THE ANATOMY OF A DATA CENTRE TRANSFORMATION PROGRAMME

 

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How do you end up starting a DCT programme?

Here are some possible scenarios:

  • The business goals and requirements are no longer properly supported by the existing IT infrastructure.
  • Your company has acquired one or several companies with their own data centres and IT infrastructure.
  • Dramatic innovations in your business domain require rapid adaptation to new technologies and implicitly new IT technologies, super-fast networks, mobility solutions, social platforms based marketing and advertising options, etc.

As a CEO of a company in one of the above scenarios, you will get messages and hints from the business, the customers, the stakeholders, the employees and IT people complaining about various issues, like productivity, sales, advertising, connectivity, etc. You can go for a quick fix (happened a lot!) and ask the IT director to purchase new servers, storage and network appliances, which will show some improvements in short term, but you will be dead wrong.

The CEO should initiate the DCT Programme and become its major sponsor. In order to assess the magnitude of the business and DC transformation, you need an Enterprise Architect – EA) and a team of consultants: Business Architect, Applications Architect, Data Architect, Infrastructure Architect, Network Security Architect several Business Analysts and several SMEs in the software, operating systems, servers, storage, and network areas.                                     Very important, the Enterprise Architect should report to the Board of Directors and not to the IT Director because you need an independent, professional transformation design, unbiased by the IT.

Here is a possible sequence of the actions:

  • The business assessment process will involve in the first stage data/information gathering about the business by means of interviews with the stakeholders, business owners, managers, employees and also with a set of business (web based) questionaries which should be mandatory for everybody in the company. The answers to the interviews and questionaries will be analysed by the EA team and the results will give an overall, good picture of the present status of the business and also will allow the EA team to perform a gap analysis between present and future state of the business and develop a very high design (vision) of the future status of the business. Once the business vision is presented to the stakeholders and is approved it becomes the goal of the DCT Programme by means of transforming the IT (Data, Applications, Infrastructure) in order to align it to the business needs and achieve the business goal.
  • The Discovery process will allow a precise assessment of the Present Mode of Operation(PMO) of the applications, data and infrastructure employing a couple of procedures: interviews with the applications owners, support teams, end users, technical questionaries; data, applications and infrastructure audit via physical, applications and infrastructure specific audit software tools. The combination of a top-down (from applications to the hardware) and bottom-up (from hardware to the applications) audits and producing an applications interdependency matrix will fine tune the PMO status.
  • Based on the business vision of the future state, the EA team will produce a Future Mode of Operation (FMO) status for the applications, data and infrastructure. Another gap analysis will be performed between PMO and FMO of the above mentioned components and the results will constitute the fundamental of the High Level Design (HLD) document for the Transformation. The HLD document will present the future state of the applications, access and applications mobility, future state of data, data storage and data protection, future state of the infrastructure, if it is a hardware refresh, virtualization or migration to cloud. The HLD will present also the data replication, the backup and archiving, the network security and a mobility solutions. It is possible to add some high level financials at this stage. The HLD will be peer reviewed amongst the Solution Architects and presented for review and approval to the stakeholders and it will have several iterations and alterations until everybody will approve it. Be aware of the legacy applications owners, they are very protective of their applications and do not like any kind of change. It is quite possible that the approved HLD will have a few legacy applications “transformed” via the good old “lift and shift” method of the belonging servers!
  • A new artefact, the Detailed Design (DD) solution document will be created based on the approved HLD. As the name suggest, the DD will have all the technical details for the Transformation, all hardware new racks locations, physical and virtual servers, storage and network appliances IP addresses, applications connectivity ports,  data replications, backup and archiving details, DR fail-over details, inter-DC connectivity details, redundant multi-Telco internet connectivity details and many, many more.  Also, will have detailed financials. The DD document will be as well pee-reviewed by the Solution Architects and reviewed /approved by the stakeholders. After approval the DD becomes the official document for implementing the transformation.
  • The Implementation phase is what we were waiting for. Paradoxically, the input of the EA team at this stage is minimal. Did I mentioned that from the beginning of the Programme there was a Program Manager and a team of Project Managers (PM) assigned to the Transformation? Well, yes, they were working hard behind the scenes, getting resources for the whole Programme, getting approvals for the SMEs to perform the physical audits in the DCs, submitting and following the purchase orders for all the new equipment, making sure that the designated area in the DC has the proper racks, requested power, connectivity, Internet access, etc. The Solution Architects will assist the PMs with the conversion of the DD document into a detailed implementation plan, taking into account the business requirement for zero or Minimal Down Time (MDT) for the Production environment, not mentioning the approved Change window for Prod environment which is usually Saturday 11:00 pm to Sunday 5:00 am.

And you know the two words you do not want to hear on a Sunday at 1:00 am? Roll back!

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  1. The above is a very high level presentation of a transformation scenario. If you want more details or need help with a similar project, contact me: ilie.mihut@dashinternational.com.au