The complexity of data centers:A CIO/CTOs guide

The complexity of data centers:A CIO/CTOs guide

The complexity of data centers:
A CIO/CTOs guide

Explore the intricacies of managing your own data center and the challenges CIOs and CTos should be aware of.

In today’s technology-driven world, data centers are vital, and CIOs and CTOs are at the forefront of data center management. Robust and efficient data processing capabilities are essential for modern organizations.

Private data centers are designed to meet the present-day demands of an organization, including centralized data administration, flexibility, information security, privacy compliance, and cost efficiency. Data centers are the cornerstone of an organization’s IT infrastructure. The CIOs and CTOs ensure that the data centers are reliable, secure, economical, and in line with the objectives and requirements of the organization. They are responsible for regulatory compliance with legislation like the GDPR and the CCPA.

In this blog, we will explore some challenges CIOs and CTOs face, as well as some best practices that they can use.

The exponential growth of computing capabilities changes our world. Digital technologies have advanced faster than any other innovation in history. Digital technology has changed the ground rules for almost everything and is deeply embedded in all aspects of organizations. Data is now a crucial component of how businesses operate. Data volumes are predicted to continue increasing as organizations generate data at an exceptionally rapid rate [1].

Data centers are vital in the modern business landscape. They enable organizations to satisfy the rising demand for data. Data security and seamless operations are guaranteed by private data centers. They provide scalable and reliable infrastructures for handling massive amounts of data. In addition to being cost-effective, private data centers protect the confidentiality of sensitive data and are required to comply with privacy regulations.

CIOs and CTOs are at the forefront of data center management. According to Gartner, the chief information officer (CIO) oversees the people, processes, and technologies within a company’s IT organization to ensure they deliver outcomes that support the goals of the business [2]. The chief technology officer (CTO) has overall responsibility for managing the physical and personnel technology infrastructure including technology deployment, network and system management, integration testing, and developing technical operations personnel [3]. Both roles play a crucial part in the development and management of the IT infrastructure, and the ongoing alignment of technology initiatives with the objectives of the organization.

Data centers must keep up with the ever-evolving technology to leverage the latest technologies, and to maintain compatibility.

The explosion of data initiated a major shift in the design and architecture of data centers. Networking, storage, and computing – the three main components of the infrastructure – are virtualized or containerized, and APIs are used to provision, run, and control them. This reduces cost while enhancing automation, management, scalability, and reliability.

Data center capacity refers to key data center resources like cooling capacity and available power [4]. Data centers must work within these constrains. Two of the issues facing data center managers are maximizing capacity utilization and establishing the feasibility of expansion for future growth.

Data centers process and store vast amounts of sensitive and valuable data. This includes client-provided data as well as financial and personal data. Organizations must ensure that all data is safe from unauthorized access, corruption, loss, or theft. Data centers constitute a prime target for cyber criminals. It is imperative that CIOs and CTOs conduct extensive risk assessments and ensure that proper cybersecurity solutions are implemented.

You can’t control disaster, but you can control your recovery. Disaster recovery planning for data centers is crucial. Downtime due to unforeseen circumstances can be detrimental.

Aside from the technical difficulties of managing and maintaining a data center, another challenge is hiring and retaining IT staff with the right skills to handle the hardware and software management operations and support users.

Technology is constantly evolving. To keep data centers competitive, compatible, and efficient, CIOs and CTOs must see the big picture and stay up to date on technological changes.

Key challenges faced by CIOs and CTOs

CIOs and CTOs face a variety of challenges when it comes to data centers. Here’s a list of some of key challenges and things to pay extra attention to.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency has always played a major role in the design and operations of data centers. Resource limits, costs, and corporate social responsibility underscore the need for energy efficiency.

Data centers operate within specific resource limits, defined by the cooling capacity and the available power. These limits drive the continuous search for better energy efficiency.

Data centers require a high amount of energy to power, cool and operate. Power represents around sixty to seventy percent of the total operational cost of a data center [5].

Energy efficiency improvements have helped to curb the rise of data center energy demand. Still, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), data centers and data transmission networks accounted each for around 1.3 percent of global final electricity demand in 2022 [6]. As the world undergoes a monumental change towards renewable energy, the public view shifts. Citizen groups, for instance, are mobilizing against data centers and activists are raising questions about environmental consequences and energy consumption [7]. Due to social demand, organizations should increase their energy efficiency and improve their sustainability. For example, Iron Mountain data centers are using 100 percent renewable energy and transitioning to sustainable, eco-friendly data centers [8].

Scalability

Data centers must smoothly adapt to variations in demand without jeopardizing performance or functionality. Data center scalability is important because of the ongoing explosion of data and the variety of the data. See for example our blog on the scalable data center of the Dutch Ministry of Education, which has zero downtime [9].

CIOs and CTOs need to develop a roadmap for scalability. Every time an organization adopts a new technology, they must check the ability to scale up systems.

One of the challenges is providing sufficient infrastructure to meet the rising demands. Even though the modern data center architecture is based on the concept of scalability, it is still impacted by limitations like cooling capacity, available power, space, and network connectivity capability [10].

Data center security

CIOs and CTOs are responsible for securing data and information systems. Maintaining adequate security levels has never been more difficult. The global cybersecurity landscape witnessed a significant increase in both the variety and quantity of cyberattacks and their consequences [11]. The cost of data breaches to businesses has steadily increased. In 2022, data breaches cost businesses an average of $4.35 million – up from $4.24 million in 2021[12]. CIOs and CTOs must be prepared to tackle these issues head-on.

Disaster recovery planning

It is critical to consider resilience and business continuity. Unplanned downtime, system failures, and service disruptions can have dire consequences. The speed and efficacy with which an organization responds to and recovers from a crisis can make or break the business. Because digital infrastructure is vital, data center continuity planning is paramount.

Given the complexity of data centers and the ever-changing nature of technology, disaster recovery planning is a demanding and continuous process. Disaster recovery planning necessitates the development and ongoing assessment of suitable backup solutions, training plans, emergency staffing plans, communication breakdown preparation, and much more.

Managing operational costs

Aside from staffing and energy costs, the operating costs of data centers are mainly dictated by component maintenance and replacement. The management of these costs is crucial to ensuring cost control [13].

Maintenance and component replacement plans are based on economic life expectancy, manufacturer support policies, and manufacturer recommendations. Technology advancements and fluctuations in demand can disrupt maintenance schedules and component replacement planning, affecting cost predictability. Energy price fluctuations are another cause of cost management issues.

Overcoming data center challenges

Effective management of data center operations is critical to ensure the reliability, security, and efficiency. CIOs and CTOs must be on top of things and proactive address the challenges, to ensure smooth operations.

Best practices for data center management

Organizations can create strong data center management strategies by implementing the best practices listed below.

Monitor the PUE

Understand power usage effectiveness (PUE), the standard efficiency metric for power consumption in data centers. This is the ratio, determined by dividing the total amount of power entering a data center by the power used to run the IT equipment within it. The PUE describes how efficiently a data center uses energy. Data centers must monitor their PUE and seek ways to lower it [14]. Green House Data, for example, developed a new data center with high efficiency cooling to attain a PUE of 1.14 [15].

Use DCIM tools

Embrace tooling for DCIM (data center infrastructure management). You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Measurement leads to control and eventually to improvement. DCIM tooling captures real time detailed information on the utilization and energy consumption of the data center infrastructure components. Real time datacenter monitoring is critical for effective data center management [16]. For example, after deploying DCIM, there has been no downtime in any of the data centers of All IT Rooms [17].

Develop a cybersecurity plan

Any major data center incident has the potential to cause high damages and disrupt the business continuity. CIOs and CTOs must choose a security framework such as NIST or ISO 27001, develop a risk management strategy, set up a cybersecurity plan and perform regular security reviews.

Install emergency backup systems

Data centers must have redundant systems and backups for power and operational systems to maintain high availability and minimize downtime. CIOs and CTOs must proactively approach risk management and have robust, well thought out disaster recovery plans in place to recover swiftly from any data loss or service interruption [18].

Align with business goals

Aligning data center management with business goals ensures that data center operations are optimized to meet the demands of the organization. Important elements are establishing a shared vision and connecting the IT metrics to the business goals [19].

Staying ahead in the continuously changing landscape

CIOs and CTOs play a crucial part in harnessing technology and information management, and in the ongoing alignment of technology initiatives with the objectives of the organization. Technology is constantly evolving, so to be adaptable and innovative CIO’s and CTOs need to stay on top of the latest developments. They must stay curious and keep learning.

Reports and industry publications published by Forbes, Gartner, McKinsey, RedHat, and others can provide valuable insights.

CIOs and CTOs can learn about new technologies and trends by taking courses, attending events like conferences, and engage in online forums. This all helps to stay in touch with peers and speak with colleagues and other professionals.

Final words

These are exciting times for CIOs and CTOs. Data centers are the nerve center of an organization, and the CIOs and CTOs play a crucial role in ensuring that the data center infrastructure is optimized to meet the organization’s goals and requirements.

Data centers must keep up with ever changing technologies. DCIM tooling and regular updates of essential metrics like the PUE facilitate data center operations management. For successful service delivery, continuity management, data center security, and disaster recovery planning are critical.

We like to hear from you. Is there something missing? Do you have any other ideas on how to manage data centers effectively? Reach out and tell us about them.

[1]: https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/volume-and-value-of-data-increasing-exponentially-in-the-data-age/
[2]: https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/glossary/cio-chief-information-officer
[3]: https://www.gartner.com/en/information-technology/glossary/cto-chief-technology-officer
[4]: https://www.sunbirddcim.com/blog/data-center-capacity-how-measure-how-plan-and-how-much-left
[5]: https://www.blsstrategies.com/insights-press/power-requirements-energy-costs-and-incentives-for-data-centers
[6]: https://www.iea.org/energy-system/buildings/data-centres-and-data-transmission-networks
[7]: https://www.context.news/big-tech/opinion/pushback-against-energy-guzzling-data-centres-grows
[8]: https://www.ironmountain.com/resources/blogs-and-articles/d/data-centers-the-importance-of-sustainable-data-centers
[9]: https://fairbanks.nl/casestudy-ministry-of-education/
[10]: https://www.belden.com/blogs/data-center-scalability-why-it-matters-in-your-infrastructure
[11]: https://www.enisa.europa.eu/publications/enisa-threat-landscape-2023
[12]: https://aag-it.com/the-latest-cyber-crime-statistics/
[13]: https://datacentremagazine.com/data-centres/how-do-you-optimise-the-operating-costs-of-a-data-centre
[14]: https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/sustainability/what-data-center-pue-defining-power-usage-effectiveness
[15]: https://www.vertiv.com/49e404/globalassets/shared/green-house-data-case-study.pdf
[16]: https://www.serverwatch.com/servers/data-center-infrastructure-management-dcim/
[17]: https://www.paessler.com/company/casestudies/success-story-all-it-rooms-and-prtg
[18]: https://energy5.com/the-importance-of-emergency-backup-systems-for-data-centers
[19]: https://www.bmc.com/blogs/3-steps-to-aligning-it-goals-with-business-goals/

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