If companies want to move forward in their digital transformation strategies, they need to free up the capacity of their IT teams, says JP Smith, director pre-sales emerging EMEA at Hitachi Vantara

The latest spate of power cuts has left South Africans with a lot to curse about. Jo’burg traffic is off the charts, businesses are faced with non-stop interruptions and news headlines remind us this is just the beginning.

IT teams that manage data centres have particular cause for alarm. While most data centres are equipped with back-up generators, their running costs and operational efficiency will undoubtedly be impacted by rolling blackouts.

The good news is that technology has reached a point whereby much of a data centre’s overall facility planning can be automated, drawing on extensible frameworks to manage the impact of variables such as power.

But, the problem is that IT professionals are still battling to help businesses reach this level of ‘data centre Nirvana’.

An uphill battle

For most companies the road to digital transformation remains an uphill battle. This is particularly clear when we look at successful implementation of analytics – something that is vital to digital transformation.

According to Forrester, businesses across the world are simply not getting it right. While 74% of firms say they want to be data-driven, a paltry 29% say they are actually good at connecting analytics to action.

The crux of the challenge lies with the day-to-day grind that swallows up organisational IT capacity. Most IT teams are very interrupt-driven. Their time is consumed by tasks, such as development testing (DevTest), installations and break/fix.

While they run around consumed by thoughts of how they are conducting their DevTests internally, what they are doing to roll new applications into production and how they are accommodating break/fix every day, they simply don’t have time to contemplate how they are going to help the company innovate.

The end result is that many organisations will outsource the development of their digital transformation strategies to consulting agencies. This might seem like a good solution, but consider this – not only is the business now absorbing the considerable cost of this consultation, but it’s also relying on third parties who haven’t got the same first-hand knowledge of its systems as the in-house IT team.

In fact, the IP held by the internal team sees them perfectly placed to drive the organisation’s next phase of development.

Freeing up IT capacity

The team simply needs access to technology that can help alleviate their day-to-day grind and free up some time for them to focus on innovation.

There are a number of tools that apply. Advanced system management, for example, makes it easier to configure systems. Protection management, on the other hand, simplifies the process of making sure data is protected on and off-site – a feature which is becoming increasingly important in light of increasing focus on data protection regulations.

While automation tools can also be invaluable in helping to speed up installation processes, analytics packages assist in optimising the data centre environment. This then speeds up break/fix activities, because it provides the IT team with a view of the entire data path. Key, however, is that these products be able to work together in order to provide one set of insights.

For the time being, most companies will be working in environments where these operations are siloed. So each of the above-mentioned processes will come with a different report, such that the administrator then has to manually collate them all.

One set of insights

It’s for this exact reason that Hitachi has been focused on developing a suite of products that talk to one another. From the Hitachi Storage Advisor to the Hitachi Data Instance Director, the Hitachi Automation Director and the Hitachi Infrastructure and Analytics Advisor – the ecosystem of products work together to provide one set of insights.

At the end of the day this makes it much easier for the IT team to understand what’s happening in their IT environment without having to absorb the burden of manual data science themselves.

When these products interact together they can literally self-optimise a range of different capabilities, such as performance and assessment around data protection objectives.

The combined set of insights can then also start to be used for predictive planning around performance and capacity.

Suddenly IT teams are freed up from the more repetitive tasks involved in data centre management and they can focus on taking the IT environment to the next level.

After all, it makes far more sense for computers to be handling the more monotonous tasks as it’s the future-forward planning that requires creativity.

And with the new level of facility planning that is handled by the data centre itself, issues like power management also involve less stress.

This is where the massive opportunity for IT professionals lies – not only in helping businesses maximise the value of their data, but in actually assisting them to make more strategic planning decisions.

With no end to the power crisis in sight, it’s a capability that will be more important than ever.