Questions CIOs Need To Ask When Building New Data Centers

New data centers are expensive and must be planned correctly
New data centers are expensive and must be planned correctly

Image Credit: Intel Free Press

As the person with the CIO job, one of the most expensive decisions that you may ever make will have to do with the decision to build a new data center for your company. For all the talk of the benefits of “the cloud”, most companies still have data and applications that they fell most comfortable running and storing on machines that they own. Deciding to expand the data center that you already have is a big decision. Are you asking the right questions?

Traditional Data Center Planning Questions

As the people in the CIO position, I think that we are all reasonably comfortable with what it takes to run a data center. We understand that this is the place where the company chooses to keep its “crown jewels”. Therefore we have a number of obligations as the company’s CIO in order to make sure that we have the room to store and process everything that we’ll have to do as well as keep it secure.

One of the things that bedevils most CIOs is the simple fact that our current data centers rarely started out that way. Once upon a time the company had some computers in a back room that they used to run the company. Over time the company’s needs grew and eventually you had to expand into a “real” data center. When this happened, all of sudden you were faced with having to make decisions about important things like racks, cooling, power and physical security.

However, once the initial round of decision making was over, thinking about your data center probably slid into the back of your mind. It’s not an everyday issue that CIOs have to deal with. However, as with all such things in the world, the company’s understanding of the importance of information technology has kept growing and along with it, their need for more and more data center space. This means that eventually, you are going to be faced with once again having to plan to expand your data center gear into a new, larger location. Are you going to be ready to ask the right questions?

New Questions To Be Asked When Planning A Data Center

I think that we all have to make sure to ask the standard set of questions that everyone asks about a data center: do you have enough capacity, what happens when you have a power failure, do you have redundant connections to the Internet, etc. These used to be enough. However, now there are additional sets of questions that the CIO is going to have to gather answers to.

Two of the most important questions that you need to be asking have to do with the cloud and mobility. Specifically, what are your company’s plans for moving existing enterprise applications into the cloud? The more of these moves that occur, the less floor space in your new data center will be required to support them. At the same time, what is your company’s plans in terms of mobility? Are you rolling out new mobile apps and will you need to be developing the infrastructure needed to support all of those mobile users?

Not all applications are created the same. Some are more important than others. As the CIO you are going to have to take a careful look at the applications that your company is using and make some decisions regarding where you want the most important applications to be placed. At the same time you are going to have to very carefully plan how you are going to be moving these important applications from the data center where they are living today to the new data center where you’ll be able to support their future growth.

What All Of This Means For You

Every company has a set of applications or data that they view as being vital to the company’s long-term success. These IT assets are often determined to not be candidates to be exposed to the outside world by moving them to “the cloud”. This means that the company’s data center is a critical part of how the company is going to operate. As the company and its IT assets grow, there will come a day where you’ll have to move into a new data center. When this day arrives, will you know what questions to ask?

On top of all of the standard questions that CIOs need to ask about things like power, space, security, etc. it turns out that there are additional questions that need answers. These questions have to do with such things as the company’s plans to move applications to the cloud and how they plan on expanding into the world of mobile applications. The importance of applications must be evaluated and once you know what applications are the most important, you need to create a plan for how you are going to get them from where they are to where you’ll want them to be.

Moving to a new data center is both expensive and risky. It is something that has to be done in order for the IT department to keep up with the growing needs of the company. In order to make sure that your transition to a new data center goes smoothly, you as the CIO need to be asking the right types of questions. Take the time to fully understand what kind of answers you need to be collecting and your next data center move can go so smoothly that nobody else in the company ever needs to know that it even happened!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that the most critical or the least critical applications should be moved to the new data center first?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the CIO of your company’s IT department, you’d like to think that you know what’s going on in your departmentbecause of the importance of information technology. I mean, you control the budget for your department and everyone in the department works for you so it makes sense that if you don’t fund it, then it’s not going to happen. Problem solved, right? Not exactly. In today’s hyper connected world, people in your IT department are probably doing things that you don’t know anything about. You’ve got a shadow IT department problem!