Modernizing the Data Center – What is Everyone Else Doing?

“What is everybody else doing?” It’s the question that I’m asked most often. Sometimes, those asking are wondering how their peers are approaching things. Others want to know if different industries have alternate perspectives. Sometimes, they just want to understand what their boss is worried about. Regardless of the reason, it’s useful to understand what smart IT leaders are doing – not to blindly copy them, but to have all the information and options available to them.

At EMC World 2016, we brought together four IT leaders to talk about incorporating cloud, leveraging data analytics, and how to innovate using the talent they already have.

This year’s panelists:

  • Jason Kalich – VP, Cloud & Site Reliability Engineering, GoDaddy
  • Dietmar Reinelt – VP, Cloud Infrastructure Services, SAP
  • Eric Coss – Manager, Infrastructure and Operations, Nationwide
  • Amr Awadallah – CTO, Co-Founder, Cloudera

The panel can be viewed online or below, but if you like the previews as much as the movie, or if you prefer the CliffsNotes to the novel (by the way, why did they change their name from Cliff’s Notes to CliffsNotes?), read on.

Public Cloud – What to Do
Due to the varied industries and roles, each panelist had a different perspective on adopting public cloud. Unlike years past, however, each viewpoint was well-defined and not reactive.

cloud panelThe panel spanned the continuum of public cloud adoption. Jason Kalich, from GoDaddy, believes that everybody will live in a hybrid cloud; even acompany that doesn’t organically embrace the public cloud will acquire somebody who has. Conversely, Eric Coss, of Nationwide, who works in the risk-aware insurance industry, is concerned about security and data services in the public cloud. As a result, he’s focused on private cloud. Eric is not alone in his approach. Amr Awadallah pointed out that, even for a cutting-edge analytics company with “Cloud” in the name, only 15% of Cloudera’s customers run in the cloud. He supports Jason’s view on the market direction, however; he projects that by the end of 2016, 30% of Cloudera’s customers will run in the cloud. Finally, Dr. Reinelt shared that SAP is enabling their customers to make that transition when they’re comfortable. Some customers jump right into public cloud, but others want to take smaller steps. For private cloud, SAP is enabling customers to leverage commodity hardware. Everybody’s cloud journey will be different, and companies like Cloudera and SAP are tailoring their solutions to fit their customers’ path to the cloud.

The public cloud is a viable option for customers and vendors. There will be no “one-size-fits-all” answer to the cloud. There are good reasons to adopt and equally strong reasons to be cautious. Regardless of where you stand, it’s important to have a well-defined position that you are willing to review as the environment and business needs evolve.

Data Analytics – What are People Actually Doing?
Like cloud, data analytics has evolved from hype to standard business tool. The panelists all agreed that data analytics is a critical part of their

Amr began by explaining the three areas that he sees customers leveraging analytics:

  • Customer 360 Interaction – Enabling businesses to better connect with their customers – e.g. proactive support
  • CyberSecurity – Ensuring that data on an off-premises is secured
  • Better Products Through Data – Leveraging the increasing measurement of everything to offer a better product for the customer – e.g. telemetry from cars to reward good drivers with lower insurance rates

The panel endorsed the value of analytics, especially as they attempt to scale their environment. There is simply too much data in too many places for people to be able to extract all the value from it. Therefore, everybody is using analytics to automate their environments to improve efficiency, to scale, and to increase security.

Innovating in the Modern IT Funding Environment
As we talked about cloud and analytics, there was an underlying reality that influenced everything – there is no more staff coming. When Jason joined GoDaddy, he knew he’d have to grow to dozens of new locations… without any additional people. Similarly, Eric is modernizing Nationwide with the team he’s got. The growth is coming from the team learning new skills.

The other reality is that business expectations are expanding.  Public cloud has set a new standard for IT agility and flexibility.  If IT does not become more responsive to business requirements, the business will accept the security and data services risks and adopt the public cloud. Agility is Eric’s goal at Nationwide – delivering IT-as-a-Service using native automated delivery. It is the only way to satisfy the business. Expectations for IT globalization are also changing.  Jason is deploying dozens of sites for GoDaddy.  Dr. Reinelt’s team at SAP is spread across data centers worldwide. Amr’s customers need a modern data architecture to combat small data sprawl and bring data together so it can be analyzed.

IT is responding to expanding global business needs on a flat to declining budget with the one tool in its arsenal – innovation.

Businesses expect more from their IT teams. To better serve their customers, IT leaders are embracing new organizational models, new consumption models (private and public cloud), and new technologies like data analytics. Of course, nothing happens easily. For every new win, there is a cost. With public cloud comes increased complexity for managing security and data services. With data analytics comes a new challenge of protecting a massive new pool of data. With automation comes a need to develop new skills in the existing team.

About the Author: Stephen Manley