Accelerating changes across information technology are propelling the dynamic data center at unprecedented speed. From people and processes to technology and tools, IT organizations need to rapidly engage on all cylinders to keep up with business demand. There’s no brake. We need to get better at steering.
Empowering a Dynamic Workforce
Businesses face a demographic challenge: Their workforce is bringing new skills, attitudes and values into the enterprise. Who will run the existing infrastructure? The next generation of IT workers won’t resemble the last generation. This change hits businesses worldwide. In the U.S., we label generational transitions as age-bounded stylistic preferences: Boomers, Millennials, Gen-X, etc. These are well-suited to marketing assessments, but a broader, more profound sea change is transforming our future workforce. Larger changes across the world are bringing people accustomed to cell phones, social media, instantaneous and pervasive connectivity into the workforce, along with their technological sophistication and interface requirements. This demographic shift means there are fewer people skilled in operating mature technology.
In addition, the IT workforce has been rapidly expanding across the globe, and this cross-cultural generation wants to be engaged directly. They feel involved with people across geographic and social boundaries, and resonate with causes and concerns voiced everywhere. Enterprise organizations need to recognize this heightened social awareness and connectedness. The quality of the work environment, its flexibility, its openness and its transparency will distinguish successful employers from the rest.
The employer of the 21st century must offer a well-governed but less bureaucratic environment. Skills training and decision-making transparency will make the worker feel empowered, willing to take part in constructing his or her career over longer periods. Theory X management (hierarchical, coercive and incentive-based management) will likely fail with these new workers, as the range of life experiences they bring is much broader than any top-down organizational theory could comprehend. Theory Y management (communicative, decision-sharing, self-motivational management) may work, but only if the business understands the new workers’ core values and aspirations. Today’s employer must reach out with meaningful participation beyond the paycheck; and the work environment needs to support this new form of engagement.
Most important of all, as the rate of change of the business environment continues, businesses must provide continuous, effective training as part of the employee experience. The range of applications and the ways in which they combine will change. The workforce using them and managing them will need to learn how to cope with this. An employee who feels they aren’t learning will look for a better employer.
Dynamic Tools Extend Management Capabilities
The environment businesses provide can strengthen this workplace. To move perpetually to the newest technology sends a message that learning is pointless. If every few years the technology base rolls over, the business will run out of experts. Nobody will remain who can teach. Everyone will be a perpetual beginner. Businesses should integrate the best of the new with the best of the current technology portfolio. Users want a graphical or haptic interface? Great! Build that capability onto today’s critical systems. If we stratify management processes and tools, we perpetuate silos, which experience has taught us are costly and fragile. A strong business recognizes value across its technology portfolio and strengthens it all.
Leading-edge management technology must address the full span of IT infrastructure. These tools engage the operations team in the way they organize tasks, the way they invite the user to engage with the environment and in the breadth of user interfaces they support. This removes a barrier to productivity. Businesses that provide a more appealing work environment will attract and retain better employees. Those tools that allow the user to build skill, and enhance their understanding of the underlying processes, will invoke the user’s creativity and problem-solving. That will improve productivity on routine tasks as well as open the door for users to contribute to new and better ways of performing those tasks.
Technology can strengthen how tasks are organized in the workplace. A tool shouldn’t highlight the complexity of the system it manages. Tools should emphasize the common practices that apply across many managed systems. For instance, performance tuning on mainframes usually involves keeping the processor utilization high. On a workstation, the most constrained resource may be I/O or network capacity. A tuning tool that allows its user to see how different types of platforms performed would help cross-training, and may inspire users to consider better ways to understand and manage capacity. An identity management tool that only addresses the needs of one type of platform would find no market today. However, one that could span traditional servers and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) would offer much to the organization preparing to deal with such diversity.
Dynamic Processes Provide Flexibility and Efficiency
Computing processes vary dramatically. Some work better on one type of environment, others elsewhere. The dynamic data center requires a portfolio of information-bearing technologies that ideally support the forms of computing best-suited to each platform. The tools that integrate and orchestrate diverse processes must manage across platforms or they will further split the operations team into silos. These siloed operations don’t communicate with each other, not because they don’t want to, but because they have nothing apparent in common to discuss. When the business deploys tools that allow common discussions across processes and disciplines, the operations team can reinforce its understanding and amplify its effectiveness to holistically manage complex computing environments.
Too often, the notion of “managing” something means minimizing the impact that thing had on its surroundings. Managing diverse technology means quite the opposite: making optimal use of the range of available capabilities. Management processes sometimes embed the limitations of their creators, which can limit users from optimizing their growing infrastructure. Organizations should empower employees to collaborate on what they’re doing and how they do it, to continuously renew their ways of working.
Dynamic Technology Accelerates Pace
Don’t bet against Moore’s Law. We sometimes overlook how Moore’s Law applies differently to different information technologies. For processors, the speed doubles at unit cost approximately every 18 months. For disk storage, the doubling rate is closer to 12 months. For networks, the doubling rate is about nine months. This means that over a period of a decade, the processor gets about 100 times faster, the capacity of a disk drive gets 1,000 times larger and network bandwidth grows 10,000 times. Over time, the relative balance between these three components of a computing infrastructure will tilt heavily toward networks. Today, we call that shift from in-house computing to network-connected platforms cloud computing. It’s the early indication of a much more profound shift in the relationship between the user interface, the processing nexus and the data storage.
Expect to see organizations shipping programs to data, rather than shipping data to programs, over the next decade. While the network can handle both, the volume of data will fast outpace the capabilities of algorithms.
Every turn of the technology wheel has brought into focus capabilities to handle larger volumes of information with more sophisticated processing capabilities. Big Data refers to the growing ability to process and analyze many data elements in parallel across multiple servers. There will continue to be challenges involving larger and more complex sets of data across increasingly sophisticated networks of computing power. As technology enables these growing opportunities, the phrase Big Data may or may not persist. What will persist is the increasing interconnectedness and power of the computing networks.
Steve Jobs said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and move backward[s] to the technology.” He warned us not to become fascinated with any particular tool, process or technical capability. He reminded us to think about why we’re doing what we’re doing. This wisdom will help us keep our hands on the wheel, moving the dynamic data center in the right direction.