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Making the Case for an Agile Data Center

According to Forbes, 70% of organizations that were in the Fortune 1,000 ten years ago have vanished.  The natural question is why did this happen?  The simple answer is business agility.  These organizations were not able to adjust to changes in the business environment and were eventually crushed by their competitors or by changing trends in the market.  

Look at Blockbuster for example.  In 1992, Blockbuster was the largest video rental leader with over 2,800 stores worldwide and by its peak in the early 2000s, Blockbuster grew to over 10,000 stores across the globe.  Then the business environment changed.   In 1997, a startup called Netflix was launched with a completely different business model.  Instead of opening brick and mortar stores that people could rent videos from, Netflix mailed DVDs to their customers and didn't bother to charge late fees.  Netflix customers could keep the videos as long as they wanted, while Blockbuster continued to charge fees.  And as content delivery changed to on-line and streaming video, Netflix was agile enough to change its business model, while Blockbuster resisted.  By 2010, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy and recently announced plans to close all of its stores, while Netflix became the biggest source of streaming web traffic.1  

What lessons can be learned from Netflix and Blockbuster?  And how does this relate to the data center? 

If we think about the Blockbuster example, it is clear that organizations need to be agile and adjust to trends, competitors, regulation and business shifts in order to survive and thrive.  It is also clear that IT is becoming more and more of a requirement for the business, and arguably the key driver.  Therefore, it is easy to conclude that if business has to be agile, IT must be agile as well to meet the demands of the market. 

Organizations are already recognizing the need for agility.  According to CIO Magazine2, the top five technology initiatives for 2014 are:

  1. Improve the use of data and analytics to improve business decisions and outcomes
  2. Identify new ways IT can better support business/marketing objectives
  3. Improve IT project delivery performance
  4. Develop new skills to better support emerging technologies and business innovation
  5. Reorganize or retrain IT to better align with business outcomes and drive innovation

To help us define how the transformation to agility in the data center will take shape, we need to ask a few important questions:

First, the business:

  • Can we move fast enough to keep up? Can we move faster that the market so that we’re always a step ahead?
  • Are we prepared for disruptive events?
  • Can we contain costs within the context of shrinking IT budgets?

Next, the IT infrastructure:

  • What are the consequences of recovery? Can we recover with the right RTO and RPO objectives? What about recovery requirements for different locations?
  • Are our data/applications/connections/servers secured against today’s complex threats?
  • Can we easily make changes to our IT systems and resources? Will these changes have any consequences to the way IT runs?

Finally, data:

  • Who is using what data? What are they using it for? And for how long?
  • Where is the data that the business needs? The data is normally there, but it’s as good as useless if we can’t find it.
  • Do we have the right controls in place? That’s a very important consideration in an era of increased oversight and regulation.

There three major trends that are converging to create data center agility.  First, there is resource elasticity that is often delivered in the form of virtualization. Next is the capability to deliver IT as a service to the business allowing users to get what they need, when they need it at the right price whether it is on-prem or in the cloud.  The emergence of these two trends (virtualization and IT service delivery) is what many refer to as the Software-Defined-Data Center.  However, to truly be agile a third component is required - IT intelligence.  IT intelligence allows organizations to make the right decisions about how to manage, secure and protect their data and applications in an effective, but flexible way.

Agility sits at the center of all of these trends.  It is important because the business that does not have agility will probably not survive.  And now, with the importance of IT in relation to the business, IT by default must be agile. 

So how can Symantec help you become more agile so your business thrives like Netflix and doesn’t disappear in the next 10 years?  Symantec provides offerings that will keep applications and data highly available and protected, allow you to scale your storage as the your business requires, recover your data when necessary and keep everything secure.  With the right technology in place, you have the flexibility you need to become more competitive in your industry by taking the risk out of being agile.

There are many use cases that can be applied to agility.  One good example is how Symantec is providing features such as Flexible Storage Sharing (FSS) and SmartIO in the Storage Foundation offering to help IT organizations unlock the true value of adopting Solid State Drives (SSD).  SmartIO allows organizations to use a portion of their SSDs as a cache to increase performance.  In our testing, we have seen 400% performance increases over traditional SANs because SmartIO has intelligence to understand the frequency a given data set is being accessed and then cache it in the SSD.  Flexible Storage Sharing provides a global name space across up to 8 nodes.  This allows organizations to create a “shared nothing” architecture” meaning they can use commoditized DAS on the backend instead of expensive SAN infrastructure.  We have seen cost savings of up to 80% using FSS.  (The method and published results from our testing are available in the white paper, “Running Highly Available, High Performance Databases in a SAN-Free Environment.” )

But why is this use case important in the context of an agile data center?  It is important because we are enabling organizations to seamlessly adopt new technologies faster and at lower costs.  Since IT is the driver of business, it only makes sense that competitive business advantage, in the form of agility, will be initiated from the digital realm, such as the data center or the cloud.   

If you want to understand how Symantec’s offerings help organizations capture the agility to thrive, please check out the Agile Data Center page.  For other blogs discussing the Agile Data Center check out What is an Agile Data Center? and Learning on our dime: lessons from the largest software-defined data center in the world.

For detailed product information please go to the following product pages:

1TechCruch, A Look Back at How the Content Industry Almost Killed Blockbuster and Netflix (And the VCR)

2‘State of the CIO’ Survey Exclusive Research from CIO Magazine 2014