Manage IT services beyond the data center

If you deliver all IT services from the enterprise data center, you're doing it wrong. Gartner explains how to modernize the data center by making it one part of IT service brokerage.

LAS VEGAS - The best data center strategy recognizes that not all IT services should be provided from the enterprise data center.

Instead, the most nimble ompanies manage IT services think like brokers adept at juggling public cloud, private cloud and on-premises systems.

For years, business-side leaders have told IT pros to "buy this" software and after putting square pegs in round holes 50 times, data centers become a tangled web that are difficult to maintain, said David Cappuccio, an analyst with Gartner, Inc.  

"That's why keeping the lights on is so expensive," Cappuccio said during the opening keynote at the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference here this week. "That's the model we need to begin to change."

Many of today's data centers and IT infrastructure consist of a primary data center and lots of "other stuff" as a function of the speed of business and the varying requests that are put on IT, he said.

Cloud computing is not a strategy, it is a tactic.
Thomas BittmanGartner analyst

"They are going so fast we can't keep up," he said of businesses. "That is not negative against IT, it is just a reality."

IT pros must find a way to manage it all instead of trying to stop it or control it, Cappuccio said.

To better manage IT services, many IT shops move systems to the cloud, but a total move to cloud is not the answer either, said Thomas Bittman, a vice president and analyst with Gartner, who co-presented the keynote.

"Cloud computing is not a strategy, it is a tactic," Bittman said.

Cloud computing should be used for new workloads -- and in most IT shops, it is. A Gartner survey of enterprises has found that 70-80% of platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service is "net new," Bittman said. Cloud often enters the equation as part of data center modernization plans.

"Not everything traditional will be modernized," he said, but when it is modernized it is often called private cloud with automatic provisioning and self-service functions.

IT shops should use cloud services for things their team doesn't manage well, so they can focus on providing IT services to their customers. In this scenario, IT becomes an intermediary -- or broker -- between the customer, the data center and the cloud service providers, Bittman said.

Some IT pros here said they foresee a shift toward IT broker roles, and others already play the part.

At Brown University, becoming a broker involves managing everything from a freshman student with six devices to a research professor with specific hardware demands for a multi-million dollar research project.

John W. Dick, associate director of systems computing and information systems at the Ivy League university in Providence, R.I. said students arrive with up to seven devices each, including tablets, phones, laptops and gaming consoles.

The university has used cloud computing for years for systems including email, human resources, finance and its learning management system.

"We have things moving back and forth because sometimes cloud doesn't work too well," he said, and the team has to manage IT services in the cloud alongside legacy systems such as the housing and dining systems.

On top of it, a professor may bring a research project to Brown with millions of dollars in funding. The challenge for IT is that some of those grants come with specific hardware specifications that don't jibe with a virtual infrastructure.

"If he wants to put his stuff in the cloud he does it -- because he is bringing resources and funding," Dick said about the researchers, as he works toward becoming more of a complete IT broker. "We're trying to get it more centralized by providing them platforms to do their work."

To change the role of the data center organization in a business, IT pros should start with a specific, willing customer and work with them.

'If you build it they will come,' does not work," Cappuccio said. "Create a winning case with one customer," he said, and from there come up with metrics to measure the success.

Metrics that show IT has stopped the ineffective use of resources or delivered valuable resources quicker can be compelling, he said. From there, publicize the positive effects.

Robert Gates is a news writer with TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at [email protected]

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