Adaptable Data Center Assessment Tool

We introduced the concept of the Adaptable Data Center (ADC) a few weeks ago and have extended thoughts in recent blogs. Conversations and feedback we have had with CIOs have continued to validate the ADC framework as a structure for understanding how to calculate and improve capacity planning and cost to serve operational efficiencies and business value agility. We would like to add further value to this ADC validation and offer you a way to determine just how adaptable your data center is.

We have discovered that one way to use the ADC framework is to assess how “adaptable” your organization is today and to identify areas for improvement so you can drive greater efficiencies and agility into your organization. To this end, we developed an ADC Assessment Tool. The purpose of the Assessment Tool is to start the journey of recognizing the current state of your organization, declaring a desired state based on time, resources and budget and to align your organization to an ADC roadmap.

Why bother assessing your organization? John Wondolowski, CMI CTO, outlined a compelling argument in his latest blog “Balancing Cost/Quality with Agility/Innovation.” Being able to accurately calculate the true “cost to serve” financials, while finding an accurate capacity modeling for service delivery, is an aspiration for many CIOs. John makes the point that “working toward the objective of delivering high-quality and reliable systems at the lowest possible cost is a vital business requirement, but aligning with the business strategies by building innovative and agile technology stacks will add tremendous value to an enterprise.” To this end, John points to two areas: “First, the I.T. Executive should have an accurate financial model on how their services are delivered. I call this ‘calculating the cost to serve.’” and “The second component to successfully maturing and evolving is to use those underlying financial models to be able to create accurate scenarios for meeting new demand (capacity planning).” ADC is one tool to help in finding and delivering the optimal balance at any point in time.

For a review on the ADC model, please read my previous blog post, “Adaptable Data Center – Built for Growth”. CMI developed the “Adaptable Data Center” reference model to assist in understanding the issues and how the many different data center components work together. There is no special magic to the model, rather it is an approach to add disciplined insights when making important decisions regarding data center architecture, design and cost to serve capacity planning.

Adaptable Data Center

The ADC Assessment Tool presented below is a continuum on which you will score where your company stands in each area. Each area is relative to any organizations business needs and directions. This tool was developed to highlight indicators for areas of change.

ADC Assessment Tool


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CMI invites you to review the Assessment Tool with your enterprise. We also welcome dialog regarding how we can improve and extend this model to make it more relevant to your organization.

In addition, we are offering to join you in a working session to use the ADC Assessment Tool to evaluate your organization. The intent is to validate areas working well and identify areas for improvement. By partnering with CMI, we will work together to increase how adaptable your data center truly is.

Balancing Cost/Quality with Agility/Innovation

At CMI, we have the opportunity to work with hundreds of clients. Through that lens I am able to observe I.T. Organizations across industries and in various sizes of enterprises. I have been around Enterprise I.T. for many years and in that time I have had responsibility for shaping a company’s I.T. capabilities during significant advancement/changes in the underlying technology stack. Through all of my experiences though, I have never seen a time period like today where the pace of technology change and the magnitude of the changes is so rapid and broad. The biggest challenge for enterprises today is how they can practically adopt effective emerging technologies to meet desired business outcomes.

Most enterprises that have been in business for more than ten years have a heritage of Enterprise I.T. rooted in working with the objective of delivering high-quality and reliable systems at the lowest possible cost. Most Enterprise I.T. budgets are based significantly on prior annual benchmarks – with the addition of funding for ‘new projects’. But even any new funding is usually calculated from the perspective of utilizing or expanding existing technology investments. This paradigm becomes a “Cost and Quality” mandate for Enterprise I.T. Management. Since the depreciation and maintenance on prior investments typically comprises a large portion of an I.T. budget, the levers on “Cost and Quality” principally are limited to process improvement, staff development, and targeted incremental spending. Capacity expansion in this environment is typically done by investing in expansion of existing infrastructure.

Some of the younger enterprises that I have been able to observe built and chartered their new I.T. Organization to focus on “Agility and Innovation”. With access to new enabling technologies, and the mandate to build nimble and agile technology stacks, some younger enterprises have (since birth) built more strategic I.T. Organizations.

Of course, the movement from an “operational objective” for an I.T. Organization to more of a “strategic objective” is not completely confined to young companies versus older companies. In fact, I argue that the movement from operationally focused to strategically focused is becoming a business imperative. Working toward the objective of delivering high-quality and reliable systems at the lowest possible cost is a vital business requirement, but aligning with the business strategies by building innovative and agile technology stacks will add tremendous value to an enterprise.

I think there are two components to successfully maturing and evolving an I.T. Organization. First, the I.T. Executive should have an accurate financial model on how their services are delivered. I call this “calculating the cost to serve”. I.T. Executives understand their budget line items but are they able to financially model what it costs (infrastructure, network, people, tools, etc.) to deliver their mission critical services to their end users? More importantly are they able to model what it will cost to expand that capacity incrementally to meet new demands (Or new services)?

The second component to successfully maturing and evolving is to use those underlying financial models to be able to create accurate scenarios for meeting new demand (capacity planning). These fundamental financial models will help you be able to build business cases for more strategic investments in your technology stack. We see the goal in shaping a technology stack to accomplish “agility” is to get to the point where the I.T. Executive has the ability to “build or consume” infrastructure when facing new demands that require capacity expansion. The ability to choose “build or consume” (or buy compute/storage for on-premise data center versus subscribe to compute/storage from a Cloud Provider) becomes a possibility when that organization has a hybrid-cloud capability.

With an innovative hybrid-cloud model, an I.T. organization can dramatically lower their time to provision new resources and achieve the objectives of agility and innovation. With a Cost-to-Serve financial model, an I.T. organization can optimize their resource expansion investments and achieve the objective of cost and quality.

CMI has built our “Adaptable Data Center® Practice” around the ability to help enterprises achieve both of those objectives (agility/innovation and cost/quality) through developing the Cost-to-Serve financial model for enterprises combined with hybrid-cloud architecture.

Essential Infrastructure Platforming

The cornerstone of the Adaptable Data Center® architecture on premise is infrastructure. The decisions you make within your infrastructure have a direct impact on your ability to deliver the outcomes that the business demands. The first platform was monolith server/storage platforms, dominated by IBM’s mainframe (by the way still a $5B business for IBM). The second platform was client server, dominated by the push to distribute the workloads over the network and back to the server. The third platform may be mobile, which will continue to grow over the next twenty years, in fact did you know there are 4 billion people that still don’t have internet access or mobile phones? So, what’s next? What will be the fourth platform, when does it arrive, how big will the market be?

I believe the fourth platform will be the Hybrid Enterprise IT. The hybrid enterprise is still in the beginning stage of maturity with plenty of room to run over the next two decades. With cloud and mobile pushing the enterprise to figure out how to deliver IT services for better business outcomes you won’t survive long if you do not have a clear strategy to optimize your infrastructure, enabling the seamless integration of cloud services, with the agility to push and pull in either direction. Getting to this point is not easy. The reward is worth the journey though, so stay the course. To get started, consider getting your arms around these areas:

1. Virtualize as much as possible – Virtualization is one of the biggest enablers of portability that you have direct control over.
2. Consider converged or hyperconverged strategies – Pre-packaged solutions cut IT Operations time and done correctly, they eliminate cost, complexity and performance issues.
3. Assess current application stack for cloud readiness – Not all applications can be made cloud ready. Find your outliers and make a plan to deal with them, including moving to a vendor that aligns with your new strategy
4. Select automation and orchestration toolset/frameworks – Automate Everything. Orchestration is the highway to the cloud, pick one and go for a drive.

IF you are stuck on legacy infrastructure or modern infrastructure is keeping you weighted in one direction because it is what the enterprise has always done, then start looking for new solutions now. Don’t be afraid to make bold moves that position you to enable the Hybrid Enterprise rapidly. IT may just be the competitive advantage you need to succeed.

The Year of The Adaptable Data Center

2015 is a pivotal year for many IT leaders and executives as companies try to keep up with the rapid transformation and evolution of IT infrastructure—impacting fundamentally how these firms operate and innovate in order to satisfy customer demands and grow. The CEO and the business part of the management team are constantly thinking about the growth trajectory. How can IT deployments align with this growth vision? How can IT stay ahead of the curve relative to the rest of the company?

As these IT decision makers grapple with the “identity crisis” brought on by the rapid shift to/proliferation of cloud infrastructure solutions, we posed the above questions—along with other questions such as “what are the 3 IT-related things I must do in the next 100 days?”—to our existing book of clients as well as IT leaders from our monthly CIO Roundtable in the East Bay who represent a wide array of industry verticals (financial services, e-commerce, traditional retail, healthcare, non-profit) and specializations. What we have learned from these conversations is that even though many would call 2015 the Year of the Cloud, here at CMI we’d like to refine that a bit and call it the Year of the Adaptable Data Center.

We have noticed that many organizations, at this point, are simply not ready to “go all in” and move a majority of their workloads off-prem to adopt public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and IBM SoftLayer. This is due to factors such as: the inability to migrate specific workloads; security/compliance considerations; change management; time/resource availability; fear of vendor lock-in (Ex: very high switching costs if you are to move workloads from AWS to SoftLayer); and the rapid increase in complexity of control issues when it comes to cloud adoption—they want to be able to summon a system administrator from down the hall when something goes wrong.

Here at CMI we believe that IT decision makers should embrace the adaptable data center model (please refer to our last blog post where Tim Cuny, VP of Solutions, provided the illustrative view of the reference architecture), which would alleviate the fears and concerns that we’d just discussed above. And if you currently have on-prem assets, this architecture can enable them to work smarter. For these organizations, all of the benefits of public cloud – improved efficiency and time-to-value via resources on-demand (pay-as-you-go model) – can be realized by deploying private cloud. Creating a private cloud can be accomplished in a multitude of ways. Below are just a few examples:

  • Leveraging existing infrastructure and layering automation/orchestration.
  • Creating a dedicated private cloud off-prem on bare metal servers.
  • Deploying Converged Infrastructure with integrated virtual machine (VM) management.

Of course, as you look at this reference architecture, you also need to take a hard look at your organization and consider infrastructure refresh lifecycle, security policies, existing software tools and appetite for services/customization versus pre-packaged solutions, as you embark on the adaptable data center path.

Here at CMI—our experienced and capable cloud solutions architects and enterprise architects can help you and your organizations become not only more agile in building out the IT infrastructure of the future, but also ensure that it’s adaptable, secure, and scalable. We’re excited to continue our journey with all of you here in 2015. Please contact us to continue the discussion on our reference architecture and what it means for your company.

Benny Du, Cloud Solutions Account Executive contributed to this blog