Many folks want to look in a crystal ball and magically profess what the future looks like. In the land of technology, it’s not that easy. Or is it? Sure, we do have the ability to control our destiny. We are limited by our own boundaries…artificially set or not. This may seem fairly straight forward, but it’s not. Businesses are looking for technology organizations to evolve and change. Even if that means they shift how they use services and applications on their own. Hence shadow IT.
Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many data centers in various countries. Even today, the level of sophistication varies greatly with Switch’s primary Las Vegas data center at one end of the spectrum and a 20-year old data center from a top data center/ cloud provider at the other end. I’ll leave them unnamed to avoid any potential embarrassment. To contrast, I’ve toured newer data centers in their portfolio that are much more innovative.
The advent of cloud computing has flipped the way computing resources are used on it’s head. How data centers are used is changing quickly. And what’s inside is becoming more relevant to those that manage data centers, but less relevant to those who use them. Let me explain.
Operating a data center is complex. It is no longer just four walls with additional power and cooling requirements. To add complexity, the line between facilities and IT has blurred greatly. How does an organization deal with this growing complexity on top of what they’re already dealing with? Furthermore, as the complexity of the applications and services increases, so do the expertise requirements within the organization. How is every company that currently operates a data center expected to meet these growing requirements? In reality, they can’t.
Only those that are able to bring the scale of their applications and services will warrant the continued operation of their facility. General purpose IT services (core applications, custom applications and the like) will move to alternative solutions. Sure, cloud is one option. Co-location is another. There are many clever solutions to this growing challenge. Are there exception cases? Yes. However, it is important to take an unbiased view at the maturing marketplace and how to best leverage the limited resources available internally.
In summary, unless you are 1) operating applications or services at scale or 2) have a specific use-case, possibly due to regulatory or compliance requirements, or 3) do not, realistically, have a viable alternative… then you should consider moving away from operating your own data center. The future data center for many is an empty one.