Time for a cloud clean-up: stop neglecting your disorganised data centres

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Despite the rapid rise of public cloud platforms and the various benefits they offer to enterprises, private infrastructure still remains an essential component of many IT strategies.

Over the last few years this has become an unfashionable idea for many enterprises that have been sold on the idea that public cloud is the most economic way forward. However, recent research has shown that private infrastructure doesn’t have to require the vast investment and high cost of operations it once did and can now actually be just as cost-efficient as the public cloud.

What’s more, running private data centres and clouds alongside public platforms enables companies to keep using the infrastructure that they have been investing in for years and which is customised to meet their specific needs. It can also provide reassurances around security and data protection, both of which are key considerations for every organisation in the era of GDPR and stringent compliance requirements.

Adopting a multi-cloud approach that uses a combination of public and private platforms means businesses can run workloads where they are best suited. A combined approach means they can be much more flexible in responding to capacity needs and maximise the return on their cloud investment whilst benefiting from the economies of scale of internal infrastructure provision.

As a result, we’re now seeing more and more enterprises turn to multi-cloud strategies, giving them the flexibility and agility required to operate in today’s digital world.

However, such an approach only works if businesses are able to run a cost-efficient data centre themselves, which is not something that all enterprises are able to say.

Disorganised data centres

The use of private infrastructure is nothing new. Many organisations have been running their own data centre for years, particularly in industries such as financial services that have strict regulatory requirements around the storage and use of sensitive customer data.

However, a closer look at the inner workings of these data centres often reveals a huge amount of over-expense, accompanied by allocation of compute, network and storage resources that very few people properly understand or know how to optimise.

This is not unusual when a data centre has been operational for many years. We all know how we can lose track of what we have where in our various personal computing devices and this issue is amplified exponentially when talking about a data centre containing hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of servers. After all, taking the time to regularly audit and tidy everything up is a luxury few businesses can afford, especially if it requires some system downtime.

These internal knowledge gaps can be a significant problem. There may only be a handful of people within the business who are fully aware of the data centre’s inner workings, which could present some serious issues if these people leave the business or aren’t on-hand to respond to an emergency.

Finally, businesses with disorganised data centres are unlikely to be getting the best return on their investment. Infrastructure inefficiencies can add significant expense to data centre operations and internal processes, thereby impacting employee productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line.

The result is that many businesses are being tempted into ditching their private infrastructure in favour of public cloud platforms. That way, the thinking goes, they can start afresh, paying for what they use, reduce waste, and spend more time and resources on growing their business. But is this really the best way forward?

Spring cleaning

So, data centres and workload management can get messy and start to look inefficient, that’s something no organisation can avoid. For some, this creates the feeling that the public cloud is the only real option and that their own data centres are not worth the hassle.

However, thinking this way would be a mistake. Rather than neglecting them, businesses should be focusing on cleaning up their private infrastructures and re-crafting a leaner, cleaner data centre.

Not only does this have the potential to significantly improve any enterprise’s return on investment, it can also bring private cloud economics back in line with the perceived cost efficiencies of using public cloud providers.

This is where automation, modeling and abstraction plays a key role. Through automation, enterprises can simplify processes and eliminate time-consuming manual operations. Modeling of software components` gives an organisation an abstracted view of their components. The more day-to-day tasks can be automated, the more businesses can remove the administrative burden that has traditionally hampered many data centre operations. The more they can model software services the more flexible and efficient they will become.

This would free up IT teams to focus on making improvements and bringing value to the business, rather than having to spend time fighting fires and getting bogged down in the nitty-gritty of data centre management.

Other technologies such as machine learning or artificial intelligence can also be incorporated. This can provide insight into operational efficiencies, as well as enabling businesses to optimise their data centre’s performance and save money in the process.

Another option for businesses is to partner with providers and use their expertise to run certain parts of the data centre, which can go a long way towards streamlining internal operations.

Ultimately, cloud economics simply don’t point towards private data centres disappearing any time soon. Moving exclusively to the public cloud would be about as sensible as a business selling all its buildings and only renting a property whenever it needs somewhere new.

Whatever enterprises may think about their cloud infrastructure, it just doesn’t make financial sense for private data centres to go away, it just makes sense to clean them up.

That way, businesses can reap the rewards that come from running an efficient data centre and maximise the return on their cloud investment.

Mark Baker, Field Product Manager, Canonical
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