Data Centres – lessons from the field (Part 2)

This week we welcome back Steve Clarke, a former CIO with long experience at a senior level running IT operations.  In part 1, Steve talked about his experience moving data centre services for a major Telco and Broadband provider.  Here, in part 2 he sets out the lessons he learned along the way, how he sees data centre procurement changing and what that means for future role of CIOs.

Steve, for the benefit of anyone who missed part 1, can you tell us a bit about your recent past?

I’ve worked in many industries, but most recently I spent around 6 years within the ISP/Telecoms/Internet sector running IT functions. My last role was IT Operations Director at TalkTalk where I spent most of my time managing IT Change programmes against a backdrop of multiple acquisitions and divestments, alongside leading large and diverse operations functions. Right now, I’m running my own business providing fractional IT Director services to SMEs and Growing Companies enabling them to make use of enterprise experience for a fraction of the price.

Based on your experience, what top-level advice would you offer to CIOs and a board considering setting up a data centre?

Firstly, don’t just decide that you need a data centre on a whim.  It’s a costly exercise and there are other options, i.e. cloud, space rental, etc.  Do plenty of analysis up front and if you must go with a data centre, don’t underestimate the time, effort and cost of setting it up.

Second, ensure you use experts to help you cost it and project manage it, someone who’s done it before, and knows the pitfalls better than you do.

Thirdly, make sure you allow for expansion. I know it’s hard to predict what the technology landscape might look like in three years’ time, but you need to take a decent stab at it when setting up your data centre  – underestimating the amount of space you’ll need in three years can be a costly mistake.

How would you suggest mitigating any risks or threats?

Deploying a data centre means that a lot of the company systems and services are going to end up in one location, which is a threat in itself, and needs to be mitigated by implementing fail-over capabilities for critical systems.  Don’t dismiss the idea that two smaller data centres might make more sense than one large one.

A lot of money will be spent on implementation, so getting it wrong, in particular getting the network implementation wrong, will be a costly and very visible mistake.  What’s more, mistakes of that nature will have ramifications for a long time as issues continually pop up that relate back to the network configuration never really working.

How do you see the data centre provisioning changing/developing in the medium term?

There will be less direct ownership of data centres.  There are so many more options available now. You’re more likely to rent rack space from a provider or indeed move in to the cloud than open your own data centre.

Small data centre implementations should definitely be outsourced and cloud should be the default status for any new service. Where companies do need data centres, they will be looking to show their green credentials by utilising the latest methods for minimising power and cooling requirements – hot/cold corridors, running data centres warm, extensive virtualisation, efficient geographic location of the data centre and using fresh air rather than chilled air are among some of the options.

Do you think increased outsourcing will dramatically change the CIO role?

I don’t believe that outsourcing is changing the CIO’s role to any great extent. The CIO should be concentrating on providing systems and services that enable the business and make it more effective and efficient.  Whether that’s through an internal team or an external one makes little difference. It’s the people beneath the CIO that will notice the difference, but for the CIO, it’s not that great a change.

Information, however, is becoming more important to companies – and the interrogation and management of data to deliver information will fall in to the CIO’s hands because they own the systems and services that provide it. I believe that enabling the business to make the most of their data and turning it in to meaningful information will be a big part of a CIO’s responsibilities going forward.

Once again, our thanks go to Steve for sharing his experiences and thoughts with us.  In the coming weeks, look out for Mobile Device Management and Security.

Views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Logicalis.

Steve Clarke

About Steve Clarke

Steve is a technology business partner with GreenBOLD and has experience in a variety of business sectors including retail, telecommunications, leisure, online and the 3rd Sector—all at senior leadership/director level.

Most recently, Steve has been working with Talk Talk driving a variety of change programmes that have included the closure of 3 Data Centres and the associated system consolidation exercises, billing platform migrations to the strategic in-house billing platform and significantly reducing costs associated with the technology environment, in some cases reducing those costs by more than 50% saving millions off the bottom line.

Steve regularly presents at technology conferences on topics as varied as Unified Communications, Talent Management, programme management and Green IT initiatives. He is an active member of Action for Children's ByteNight event.
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