Top 6 Areas Where IT Can Create Competitive Business Advantage in the Agile Data Center

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Computing is in a new era. Cloud computing, big data analytics, mobility and social media are defining a new compute platform that will account for nearly half of all IT spending and virtually all spending growth by the end of the decade.

Delivering on the promise of this new era is a major challenge for IT leaders. Most legacy data centers were not designed to handle the speed, agility, storage capacity, bandwidth and other demands necessary to satisfy today’s applications and business requirements.

IT teams are being pressed to build agile data centers that can meet these new performance and capacity demands—without subjecting the organization to increased risk of downtime, data breaches, unavailability of applications or loss of data. In fact, today’s business realities mean that IT must reduce any risks that could potentially affect business operations.

What do you need to know to maximize opportunity while mitigating risk as you shift to a next-generation agile data center? Here are six key areas to address in order to turn your data center into a strategic asset for competitive advantage.

Security
Modern data centers are highly virtualized and, as they continue to evolve, virtualization is expanding beyond servers and into networks and storage, enabling the software-defined enterprise. In today’s more advanced and sophisticated threat landscape, protecting these highly virtual data centers requires approaches and tools that go beyond traditional protection technologies such as antivirus and antimalware. Organizations can maximize protection by doing the following:

  • Utilizing a centralized data center security platform that can augment existing security technologies with real-time, proactive security;
  • Enacting threat protection from the fabric of the infrastructure, so security policies automatically follow virtual machines as they move across hosts;
  • Orchestrating security policies across the data center, with automated provisioning of security virtual appliances to hosts and persistent policies that follow workloads across the physical infrastructure;
  • Leveraging new software-defined attributes across the virtual infrastructure to quickly segment networks within the data center—i.e., micro-segmentation to isolate threats and minimize risk.

Protection Against Data Breaches
A major data breach can be crippling: The average cost of a breach to a company is $3.5 million, according to Ponemon Institute’s 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study, an increase of 15% from the previous year. There are a variety of steps organizations can take to prevent and detect potential breaches in highly virtual environments, including moving towards an application-centric protection model that enables the organization to harden virtual machines within the data center. Hardening the data center allows IT to be militant against patching and vulnerability exploits, while controlling breaches caused by malicious insider abuse or system misconfigurations.

Storage
Storage in today’s data center has to meet two compelling and not-always- complementary requirements:

  1. The need for improved performance that is typically being addressed by the deployment of solid-state drives; and
  2. The need for increased capacity that is being driven by astounding data growth that shows no signs of ever abating.

To enable storage to be a competitive advantage in the data center, organizations have to build on a solid management foundation that supports improved speed and capacity, while keeping costs under control. The storage management platform should enable the simple deployment of flash in a tiered architecture, while also supporting storage innovations that help to optimize both performance and capacity, including deduplication, thin provisioning and compression.

High Availability
In highly virtualized environments, each physical machine can host multiple virtual machines, even those supporting mission-critical applications. As virtualization expands from servers to storage and networks, the challenges increase. IT must deploy solutions that not only offer maximum protection and resiliency in the event of unplanned outages, but also eliminate the need for planned downtime—to allow for activities such as maintenance or upgrades—wherever possible. You want to automate the entire business service recovery process for all elements, including the physical and virtual infrastructure, as well as the applications themselves. When thinking about high availability, aim to minimize application downtime and ensure that your data is delivering consistent performance across all workloads.

Disaster Recovery
According to the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of an unplanned data center outage is more than $474,000 per hour, an increase of more than 40% over the past four years, as data centers have become increasingly virtualized. For your data center to provide competitive advantage, you need to minimize the risk of downtime and put in place solutions that will get your business back up and running as quickly as possible. Virtualization provides a variety of tools and processes to improve disaster recovery, but that is relevant in only virtual environments. Most business services are delivered across physical and virtual infrastructure, so you need to take this into consideration as you evaluate your disaster recovery processes and plans. Additionally, you want to be sure your infrastructure and software are configured properly, as constant change is inevitable in the data center. To do this, you need a solution that will analyze configuration information from your production and replication infrastructures to proactively identify configuration errors and disaster recovery risks, and then provide actions for remediation.

Compliance
Regulators are becoming more stringent in setting compliance requirements within specific industries, such as healthcare and financial services, and also across technology disciplines, such as security and data protection. Regulations such as PCI Data Security Standard 3.0 and others require that organizations routinely monitor their environments for policy violations and that they implement controls. To support compliance changes and challenges, your data center security platform should enable you to perform real-time monitoring and consolidate event logs for reporting and analysis, while also providing controls and automated processes to prevent further policy violations.

Taking the Next Step
The agile data center provides a huge opportunity for IT organizations to deliver competitive advantage to the business through reduced costs, enhanced agility and simplified manageability.

However, none of those benefits can be achieved unless the data center is enterprise-ready for the challenges of security, high availability, storage management, data breach protection, disaster recovery and compliance across all types of physical and virtual platforms and infrastructure.

Symantec offers a wide portfolio of solutions that will help you put the right foundation in place for the agile data center. Symantec solutions enable automation, intelligence and policy-based operations across security, data protection, storage, business service high-availability and disaster recovery on any platform. In addition, Symantec solutions are platform-agnostic and support the heterogeneous environments that are typical of most data center environments.

If you’re you ready to move forward with the agile data center of the future, here’s how to get started.