Industry Outlook is a regular Data Center Journal Q&A series that presents expert views on market trends, technologies and other issues relevant to data centers and IT.
This week, Industry Outlook asks David Mettler about how data center operators can and should address customer needs in the face of unpredictable growing demand for IT resources. David is IO’s Vice President of Sales and the Market Director for the U.S., based in Edison, NJ. He is an experienced and seasoned data-center-management executive, having held positions previously with CenturyLink Business for Enterprise and Sprint. IO is uniquely positioned because it operates both traditional and modular colocation environments.
Industry Outlook: What are today’s top issues facing enterprises in data center operations?
Dave Mettler: In the context of data center operations, enterprises are almost always focused on speed to deployment, and although it isn’t necessarily a new concept, it’s more important than ever. As more and more data is generated, businesses are looking for fast, cost-effective and efficient ways to accommodate growth and also provide for unknown future demands. To properly prepare, they are recognizing the need to shift their data center strategies, especially when it comes to legacy environments. Data center operators must be responsive and quick to address the need for new infrastructure.
IO: How have enterprise data center services evolved over the last year?
DM: As enterprises look to right-size their data center environment and wisely procure services, colocation as a service has evolved, becoming more strategic and integrated into the business plan. Companies are increasingly procuring applications as services and, as a result, are looking to differentiate how those applications are managed. Cloud adoption has played a major role in this evolution, and many data center operators offer hybrid-cloud services in addition to the standard colocation model. Enterprises are now able to align their colocation needs with their cloud and SaaS strategies. In this model, they can buy applications as services without having to purchase IT infrastructure. Then they can use colocation for the core components of their business.
IO: How has the demand for data and proliferation of mobile devices changed data center operations?
DM: As more and more devices come online and generate ever larger amounts of data, there is great opportunity for enterprises of all shapes and sizes to use that data to improve their business. Constant fluctuations in data output, however, make it difficult for businesses to anticipate the future volume demands on their data center. We know the influx of data from connected devices will increase demand for storage, but how much and how quickly must that storage be deployed? There is always a certain element of unpredictability between service providers and customers when it comes to these needs. Service providers can deliver great value to customers by matching capacity with actual usage so that customers are not paying for capacity they don’t actually need or use. Data center operating-system software plays an essential role in providing real-time insight into actual usage as compared with capacity. The software not only helps to manage and control capacity but also provides the visibility to achieve scalable growth fast.
IO: How has cloud adoption changed colocation and data centers?
DM: As businesses look to take advantage of the flexibility and cost benefits that come with cloud enablement, it’s important to consider how this transition will affect IT infrastructure and operations. We have seen many businesses shifting to cloud deployment—moving capital expenses to operational expenses—and some are running into challenges because how it works at each individual company is different. Businesses are trying to ascertain whether the perceived benefits of cloud adoption are real while addressing a variety of other factors. What’s the impact to the IT team? Are there certain elements of my business I should reserve for the cloud and for colocation? Sure, the speed of deployment in the cloud is attractive, but it’s important to consider all these factors while maintaining security, operational compliance and control. For some enterprises, it’s important to know exactly where data is being processed and stored. As opposed to the cloud, a data center operator can pinpoint where this data resides. All things considered, a cloud strategy works well when coupled with a data center strategy that incorporates colocation, as connectivity between these services is paramount.
IO: In addition to cloud strategies, many organizations are looking to adopt an Internet of Things strategy. What is the role of the data center in the Internet of Things (IoT)?
DM: Today’s data centers are complex systems that tie together physical infrastructure and digital applications being consumed daily. In essence, the data center houses the IoT and therefore must be able to quickly respond as this phenomenon continues to grow. As previously mentioned, the unpredictable growth of all these trends—IoT, mobile connectivity and the cloud—increases the uncertainty of future demand. To address this uncertainty, businesses are looking to deploy converged virtualized infrastructure, which in turn drives higher-density deployments: more power and cooling in less space. This ultra-efficiency coupled with fast deployment is critical to supporting businesses that operate in the world of IoT.
IO: How can enterprises prepare for all this unknown future demand in the context of the data center?
DM: Expanding your data center can be quite costly and oftentimes a headache if you are at odds with your provider’s pricing model. My advice: when you are first looking for a data center partner, choose one that will increase at scale both efficiently and cost effectively. Be cognizant of the potential need for more bandwidth and seek out a data center partner who will grow with you and has a straightforward pricing model that will make operational expenditures more predictable.
IO: The millennial generation is driving change among businesses; what does the data center need to do to address these changes?
DM: The millennial generation, as well as Generation Z, has set a new baseline when it comes to digital connectivity and data consumption. As a whole, these groups expect connectivity to be both fast and seamless no matter where they are—in the car, at home or walking down the street. Given all this connectivity, it’s no surprise they are consuming more data. What does all this mean for the data center? The data center essentially houses the IoT and all of its accompanying data sets. So, to meet customer demand, the data center must be connected at all times. It must also be ready to respond to this explosive growth with additional capacity. To properly provision capacity, I always keep an eye on digital-consumption trends. As a data center operator, staying ahead of generational shifts in customer industries is absolutely essential to making educated recommendations for your customers’ capacity needs.
IO: What should organizations be doing to better align their data center strategies with corporate sustainability initiatives?
DM: It all starts with awareness. To align data center strategies with corporate responsibility initiatives, it’s important to know the impact of your data center on the environment. Once you know, you can set corporate objectives and targets for improvement, as well as track progress toward them. For example, IO became involved in the Carbon Disclosure Project at the request of one of our customers, Goldman Sachs. Calculating our CO2 emissions helped us gain greater awareness into our environmental impact. CO2, water usage and power utilization are core metrics we track and strive to reduce as part of our drive toward more-sustainable operations.
IO: With all of these big changes, how do data center professionals keep pace?
DM: In my experience, a big part of keeping pace is connecting with current and prospective customers. It’s important to listen to what they are trying to achieve from a business perspective—specifically, how they are aligning technology and data center strategy. More so today than ever, there is a convergence of technology operations and business strategy. Platforms are major drivers of business rather than independent functions, as they had been in years past. Understanding where they are trying to go is really important. Part of the value I am able to provide is the knowledge I have accrued having worked with customers across all sorts of businesses and industries.