Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Jul 24 2012   9:01AM GMT

Obstacles to data center outsourcing

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

The trend shows that organizations are slowly moving out their computing facilities from the in-house data centers to external professionally managed data centers. While some have moved their facilities completely, others have either moved a significant part running mission critical systems or have moved a few servers to test the waters.

Some corporates have genuine reasons to run their facilities in-house but many others are in different stages of transition. There are a few first time customers who tread carefully and a few others who have hosted servers before but now want to expand their footprint and are also willing to examine new models of outsourcing. There are, however, a large chunk of companies that keep dancing at the fence, unsure of taking a leap. Let us examine a few cases of resistance which inhibit a changeover.

Shades of resistance

  • Established in-house data centers: There are cases of very large organizations, both in the public and private sector, that have huge, well laid out and well managed data centers (DCs). Being the nerve centers for the organization, these DCs are given due importance and comprise considerable investment made over the years. They employ state-of-the-art equipment and processes and have dedicated staff and managers to take care of the facilities. Through virtualization, they ensure flexibility and deploy automated software tools to monitor availability and performance of servers, storage and networks. Since they care of safety and security, they don’t feel the need to transfer out their facilities and in my opinion, they are quite right in their stand.
  • Cost consideration: Some companies are very conscious of costs and are not easily convinced with the idea of hosting their IT equipment elsewhere at a cost. They are comfortable managing a small or a medium sized facility in their premises especially where they have available space. These organizations mainly comprise of those who do not attach much importance to IT and are happy with services they get currently.
  • The ‘ROI’ factor: Finance heads have a role to play and they always like to throw their hat into the ring on matters of investment. They get down to figures and question the investments against benefits and therefore play spoil sport. It is not easy to beat them on figures and it is only the CEO who can rein them if he sees sense in the proposal.
  • The ‘IT manager’ factor: Many IT heads are too attached to their DCs which they would have built over a period and dislike the very idea of shifting them. In addition, they perceive a loss of power and influence and often resist with full force. I have seen them getting extremely worked up and trying to create roadblocks by suggesting that moving out is risky and fraught with security concerns. They just delay the inevitable.
  • Concerns about security: This often comes as a genuine concern and needs addressing. Sometimes it is the fear that once the server is placed somewhere outside anyone can steal the data. This can be explained to drive home the point but there are others whose traditional mindset deflects the answer to keep the matter suspended. The reluctant IT managers also joins the fray to add fuel to fire.
  • Suspicious of the cloud: There is no doubt that the ‘cloud’ solution beats many and more so for naive business heads who see cloud as a smokescreen to curious play happening on the public platform. They insist that their domain should be physically earmarked and cannot accept a virtual demarcation of their territory. The issue is complex and needs to be handled with care.

So the going is not so easy. Sales representatives of data centers have to overcome hurdles and have to use their skills of persuasion and confidence building to win over customers. There are, of course, the other customers who refuse to budge and have their swords drawn out of their sheaths, ready to fight the intruder who tries to suggest a shift. Such battles still need to be won.

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