Understanding where you are today: Assessing the current state of your datacenter

by Sean Thompson (Red Hat)

As technology consultants, we’re typically brought in by a customer to help them get somewhere specific they can’t reach on their own because of resources, skills, time or a host of other reasons. One of the things I’m most surprised by during these engagements, however, is how many IT organizations know where they want to go, but they don’t necessarily know where they are, or swear they are somewhere else. The knowledge they have about their infrastructure and what’s going on in their datacenter right now is extremely limited, or at best stale due to a lack of realtime data.

The value of understanding where you are today is immense, and is an important first step in realizing your IT goals and to help you move towards your ideal datacenter. Knowing where you stand and having a clear map of your current environment shines a light on opportunities to become leaner, to improve performance and automation, and to drive efficiency. The benchmarks you’ll create will help you conduct TCO/ROI calculations that actually mean something, so it will be clear how to become more agile, and become more responsive to the business.

In doing so you’ll also extract more value from your existing investments, as you can better allocate budget to maintain the systems you’re using as opposed to pumping money into legacy technologies that aren’t being used or fully utilized. You’ll be more prepared when emergencies arise. You’ll uncover fragile artifacts that could trigger unplanned downtime or data loss. With your inventory catalogued and information that will be readily available, you’ll also be able to better allocate IT innovation and maintenance projects.

Of course, building this level of understanding is much easier said than done. Time, cost and resources are all omnipresent barriers, but organizations need to find a way.

To get started, engage a cross-functional IT team that includes a mix of architects, technical management and decision-makers regarding IT strategy. This team is integral to conducting a holistic review of the various elements that affect the performance of your IT environment. You’ll then want to conduct an up-to-date inventory, cataloguing the IT services you’re responsible for so you can figure out what’s running, what services are dependent upon your various technologies, who’s responsible for what, how fragile the infrastructure is, and so forth. Once that’s through, remember to establish processes and governance to ensure the inventory is maintained moving forward.

Proactivity is a difficult task, especially in a world where we can easily be buried by the immediate fires at hand. Assessing your environment in this way, however, will not only help ease stress, it will help you be successful today and down the road. Red Hat Consulting offers guidance in this area with strategic engagements designed to improve the efficiency, flexibility and processes of your IT systems. You can always contact me if you’re interested in understanding how to do this for your organization.

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