Will cloud drive the data center to extinction?


A Gartner analyst has declared the data center dead. This might come as news to CIOs who currently are managing in-house data centers for their enterprises, but Gartner research vice president Dave Cappuccio predicts that most existing in-house data centers are on their last legs.

“By 2025, 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data center, versus 10% today,” Cappuccio writes.

Today’s on-premises data center, he writes, “is being relegated to that of a legacy holding area, dedicated to very specific services than cannot be supported elsewhere, or supporting those systems that are most economically efficient on-premises.”

That’s hardly a compelling or sustainable value proposition, especially given the 1) competitive need for flexible and scalable IT infrastructures and 2) operational and support costs required to keep an in-house data center running. It’s no surprise, then, that more enterprises have migrated IT services and functions to the cloud and other off-site platforms such as edge computing to improve business responsiveness and efficiency while saving money on hardware, energy and IT support.

Cappuccio suggests abandoning on-premises IT infrastructure will impact enterprises in several ways, but I want to focus on one — the importance of both managing and retraining IT staff for the digital infrastructure of tomorrow, which he calls “critical success factors.”

The real challenge for IT leaders, Cappuccio says, is that their staffs have more to do than ever as their organizations migrate toward a digital infrastructure. “So much more is demanded of individuals, to the point where they are only able to focus on the immediate issue in front of them,” he writes. “Thus, they fall into the siloed nature of thinking and behaving. All this is occurring at a time when the business appetite for the pace of change and the complexity of infrastructures and technology solutions are at an all-time high.”

To counter the effect of such siloed thinking, he writes, “IT leaders must develop staff versatility, complementing vertical expertise with the additional capabilities needed.”

I know, easier said than done. But unless employees anywhere in the enterprise understand and embrace an organization’s strategic goals, they’ll struggle to grasp the big picture. In an environment where multiple technology and business partners have their own needs and agendas, such myopia can be inefficient and counter-productive.

“In distributed digital infrastructures, the added skills required from a versatilist include two critical areas — business knowledge and provider knowledge — and must also be underpinned by the ability to build rapport,” Cappuccio says.

That last part hints at the importance of people skills (yes, even for IT folks!). Beyond that, Cappuccio really is speaking to a trait that will be essential to most workers in the digital economy — adaptability.

As I wrote in June, “Adaptability isn’t a skill. It’s something better: A trait. Traits are more permanent than skills. Traits are always part of who you are, and if you are adaptable, you will be well-positioned to excel in an environment of constant change.”

Bottom line: Data centers may go away, but the need for skilled workers who aren’t contained by any kind of silos will only increase.

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