Demand for data centers is skyrocketing. In fact, both the demand for data centers and their capacity are expanding at such historic rates that it’s becoming hard to build fast enough to keep up.
That’s because, contrary to the historical view of data centers as cost centers, data centers are, above all, an investment.
It’s also true that as an investment, data centers are extremely expensive to build and maintain -- even the cost it takes just to power, heat, cool, and run data centers can be enormous. That’s why many data centers are starting to searching for innovative cost-cutting models and strategies wherever they can find them -- even reducing electricity costs by using innovative cooling technologies like immersion cooling and even lasers!
But if all of your main focus is on meeting service level objectives (SLOs) instead of strategic innovations, then your business isn’t getting anywhere. You’re in survival mode, not growth mode; you’re treading water, not swimming.
You need to be able to focus entirely on strategic innovations, while still ensuring that your SLOs are met and the lights stay on.
Here’s how you start:
1. Automate whenever you can
If it can be automated, it should be. A good rule of thumb to follow? Automate early, and automate often. This is especially critical for data centers who typically keep a small staff of IT and data specialist employees. And with the ongoing and looming staff shortages predicted in the face of historic demand growth, the demands placed upon those small staff teams will continue to grow; automating processes will become even more necessary.
If you can automate something, do it. Processes that can and should be automated include anything that is:
- Workflow driven
- Requires reconciliation between systems
There’s no one path. You may approach some systems with robotic process automation, some with bots, some with cognitive or intelligent automation, and some with cognitive agents. No matter how you achieve it, every automated task or process is time you save; every hour you save is another hour that can instead be used in pursuit of innovation.
2. Partner with the business division
There was a time when a business and its IT department operated almost entirely separate from the other: at best disconnected, and at worst, in direct conflict. Today, while IT may no longer be viewed as a small, back-of-house support department, there is still work to be done to successfully and seamlessly integrate business and IT.
Strategic innovation is your most important function. Part of strategic innovation requires strategic alignment between business and IT.
By blurring the lines that used to separate IT and business, the two can instead work together collaboratively, operating as joint partners, using technology to operate functions or commercialize products.
3. Keep the lights on.
How do you free your time up to focus on innovation without having to worry about keeping the lights on? The first step is to do a critical power assessment. Next, use that assessment to prioritize what needs to be modernized. You can’t do everything, so it’s critical to know what absolutely cannot go down so you can ensure you always have the critical power you need set up to support those systems so you can meet your SLOs.
With historic worker shortages looming, outsourcing becomes just as strategically important as automating. Outsourcing isn’t just to lighten your employees’ load: it allows everyone to continue meeting SLOs by allowing staff to concentrate on their strengths.
Another advantage of outsourcing is that it can spare you the capital outlay for something that doesn’t add any value to your operations. For example, outsourcing may allow you to move to a monthly payment plan, which gives you more capital budget leeway.
By automating or outsourcing wherever possible, you and your team will be freed up to concentrate your efforts on growing, improving, and expanding.
One often overlooked area for outsourcing is critical power. Critical power and uptime is a non-negotiable: it must work when it needs to. And let’s face it, data centers run lean and mean, and critical power expertise isn’t usually high on anyone’s job description.
When outsourcing is done well, you can devote your time and energy to innovation and improvement instead of simply maintaining the status quo, all while still ensuring that all of your SLOs are met.