During his Tuesday morning keynote, "The Future of Infrastructure and Operations," Thomas Bittman, a VP and distinguished analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc., said that measuring progress in your IT infrastructure and operations rests on three pillars: (1) economics, or how much it costs; (2) quality of service, or response time; and (3) the vague concept of agility. Bittman defined such agility as the ability of a data center to adapt to changing IT relationships, different response times and fluid business requirements.
"It's a lot harder to manage than dollars and cents," he said, later adding that "one way you figure it out is to ask your customers what agility means to them."
Jim Rawley, network services supervisor for the city of Bellevue, Wash., said that despite the good information in Bittman's speech, it "was a little further out there than what customers understand." Still, Rawley noted that he has a clear understanding of what agility means for his IT operations staff.
"For me, if the customer has a new application, agility is being able to get that up as quickly as possible," he said. Using virtualization has helped the city of Bellevue speed that process, as it can now deploy several virtual machines for a testing environment, for example, that wouldn't have been deployed at all or would have taken more time if it involved only physical servers. But Rawley said that as a municipality, his data center doesn't have the flexibility or agility of a larger corporation with more money to burn.
Bittman also stressed that companies must have a vision and strategy for their data center five or 10 years down the road. In an impromptu poll of attendees, 42% said they have a long-term strategy for infrastructure and operations, while 37% said they don't, and 21% said they're unsure whether they have one.
"The point here is there is a huge competition between vendors," he said. "You are going to hear visions from all of these vendors, and I'm telling you right now, not all of them will come true because they require dominance by them."
He cited technologies like IBM's On Demand Computing and Sun Microsystems' N1 as vendor visions that haven't fulfilled everything they may have promised.
"Be cautious about vendor visions," he said. "You need to have your own."
In the city of Bellevue, Rawley said the vision entails going green. In addition to reducing data center power consumption, he said that "the city is getting on board [with] wanting a smaller carbon footprint." In that respect, goals in IT operations are a reflection of the company's overall goals, not just something in and of themselves.
"Power consumption and cooling [are] really key factor[s] for us in the next two, three years," he said.