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The customer is King

Article Type:          Published: 07-2014         Views: 1383   



Phil Worms, Director of Marketing for UK cloud company iomart, explains why the customer should be at the heart of how data centres deliver services.

At iomart we were honoured recently to have a major expansion to our data centre in Maidenhead officially opened by the Home Secretary Theresa May. It turned out that it was the first time Mrs May had stepped foot inside a data centre.

Mrs May was guided around the new data halls which feature the first major deployment of Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) and Bi Directional (BiDi) Transmission technology and will ultimately house up to 30,000 physical and as many as 500,000 virtual servers. After viewing the technology she commented, "It is interesting to see that the cloud has a physicality to it and isn't just something up in the ether."

Her reaction is not uncommon among people who work outside our industry. Many have a problem understanding the concept. For some the cloud is an online storage silo for files and music while for others it is a platform to deliver mission critical business services and applications. For those in government it is often seen as more of a procurement issue than one of innovation and enablement. The cloud simply can't be defined without context.

It reminds me of the ancient Indian parable about a group of blind men who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels one part of its body, such as its flank or trunk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement as to what they are describing and experiencing. The men stop talking, start listening and finally collaborate to "see" the full elephant. It is a lesson that our industry needs to heed if we are to witness the sea change in technology procurement that the analysts predict.

For many of us at the consumer end of the IT food chain, we don't really care as long as we are connected and functioning. Do we really consider where our CRM system is hosted, as long as it 'works' when we log in? We give no thought to the mechanics, processes or systems, we just type and send.

The cloud, whatever definition is used, resides in a data centre. And what is undeniable is that the need for data centres is growing apace. As the world continues to double its entire data output every two years, the pressures on storage facilities, bandwidth and computing power increase on a minute by minute basis. Unless we want to see a data centre on every street corner, the ones that already exist are going to have to work smarter to cope with demand. Because so few people get the chance to actually see inside a data centre, we need to illustrate how valuable they are to the economy by explaining what goes on inside them in much simpler terms.

The marketing speak currently is all about Software Defined Data Centres but perhaps we should move it a stage further and refer to Customer Defined Data Centres (CDDCs). This phrase connects us directly to the people who consume our services. It is clear and concise and makes us accountable. It puts customer requirement and need at the forefront of how we architect the physical infrastructure that makes up the backbone of the cloud.

The innovative Cisco and Corning fibre technology deployed in the data centre the Home Secretary visited gives the ability to provision automatically and dynamically through a control panel, whatever services the customers need, at any time and on any scale. The technology has been designed with the end-users, the customers, in mind. The challenge was to make sure each rack of servers was capable of catering for every network requirement, for all business groups, encompassing both initial and rapid future expansion as and when required.

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