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Five Keys to Improving Data Center Resilience In the Age of Customer-Centricity

When Customers Are Involved, Being “Ready for Anything” Takes on New Urgency

For many CIO’s trained in traditional IT service metrics, the new world of IT can seem daunting. No longer is your customer constituency comprised of primarily internal users. Instead, your most important customers are now your company’s customers, and the implications of disappointing this audience can be swift and painful. Look no further than retail giant Target for the cautionary lessons of IT in the new age of customer-centricity.

Regardless of what industry you operate in, the delivery of “always on,” secure, customer-facing processes and services fundamentally changes the demands on the IT department. Unlike disappointing internal users because of an application outage, failure of externally-facing applications can impact business forecasts, stock price and brand value. For Target, a technology innovator with a long-history of delivering customer value through technology initiatives, consumer confidence eroded and both short and long-term business performance was negatively impacted when hackers infiltrated their credit card processing systems.

Beyond dramatic examples like Target, even short application outages or minor security breaches can have measurable cost implications. According to a Ponemon Institute study, the average per minute cost of data center downtime has risen by 41 percent since 2010, with an average cost per minute of downtime costing approximately $7,000.[i] This is forcing IT to implement entirely new approaches to systems and services that are not just ultrareliable, scalable and dynamic, but also resilient under failure and attack.

Here are five key management strategies for making data center resilience a part of your organizational DNA and enhancing your defense against the negative impacts of unexpected IT incidents:

1.   Reframe the Management Conversation

For years, IT was viewed through an infrastructure lens that focused on empowering internal processes, not external business value. Today, IT management, executive management and directors must all acknowledge IT’s changing role in the organization and focus greater energy on not only addressing immediate term demands, but longer-term business growth and mission-critical risk mitigation issues. Target was an early explorer of embedded chip credit card technology, but was unable to muster the necessary internal and external resources to enable adoption. Decisions on critical IT infrastructure in modern markets must be fully integrated into a broad business strategy context to ensure effectiveness.

2.   Recognize That Resilience is a Journey, Not a Destination

There are many dynamic forces that define IT architecture resilience in modern business: growth impacts demand, security threats are ever-evolving, and risk profiles change with business valuation. That means evaluation of IT resilience must be equally dynamic. From physical data center infrastructure to approaches to DeVops and disaster recovery, planning for and implementing resilient architectures is a continuous process, not a single build-and-deploy project.

3.   Plan for Elasticity

In the week leading up to Christmas 2013, UPS planned to deliver 132 million packages. Unfortunately, demand significantly outstripped that forecast, leading to late deliveries for many high profile e-tailers, including Amazon, and major dissatisfaction with UPS. Thus is the world of customer-facing business processes, where exceeding your wildest dreams of business success can lead to nightmarish end results. For IT, massive capacity bursts need to be built into the plan if resilience objectives are to be consistently met.

4.   The Best Defense is One Grounded in Reality

Reality is that there is no perfect moat to protect IT systems from all cyber threats, natural and man-made disasters, and unforeseen internal incidents. Today, IT systems must be engineered to rapidly react to any incident in order to minimize its impact and/or the time-to-recovery. From foundational infrastructure to self-healing applications and interfaces, resilient environments are the product of planning and architecting for the foreseen…and the unforeseen.

5.   The Data Center is Still the Core of Your IT Infrastructure, Wherever and Whatever Your Data Center Is

Cloud. PODS. Colo. On-Premise. The definition of a ‘data center’ continues to evolve, and for most organizations, a modern data center represents a hybrid architecture that integrates multiple physical architectures and networking strategies. Hybrid architectures can help organizations support services that are massively scalable, ultrareliable, resilient to point failures across hardware and software, risk-managed at-scale, and still cost-efficient and environmentally responsible. Building out an enterprise-class hybrid data center architecture means moving away from old debates about topics like who controls assets toward discussions about how to best broker the continuously evolving portfolio of services needed to satisfy demanding internal and external audiences.

How BRUNS-PAK Can Help

Over the past two years, BRUNS-PAK has evolved its proprietary design/build methodologies to integrate the evolving array of strategies and tools available to data center planning teams, resulting in the BRUNS-PAK Hybrid Efficient Data Center Design program. Through an iterative process that acknowledges both rapidly changing IT requirements and their associated facilities infrastructure needs, this program delivers a strategic approach to addressing the key management levers influencing resilient data center design. Through our expanded consulting services group, and well-established design/build services team, BRUNS-PAK is uniquely positioned to assist customers seeking to create a long-term strategic direction for their data center that ensures an infrastructure able to support real-world demands in the age of customer-centricity.

(i)  “Data Growth Remains IT’s Biggest Challenge, Gartner Says.”  Computerworld Online. November 2, 2010.

[1] Emerson Electric/Ponemon Institute “2013 Study on Data Center Outages” 09/2013.

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