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Building the data center ship


by James Cohen, Worldwide Lead, Consolidation and VIrtualization


James_Cohen_badge.png“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” The French author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery said that, and there’s some romanticism in it for those of us with seafaring experience. If you don’t happen to be a seafarer—or a romantic—let’s just say it’s an admonition to look beyond short-term tasks and have a grander vision that motivates your actions.


We struggle with that in business. Each business organization is assigned goals to drive efficiency in their area of responsibility—their own little pond—and organizations and individuals are rewarded to the extent they achieve their goals. The problem occurs in an endeavor that requires the work of multiple organizations whose immediate goals are not shared and may even be conflicting—like the corporate data center.


The data center is the work of multiple business organizations: IT, facilities, procurement and the lines of business that it serves. It’s not as immense as the sea, but it’s bigger than any individual pond.


Business managers just want their business problem solved—as quickly and cheaply as possible. They may give less thought to IT concerns like security and governance. So public cloud services that promise quick start-up and pay-as-you-go pricing can look like good solutions. Procurement’s goals are to drive down the cost of acquiring the goods and services the business needs, so they think lowest price and best discounts for “commodity” goods. They may have little visibility into the long-term total cost of ownership of computer hardware and software. And finally, facilities is focused on acquiring and managing the real property and buildings the corporation occupies. Those things cost a lot of money and last a long time, so they see the data center as a 25-year investment and may view sudden requests for expansion as poor planning on the part of IT.


Each organization wants what is best for the business, but each has been culturally programmed to view it through their own lens. That diversity of viewpoint can be an obstacle to achieving the agility the business needs to thrive in the 21st century. So how do we align these organizations to better perform the “tasks and work” needed to build this ship?

We have been having good success with our Data Center Transformation Experience Workshops. These slide-free workshops provide a one-day simulation of what businesses face as they strive to meet today’s IT challenges. We start by creating a shared view of business needs and priorities, and then we step through the process of transforming the data center to meet those needs. Everyone gets to see how the strike of their hammer blends with those of others to create the whole ship.


I may have exhausted the ship metaphor, so let’s just say IT is more successful when we understand the goals of other parts of the organization, and when they understand what we must jointly accomplish to meet the needs of the business. I’d like to hear about your experiences as well and explore how a Data Center Transformation Workshop might help your organization work better together.


UPDATE, Dec. 30 2013: At HP Discover in Barcelona this month, we announced a package of innovations built for the data center of the future. Read about our new converged systems and how they can help you accelerate time to market, reduce costs, and simplify your data center.


And learn more about how HP Infrastructure Consulting Services can help you build the future of your infrastructure.


James Cohen  is WW Lead Consolidation and Virtualization with HP Technology Services, working with large customers looking to converge their IT into converged data centers – with higher availability, lower costs and integrated infrastructure and facilities.


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About the Author


Editor and writer with 12+ years experience in the corporate software and technology sectors.