Data Centre Leadership - The New Frontier

Published: 23 April 2014

In a recent conversation about Big Data with the Sales VP of a leading telecoms provider he unceremoniously described it as “the room in your house where you put all the things you don’t need.” I am sure many would disagree with this hypothesis, and I don’t seek to prove or disprove its validity! However the metaphor resonated with me as a real world example of data consumption; imagine, if you will, all the possessions in your house were to double in number in the next year, then that number double again the following year. It is a frightening proposition which undoubtedly would lead to much head scratching. Fortunately, we are unlikely to experience this phenomenon in our homes.

Conversely, this is the exact scenario CIO’s face, driven by their internal client’s desire to manage and use all available data. Estimates suggest that the volume of business data doubles every 1.2 years. This pressure is increasingly pushed to the vendors and service providers instructed by CIO’s to house and architect the huge compute and storage infrastructures required to quench the insatiable thirst for data.

There are many layers of complexity to the big data challenge, including servers, storage, operating systems, databases, analytics and CRM but ultimately all roads lead to the data centre (DC). The CBRE 2013 Q4 report “European Data Centres Market View” highlights this, with a marked return to increased demand and vendor supply. Savvy and sophisticated investors looking to find the “new frontier” are increasing their investments in emerging markets (Nordics, Eastern Europe, Africa etc,) driving the construction of thousands of square meters of DC space across tens of countries in EMEA.

The humble shed with a raised floor is becoming one of the key battle grounds for the private equity warriors, as they seek huge multipliers on their portfolios revenues. The race for DC profits is further fuelled by the consumers of the facilities (banks, telco’s, SI’s, governments) seeking to off-load these capex sink holes from the balance sheet.

The data centre eco system is reacting to the surge in demand, by innovating in the methods of building and the complexity of hardware and software operating inside the DC’s.

  • Design & Build; conventionally a building would be acquired, and then laboriously fitted out by highly skilled engineers to create a secure environment for the installation and management of compute. Modular construction has turned this on its head. “Time to build” and resiliency are becoming the key drivers. As an extreme example Huawei have joined a number of suppliers able to offer a substantial DC (including redundant power supply) inside a 40 foot shipping container – delivered and functioning within one week!
  • Hardware & Software; the sophisticated solutions running inside these complex and often vast data centres has also changed drastically, operators are now asking themselves: do we need Vblocks, flash storage, automated provisioning, what DCIM should we use? Previously these were inherently simpler questions or a matter of deciding between the cheap server and the cheapest server.

Location remains critical in every DC build however the tangled web of decisions layered on top is becoming the secondary differentiator for any DC vendors – what should we do, what shouldn’t we do? It is these questions that management (across every function and role) must be equipped to answer and consequently execute against if the investors are to realise their goals.

At Berwick Partners our Technology Consultants have a high level of sector expertise in the infra services market and we regularly work with specialist functional consultants for assignments across Construction/Development, Finance and HR. We are also able to work closely with our colleagues in the Odgers Berndtson network of 52 offices worldwide. This allows us to offer a highly effective solution for clients, looking to acquire leadership talent involved in the provision of regional and global IT infrastructure services.

Callum Wallace is a Consultant in the Technology Practice at Berwick Partners. He specialises in recruiting commercial talent in the Technology industry.

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