Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tag-Team of HP Workshops Provides Essential Path to IT Maturity Assessment and a Data Center Transformation Journey

Transcript of a sponsored podcast discussion on two HP workshops that help businesses determine actual IT needs and provide a roadmap for improving data center operations and efficiency.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on some fast-moving trends by addressing the need for data center transformation (DCT). We'll also identify some proven ways that explore how to do DCT effectively.

The pace of change, degrees of complexity, and explosion around the uses of new devices and increased data sources are placing new requirements and new strain on older data centers. Research shows that a majority of enterprises are either planning for or are in the midst of data center improvements and expansions.

Deciding how to best improve your data center however is not an easy equation. Those building new data centers need to contend with architectural shifts to cloud and hybrid infrastructure models, as well as the need to cut total cost and reduce energy consumption for the long-term.

An added requirement for new data centers is to satisfy the needs of both short-and long-term goals, by effectively jibing the need for agility now with facility decisions that may well impact the company for 20 years or more.

We are going to examine two ongoing HP workshops as a means for better understanding DCT and for accurately assessing a company’s maturity in order to know how to begin a DCT journey and where it should end up.

We're here with rather three HP experts on the Data Center Transformation Experience Workshop and the Converged Infrastructure Maturity Model Workshop. Please join me now in welcoming Helen Tang, Solutions Lead for Data Center Transformation and Converged Infrastructure Solution for HP Enterprise Business. Welcome, Helen.

Helen Tang: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: We're also here with Mark Edelmann, Senior Program Manager at HP’s Enterprise Storage, Servers, and Network Business Unit. Welcome, Mark.

Mark Edelmann: Thank you, Dana. Good to be here.

Gardner: And also Mark Grindle, Business Consultant for Data Center Infrastructure Services and Technology Services in HP Enterprise Business. Welcome, Mark.

Mark Grindle: Hi, Dana. Thanks a lot.

Gardner: Helen, as I mentioned, this is a very difficult situation for organizations. Lots of conflicting data is coming in, and many changes, many different trends are impacting this. Why don’t we try to set the stage a little bit for why DCT is so important, but also why it's no easy task.

Exciting times

Tang: Absolutely, Dana. As you said, there are a lot of difficulties for technology, but also if you look at the big picture, we live in extremely exciting times. We have rapidly changing and evolving business models, new technology advances like cloud, and a rapidly changing workforce.

What the world is demanding is essentially instant gratification. You can call it sort of an instant-on world, a world where everything is mobile, everybody is connected, interactive, and things just move very immediately and fluidly. All your customers and constituents want their need satisfied today, in an instant, as opposed to days or weeks. So, it takes a special kind of enterprise to do just that and compete in this world.

You need to be able to serve all of these customers, employees, partners, and citizens -- 0r if you happen to be a government organization -- with whatever they want or need instantly, any point, any time, through any channel. This is what HP is calling the Instant-On Enterprise, and we think it's the new imperative.

Gardner: When you say instant-on, it means that companies have to respond to their customers at almost lightning speed, but we are talking about infrastructures that can take years to build out. How do you jibe the two, the need to be instant, in terms of how you respond, but recognizing that this is a very difficult, complex, and timely process?

Tang: Therein lies the challenge. Your organization is demanding ever more from IT -- more innovation, faster time to market, more services -- but at the same time, you're being constrained by older architectures, inflexible siloed infrastructure that you may have inherited over the years. How do you deliver this new level of agility and be able to meet those needs?

You have to take a transformational approach and look at things like converged infrastructure as a foundation for moving your current data center to a future state that’s able to support all of this growth, with virtualized resource pools, integrated automated processes across the data center, with an energy-efficient future-proofed physical data center design, that’s able to flex and meet these needs.

Gardner: Of course, one of the larger trends too is that technology is just more important to more companies in more ways. This is not something you do just to support your employees. It really is core to most companies in how they actually conduct business, and is probably one of the chief determinants of their success.

So doing DCT is really part and parcel with how well you actually run your business -- or am I overstating it?

Tang: That’s absolutely true. We talked earlier about how being an Instant-On Enterprise is an imperative. Why do we call it that? Well, because these vast changes are coming, and you don’t have a choice.

If you look at just a few examples of some of these changes in the world of IT, number one is devices. I think you mentioned this earlier. There’s an explosion of devices being used: smartphones, laptops, TouchPads, PDAs. According to the Gartner Group, by 2014, that’s less than three years, 90 percent of organizations will need to support their corporate applications on personal devices. Is IT ready for that? Not by a long shot today.

Architecture shifts

Another trend that we see is some of these architecture shifts. Cloud obviously is very hot today, but two or three years ago a lot of CIOs pooh-poohed the idea and said, "Oh, that’s not real. That’s just hype." Well, the trend is really upon us.

Another Gartner stat: in the next four years, 43 percent of CIOs will have the majority of their IT infrastructure and organizations and apps running in the cloud or in some sort of software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology. Most organizations aren’t equipped to deal with that.

Last but not least, look at your workforce. In less than 10 years about half of the workforce will be millennials, which is defined as people born between the year of 1981 and 2000 -- the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. This is a Forrester statistic.

This younger generation grew up with the Internet. They work and communicate very differently from the workforce of today and they will be a main constituency for IT in less than 10 years. That’s going to force all of us to adjust to different types of support expectations, different user experiences, and governance.

Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate and adaptive manner.

Gardner: So, as we recognize that the workloads, the requirements placed on IT are shifting, the data center needs to respond to that as well. I guess it’s important to know where you are, how well you have done in adjusting to what you have been serving up in the last several years in order to know what you need to do in order to be able to provide for these new requirements that we are describing.

Let’s start talking about one of these first workshops. It’s about the Maturity Model, a better understanding of where you are. I guess there is an order to these workshops. This one seems to be in the right order. You have to know where you are before you can decide where to go.

So let’s move to Mark Edelmann. Tell me a little bit about the Converged Infrastructure Maturity Model and why it’s important, as I said, to know where you are before you start charting the course in any detail to the future.

Edelmann: Before we dive into the maturity model though, I recently bumped into a definition on Wikipedia about maturity and I thought it might be useful to consider your IT environment as you listen to this definition that I picked up.
"Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate how a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate and adaptive manner. The response is generally learned rather than instinctive and is not determined by one’s age. Maturity also encompasses being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act appropriately according to the situation."
Now, that probably sounds a little bit like what you might want your infrastructure to behave like and to actually achieve a level of maturity, and that’s exactly what the Maturity Model Workshop is all about.

Overall assessment

The Maturity Model consists of an overall assessment, and it’s a very objective assessment. It’s based on roughly 60 questions that we go through to specifically address the various dimensions, or as we call them domains, of the maturity of an IT infrastructure.

We apply these questions in a consultative, interactive way with our customers, because some of the discussions can get very, very detailed. Asking these questions of many of our customers that have participated in these workshops has been a new experience. We're going to ask our customers things that they probably never thought about before or have only thought of in a very brief sort of a way, but it’s important to get to the bottom of some of these issues.

As a result of examining the infrastructure’s maturity along these lines, we're able to establish a baseline of the maturity of the infrastructure today. And, in the course of interviewing and discussing this with our customers, we also identify where they would like to be in terms of their maturity in the future. From that, we can put together a plan of how to get from here to there.

Gardner: When you say a workshop, are these set up so that people physically go there and you have them in different places, or is there a virtual version where people can participate regardless of where they are? How does that work?

Edelmann: We've found it’s much more valuable to sit down face to face with the customer and go through this, and it actually requires an investment of time. There’s a lot of background information that has to be gathered and so forth, and it seems best if we're face to face as we go through this and have the discussion that’s necessary to really tease out all the details.

The impact of mergers and acquisitions has kind of forced some customers to put together different technologies, different platforms, using different vendors.

Gardner: I'd like to understand a little bit more, Mark, why you break out maturity versus installed base. Help me understand what it takes in order to succeed and what you typically find with these companies? Do they find that they are further ahead than they thought or further behind when we look at this through that distinct lens of maturity?

Edelmann: Most of our customers find out that they are a lot further behind than they thought they were. It's not necessarily due to any fault on their part, but possibly a result of aging infrastructure, because of the economic situation we have been in, disparate siloed infrastructure as a result of building out application focused stacks, which was kind of the way we approached IT historically.

Also, the impact of mergers and acquisitions has kind of forced some customers to put together different technologies, different platforms, using different vendors and so forth. Rationalizing all that can leave them in kind of a disparate sort of a state. So, they usually find that they are a lot further behind than they thought.

Gardner: And, because you've been doing this for quite some time and you've been doing it around the world, you have a pretty good set of data. You have some good historical trend lines to examine, so you have certain domains and certain stages of maturity that you have been able to identify.

Maybe you could help us understand what those are and then relate how folks can then place themselves on those lines, not only to know where they are, but have a sense of how far it is they need to go to get to that higher level of maturity they're seeking.

Edelmann: Sure. We can talk through that level of detail and you can familiarize yourself, at least verbally, with how this model is set up and so forth.

4x5 matrix

Picture, if you will, a 4x5 matrix. We examine the customer’s infrastructure in four, what we call, domains. These domains consist of technology and architecture, management tools and processes, the culture and IT staff, and the demand, supply, and IT governance aspects of the infrastructure and the data center operations. Those are the four domains in which we ask these questions and make our assessment.

From that, as we go through this, through some very detailed analysis that we have done over the years, we're able to position the customer’s infrastructure in one of five stages:
  • The first stage, which is where most people start, is in Stage 1; we call that Compartmentalized and Legacy, which is rather essentially the least-mature stage.
  • From there we move to Stage 2, which we call Standardized.
  • Stage 3 then is Optimized.
  • Stage 4 gets us into Automated and a Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), and,
  • Stage 5 is more or less IT utopia necessary to become the Instant-On Enterprise that Helen just talked about. We called that Adaptively Sourced Infrastructure.
We evaluate each domain under several conditions against those five stages and we essentially wind up with a baseline of where the customer stands.

We've been doing this for a while and we've done a lot of examinations across the world and across various industries. We have a database of roughly 1,400 customers that we then compare the customer’s maturity to. So, the customer can determine where they stand with regards to the overall norms of IT infrastructures.

It's a difficult and a long journey to get to that level, but there are ways to get there, and that’s what we're here for.

We can also illustrate to the customer what the best-in-class behavior is, because right now, there aren’t a whole lot of infrastructures that are up at Stage 5. It's a difficult and a long journey to get to that level, but there are ways to get there, and that’s what we're here for.

Gardner: I want to make sure I've got this straight in terms of the order of these workshops and why how they play off of one another. Maybe, Helen, you could come back in and help understand which one you see people doing first and which one you think is the one that makes the more sense?

Tang: Both workshops are great. It's not really an either/or. I would start with the Data Center Transformation Experience Workshop, because that sets the scene in the background of how I start to approach this problem. What do I think about? What are the key areas of consideration? And, it maps out a strategy on a grander scale.

The CI Maturity Model Assessment specifically gets into when you think about implementation. Let's dive in and really drill deep into your current state versus future state when it comes to these five domains that Mark just described.

Gardner: Let's go now to the Data Center Transformation Experience Workshop with Mark Grindle. First, do you share Helen’s perspective on the order, and what would people gain by entering into the Data Center Transformation Experience Workshop first? Then, you can then fill us in a little bit on what it's about?

Interesting workshop

Grindle: Thanks, Dana. I agree with what Helen said. It really is more structured if you do the Data Center Transformation Experience Workshop first and then follow that up with the Maturity Model. It's very interesting workshop, because it's very different from any other workshop, at least that I have ever participated in. It's not theoretical and it's also extremely interactive.

It was originally designed and set up based on HP IT’s internal transformation. So, it's based on exactly what we went through to accomplish all the great things that we did, and we've continued to refine and improve it based on our customer experiences too. So, it's a great representation of our internal experiences as well as what customers and other businesses and other industries are going through.

During the process, we walk the customer through everything that we've learned, a lot of best practices, a lot of our experiences, and it's extremely interactive.

Then, as we go through each one of our dimensions, or each one of the panels, we probe with the customer to discuss what resonates well with them, where they think they are in certain areas, and it's a very interactive dialog of what we've learned and know and what they've learned and know and what they want to achieve.

The outcome is typically a very robust document and conversation around how the customer should proceed with their own transformation, how they should sequence it, what their priorities are, and true deliverables -- here are the tasks you need to take on and accomplish -- either with our help or on their own.

It’s a great way of developing a roadmap, a strategy, and an initial plan on how to go forward with their own transformational efforts.

It’s a great way of developing a roadmap, a strategy, and an initial plan on how to go forward with their own transformational efforts.

Gardner: And the same question to you, Mark Grindle, about location. Is this something you prefer to do face to face as Mark Edelmann mentioned, or is this something that people can gather virtually or through road shows? How does it actually come to the market?

Grindle: It absolutely has to be face-to-face. We use a very large conference room and we set up these panels around the room. Each one of these panels is floor to ceiling and height. There are about 4 feet by 5, or 5.5 feet high, and we walk through a series of 10 panels that approaches each of the dimensions of transformation, as we look at it.

So having all the people in the room and being able to be interactive face to face, as well as reference panels that you might have gone through or that you are about to go through as different points in the conversation come up, is critical to having a successful workshop.

Designed around strategy

It's definitely designed around strategy. Most people, when they look at transformation, think about their data centers, their servers, and somewhat their storage, but really the goal of our workshop is to help them understand, in a much more holistic view, that it's not just about that typical infrastructure. It has to do with program management, governance, the dramatic organizational change that goes on if you go through transformation.

Applications, the data, the business outcomes, all of this has to be tied in to to ensure that, at end of the day, you've implemented a very cost-effective solution that meets the needs of the businesses. That really is a game-changing type of move by your organization.

Gardner: And, as part of some of the trends we mentioned, building these for the long-term means that you're building for operational efficiency. The total cost, of course, over time is going to be that ongoing operational penalty or, if you do it right, perhaps payback. How do you help people appreciate the economics of the data center, and how important is that to people in these workshops?

Grindle: The financials are absolutely critical. There are very few businesses today that aren’t extremely focused on their bottom line and how they can reduce the operational cost.

Certainly, from the HP IT experience, we can show, although it's not a trivial investment to make this all happen, the returns are not only normally a lot larger than your investment, but they are year-over-year savings. That’s money that typically can be redeployed to areas that really impact the business, whether it's through manufacturing, marketing, or sales. This is money that can be reinvested in the business, and allowed to help grow the areas that really will have future impact on the growth of the business, while reducing the cost of your data centers and your operation.

Even though you're driving down the cost of your IT organization, you're not giving up quality and you are not giving up technology.

Interestingly enough, what we find is that, even though you're driving down the cost of your IT organization, you're not giving up quality and you are not giving up technology. You actually have to implement new technologies and robust technologies to help bring your cost down. Things like automations, operational efficiency, ITIL processes all help you drive the saving while you are allowed to upgrade your systems and your environments to current technologies and new technologies.

And, while we're on the topic of cost savings, a lot of times when we are talking to customer about transformation, it's normally being driven by some critical IT imperative, like they're out of space in their data center and they're about to look at building out a new data center or perhaps a obtaining a collocation site. A lot of times we find that we sit down and talk with them about how they can modernize their application, tier their storage, go with higher density equipment, virtualize their servers, they actually can free up space and avoid that major investment of the new data center.

Gardner: That gets back to the definition of maturity, where it might not necessarily mean bringing in trucks and pouring cement. It could very well mean transforming in a way that ekes out more productivity from your existing facilities before you rush into something new. Is that typically the case? How often does that really happen where you can wring out enough efficiency to postpone the actual new facility?

Grindle: It happens time and time again. I am working with a company right now that was looking at going to eight data centers and by implementing a lot of these new technologies -- higher virtualization rates, improvements to their applications, and better management of their data on their storage. We're trying to get them down into two data centers. So right there is a substantial change. And, that’s just an example of things that I have seen time and time again, as we've done these workshops.

A big part of this is working through what the customer really needs and what their business drivers really are. In some cases, we're finding out that brick and mortar aren’t really the right solutions for their data centers. They should look at collocation or even at more creative solutions like the HP Data Center POD, where you can stand up one of these containers filled with high density, very modern equipment, and meet all their needs without doing anything to your existing data center.

It's all about walking through the problems and the issues that are at hand and figuring out what the right answers are to meet their needs, while trying to control the expense.

What's next?

Gardner: Okay, I am starting to get it now. I see why these two workshops play off of one another, because you are laying out all the things that have happened at HP, what to expect, and what some of the alternatives are. That way you've got in your mind a set of alternative directions. Then, by doing the Maturity Model, you get a sense of where you are and where you can go, and putting the two together can start you on that path.

Let’s look at that future path a little bit. Folks have taken these workshops and gotten a better sense of the holistic full total equation. What usually happens next? What's the process from research, understanding, and knowledge to actually starting to hammer out a definition of what you and your particular situation as an organization should do?

Let me fire that first off at you, Helen.

Tang: As often happens, it depends. It’s based on your organization’s business needs. Where are you trying to go in the next year, two years, or five years? It’s also based on the level of constraint that you face right now in the data center.

We see one of two paths. In the more transformational approach, whereby you have the highest level of buy-in, all the way up to the CIO and sometimes CFO and CEO, you lay out an actual 12-18 month plan. HP can help with that, and you start executing towards that. You say, "Okay, what would be the first step?" A lot of times, it makes sense to standardize, consolidate. Then, what is the next step? Sometimes that’s modernizing applications, and so on. That’s one approach we have seen.

A lot of organizations don’t have the luxury of going top-down and doing the big bang transformation. Then, we take a more project-based approach. It still helps them a lot going through these two workshops. They get to see the big picture and all the things that are possible, but they start picking low-hanging fruit that would yield the highest ROI and solve their current pain points.

A lot of organizations don’t have the luxury of going top-down and doing the big bang transformation.

Often, in these past few years, it has been virtualization. What is my current virtualization level? How do I take it up to maximum efficiency? And then, look to adjacent projects. So, the next step might be consolidation, or automation, and so on.

Gardner: Mark Edelmann, same to you. Are there some typical scenarios that you've seen that folks when they have digested the implications from these workshops then have a vision or a direction, and what typically would that be?

Edelmann: Helen did a great job of outlining it, because different customers start at different places and they are headed for different places. Often, the journey is a little bit different from one customer to the other.

The Maturity Model Workshop you might think of as being at a little lower level than the Data Center Transformation Workshop. As a result of the Maturity Model Workshops, we produce a report for the customer to understand -- A is where I'm at, and B is where I'm headed. Those gaps that are identified during the course of the assessment help lead a customer to project definitions.

In some cases, there may be some obvious things that can be done in the short term and capture some of that low-hanging fruit -- perhaps just implement a blade system or something like that -- that will give them immediate results on the path to higher maturity in their transformation journey.

Multiple starting points

There are multiple starting points and consequently multiple exit points from the Maturity Model Workshop as well.

Gardner: Mark Grindle, same kind of question. How do people take what they've gathered here to use it? Any stories or anecdotes about what you have seen people do with this that has helped them?

Grindle: Mark and Helen were both right in their comments. The result of the workshop is really a sequence series of events that the customer should follow up on next. Those can be very specific items, like gather your physical server inventories so that that can be analyzed, to other items such as run a Maturity Model Workshop, so that you can understand where you are in each of the areas and what the gaps are, based on where you really want to be.

It’s always interesting when we do these workshops, because we pull together a group of senior executives covering all the domains that I've talked about -- program management, governance -- their infrastructure people, their technology people, their applications people, and their operational people, and it’s always funny, the different results we see.

I had one customer that said to me that the deliverable we gave them out in the workshop was almost anti-climatic versus what they learned in the workshop. What they had learned during this one was that many people had different views of where the organization was and where it wanted to go.

It’s a great learning collaborative event that brings together a lot of the thoughts on where they want to head.

Each was correct from their particular discipline, but from an overarching view of what are we trying to do for the business, they weren’t all together on all of that. It’s funny how we see those lights go on as people are talking and you get these interesting dialogs of people saying, "Well, this is how that is." And someone else going, "No, it’s not. It’s really like this."

It’s amazing the collaboration that goes on just among the customer representatives above and beyond the customer with HP. It’s a great learning collaborative event that brings together a lot of the thoughts on where they want to head. It ends up motivating people to start taking those next actions and figuring out how they can move their data centers and their IT environment in a much more logical, and in most cases, aggressive fashion than they were originally thinking.

Gardner: It sounds like a very powerful exercise for a lot of different reasons. For those folks interested, how could they learn more about these workshops? Are there some resources out there whereby they go to find them? Let me start with you, Helen.

Tang: The place to go would be hp.com/go/dct.

Gardner: That’s pretty straightforward. Any other thoughts Mark and Mark about where you could go to pursue information if you were starting to get interested in these workshops?

Edelmann: Well, it’s probably not a big surprise, but to learn more about the CI Maturity Model, you can go to hp.com/go/cimm.

Gardner: And Mark Grindle?

Grindle: I agree with both of those. Obviously your HP account rep can help you. We have an HP IT Forum coming up soon. For people who are attending, we do mini workshops during this event. We set up a day that individual customers can come in for an hour and we walk them through each one of the panels very quickly and give them a flavor for what the full workshop would look like. There are a lot of options here for people to get a better understanding of the workshop and how it can help them.

Gardner: So, you can get the appetizer before the entrée?

Grindle: Absolutely.

Gardner: Well, thank you. You have been listening to a sponsored podcast discussion on the need for DCT and some proven ways that explore how to do DCT effectively.

I would like to thank our guests. We have been joined by Helen Tang, Solutions Lead for Data Center Transformation and Converged Infrastructure Solutions for HP Enterprise Business. Thanks again, Helen,

Tang: Thanks, Dana. Always a pleasure.

Gardner: And Mark Edelmann, Senior Program Manager, HP’s Enterprise Storage, Servers, and Networking Business Unit. Thanks to you, Mark.

Edelmann: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And lastly, Mark Grindle, Business Consultant, Data Center Infrastructure Services in the Technology Services within HP Enterprise Business. Thanks to you.

Grindle: Thank you, Dana. It was great being here.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Learn more. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a sponsored podcast discussion on two HP workshops that help businesses determine actual IT needs and provide a roadmap for improving data center operations and efficiency.Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.

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