Two topics are of top of mind with IT managers and vendors today: data center transformation and data center optimization. These topics come up all the time in my discussions with CIOs and IT managers in regards to their initiatives, and also with vendors in their strategies to deliver solutions to meet demands.
Unfortunately, some people confuse the meaning of the two initiatives. They are similar, but different. There is a misunderstanding about how they should be applied, and that leads to discussions that start down the wrong track and can take time to rewind and re-focus.
Let me put some perspective on how the terms should be used, and how they will evolve over time. Data center transformation is a big picture vision about changing the premise of how a data center operates. Think of it as clean sheet of paper discussion about IT. The discussion is really about how the services of compute and storage should be delivered to customers in the data center. The customers could be departments, individual users, or even other companies.
Discussions about cloud computing have transitioned into data center transformation discussions for most IT professionals. These cloud discussions include public clouds where compute and information storage is done by a service provider, private clouds where the data center delivers its services as cloud-like offering, and hybrid clouds where some services and information storage are done on-premise within the data and some utilize a public cloud.
For IT professionals, data center transformation requires putting together a new strategy for providing services for today and the future – usually focused on providing IT as a service (ITaaS). For more on data center transformation, see Evaluator Group articles here and here.
Data center optimization is focused on making the data center more efficient. The optimization may refer to deploying and exploiting new technologies and methods. Data center optimization is approached as an overall goal but is broken down into specific areas. Storage efficiency is one of those areas for optimization that has many elements.
Data center optimization should include a rigorous and believable measurement system to for making decisions and demonstrating results. Individual areas generally use ROI methodology for the measurements. Overall, a broad TCO calculation is used to show the effect of multiple initiatives.
For data center transformation and data center optimization discussions, there are differences in time scale, the decision making process, the amount effort involved, and the costs. Transformation is a company-wide directional decision with long-term implications. Consequently, the decision time may be lengthy. Optimization, primarily broken down into individual projects as elements of a larger goal, will have shorter cycle decision processes and be put into effect (at least partially) much sooner. These are important differences to take into consideration.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).