The shift to more centralized data centres that use virtualization, service-oriented architecture and other new technologies should get companies thinking about new job definitions for its IT staff as well.
That was the message sent by Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research and a speaker at Network World's IT Roadmap: Boston event.
One reason better organization is needed is that overhauling data centres is difficult. Nemertes found in a survey of 82 executives from 65 organizations that less than half considered their data centre strategies highly successful, as they struggle with issues such as soaring power requirements, server and storage growth, bigger cooling needs, availability and plain old floor space.
What's more, the pressure is on for companies to rework their data centres ("Most data centres are outdated," Johnson said.). Nemertes found that about a third of those surveyed said their data centres went up in the 1980s and another third were built in the 1990s. More than half the respondents said their companies have consolidated data centres in the past 12 months and more than half said they have consolidation plans for the next 12 months (about half also have data centre construction on tap over the next 18 months).
Close to half of those surveyed said their organizations are managing data centres via a director of operations. Johnson said this is good in that operations leaders tend to be good at keeping things up and running with low overhead, but it's bad in that they don't tend to have a long-term view.
What's needed is a dedicated data centre architect who oversees facilities, computing, networking, management and security. This person should be looking out 10 to 15 years and be thinking about things such as how SOA will affect power requirements. "This is one thing few organizations have, but it's starting to emerge," Johnson said.
A storage SWAT team should also be put in place to oversee all aspects of storage. As she noted, storage requirements aren't going to get any smaller, with financial and other organizations socking away e-mails and other data in case they get called on to present the information in court.
Another emerging role is that of a compute manager in charge of getting CPU cycles to users and overseeing business continuance, Johnson said.
Organizations are also hiring service delivery managers to ensure that services enabled by virtualized data centres make their way to users. These managers would define and implement service-level agreements (SLA) and track service delivery metrics.
"Most people don't even have internal SLAs," Johnson said. "But most are on the road to developing them."
Establishing and sticking to good service levels is being driven in part by IT organizations through a sense of self preservation - they don't want their jobs outsourced, Johnson said.
Data centre management teams also need to foster tighter links with non-IT business groups, including facilities, legal, human resources and compliance, Johnson said.
Companies that successfully change their data centre management strategy should see a big payoff, Johnson said. Early indications are that technologies such as virtualization can save millions of dollars on hardware costs and labour, and put companies in a position for greater application flexibility.
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