Data Center and C-Suite: Lost in Translation?

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cloudsThe cloud computing conversation is taking place in the boardroom, and the data center manger needs to have a seat at the table, or risk losing control of key decisions about the future. That was the message from Andy Parham, the CEO of Bick Group, in this morning’s opening keynote of the AFCOM Data Center World conference.

“Ours is the most strategically relevant business to the future success of major companies,” Parham said in the opening session at the Marriott World Center in Orlando. “But I believe we don’t do a good enough job connecting the value we deliver to the priorities of the executive office. I don’t see a lot of dialogue between the CEO and the data center, and I think that’s going to change.”

With the onset of the economic crisis, the high cost of data center expansion has become a C-suite issue, Parham said, even as the emergence of cloud computing has offered a new utility model. There’s been plenty of hype and confusion in the cloud computing conversation, but that doesn’t diminish the disruptive impact of the tend over the long-term, Parham said.

“The cloud contains a storm, not a shower,” said Parham. “Your role as a data center professional will be completely turned upside down in this period of change.”

The challenge is that data center professionals too often talk about technology rather than strategy. “We need to sit at the executive table and speak the language of business,” Parham said. “The executive office doesn’t buy data centers and space. What they buy is security and reliability.”

The challenge is that many data center professionals are either skeptical about the cloud or see the emergence of third-party clouds as a threat to the existing order – and their jobs. Parham says data center staff cannot afford to remain “stuck in old paradigms during a period of unbelievable change.”

The conversation about shifting assets to cloud computing is going to take place with or without productive input from the data center team, Parham said. The best strategy for data center management is to be pro-active and ensure that they have a role in shaping the strategy to best reflect the value of the existing data center operation and the potential benefit of running some apps in the cloud.

Parham said it is important for the data center team to “have a clear point of view about the cloud” during these conversations. He also warned attendees that cloud-bashing may be perceived as a defensive reaction, particularly as some cloud solutions begin solving the security challenges that loom large in enterprise resistance to the cloud.

Parham’s focus on translating the data center’s value to the executive suite stems from Bick Group’s consulting work with large companies seeking insight into the future of their IT infrastructure. He said in-house data center teams often are resistant to change, and thus lose a valuable opportunity to influence the process. In a  way, Parham said, he hopes that helping improve the data center team’s engagement with the executive office will help boards act more decisively in managing data center costs.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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