. With access to a public cloud, it can also be difficult to tell where the responsibility of security lies and could work out costly for those looking for a bespoke programme.

The best of all worlds

Remember the trifecta for IT leaders? Flexibility, agility and scalability. To achieve this, I recommend adopting a more hybrid approach.

The Gartner IT glossary defines hybrid cloud as “policy-based and coordinated service provisioning, use and management across a mixture of internal and external cloud services”. Put simply, hybrid cloud is a modern infrastructure solution that uses a blend of on-premise, private cloud and public cloud services with orchestration between the platforms.

We find that hybrid cloud is growing in popularity in our customer base. As organisations progress their cloud journey, they often realise that a single cloud model may not realistically meet their needs, and that a blended approach to cloud is a more achievable goal. Organisations need to ensure that they have the infrastructure and technology that is ready to act and adapt when they are, and hybrid cloud can be easily scaled up or down to match the needs of the business. The flexibility offered by hybrid cloud will not only help organisations in how they can adapt to change but will in turn attract customers who expect organisations to offer ease of use/access when they choose to interact with them.

Furthermore, for businesses not quite ready to ditch the traditional data centre, they can incorporate their legacy equipment into the hybrid solution and maximise their legacy infrastructure investment – at least until the time comes to go ‘cloud only’. The trifecta that is afforded through a hybrid cloud solution will undoubtably support the future-proofing of an organisation’s technology and infrastructure.

So, will the corporate data centre survive another year?

Migration to the cloud doesn’t happen with the click of a finger, but 2019 and the imminent years to come are certainly going to be a period of serious planning for IT leaders looking to enable positive change within their business. Whether the corporate data centre will survive these changes in the long-run, is a question yet to be answered, but it is unlikely. Thankfully, the aforementioned cloud solutions are modernising the way we store and manage data and appear to be here to stay.