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Infrastructure as the Great Differentiator

Donna Taylor is an industry analyst from the firm Neuralytix

In the recent past, organizations viewed data management as a cost-center, something to be managed as a necessary-evil. IT kept track of what happened or simply enabled other parts of the business to make it happen. IT infrastructure was simply a part of the cost of supporting the rest of the business. Longstanding IT vendors sought to make the operation of IT less painful with the advent of different tools with which to contain data growth. However, as ability to collect, analyze and predict trends from the data became more sophisticated, it became evident that value could be extracted from the very data once considered simply a cost to be minimized. For the first time, data specific to not only a particular industry, but to a particular organization or product line, could potentially drive fresh sources of revenue growth. Thus, this data became a treasure to be mined as it allowed an organization to project future opportunities and risks, not simply track the past.

This subtle, but profound, shift afforded organizations the opportunity to be more responsive or to even anticipate, not simply react to, rapidly-changing and often temporary market conditions, environmental patterns or pop culture trends. In this way, companies could not only survive, but thrive in response to difficult times, as well as in good. From a consumer marketing standpoint, as the bar is set ever-higher for customer satisfaction, a key component is anticipating customer needs before they peak and are fulfilled by one’s competitors. The fickle nature and tenuous loyalty of the consumer often results in the common refrain, ‘what have you done for me lately.’ And, this is where data can be a valuable differentiator for organizations…but, only if their IT infrastructure & platforms have the agility, flexibility, & security to allow businesses to roll out new applications to deliver new services demanded by their customers.

Ironically, the economic downturns that have put budgetary pressure on organizations around the world also helped to advance the very technologies that could serve them well into the future. How, you may ask? As budget restrictions rippled throughout companies worldwide, consolidation of IT infrastucture occured. As a result, the often-siloed business units with their own internal IT infrastructure could no longer purchase equipment solely for their area (servers, storage, networking) without regard for the overall IT infrastructure of the organization; thus, effectively tearing down the walls and encouraging the deployment of technologies that would require the cooperation between the formerly-siloed departments. Technologies, such as cloud, Big Data analytics, mobility and social media became a company-wide concern and opportunity.

Once the walls came down, an organization could, for the first time, see across the entire organization’s data. New cause and effect relationships could be determined, such as pricing actions or risk-rewards of entering new markets. Companies could derive value from the very data once considered onerous to manage and little more than a cost-center. What followed was the development of IT infrastructures to mine the data and extract value from it.

However, extracting this new insight was dependent upon a disjointed set of siloed server versus storage versus virtualization offerings, all still based on legacy IT infrastructures. While some advantages were realized even with cumbersome legacy infrastructure, they still came at a cost, because the traditional infrastructure could not be re-configured, expanded or provisioned quickly enough for business needs. Fortunately, technology has now reached the point where the business can now achieve the nimbleness, scalabilty and predictable cost on-site that was once solely the domain of public cloud. The promise of an on-premises enterprise cloud is now a reality through hyperconverged infrastructure, web-scale design and intuitive management interfaces, enabling organizations to derive value from their data on-site with greater agility, flexibility, and security. This new approach seamlessly integrates and simplifies the infrastructure; thus, allowing CIOs to focus their attention on driving revenue through new online business models and insightful analytics rather than just minimizing the cost of IT.