Thursday, November 23, 2017

Why Service Availability and Resilience needs to start with skills

by Steve Weiner, Senior Lead Product Manager, Global Colocation Services, CenturyLink 

Service availability and resilience in the context of the data centre can often raise many issues, both from a business and operational perspective. Both are undeniably important and fall under the overarching theme of customer experience and customer service.

If we as an industry cannot deliver the right level of satisfaction in providing such critical services, it’s the end of the road – even if the power, cooling and heating might still be working.


Evolving end-user understanding

This is one reason why the skills and competencies of the team running the data centre environment are becoming more and more important. Gone are the days where customers would look solely at the shiny new infrastructure and the levels of redundancy built into the design of the data centre fabric and infrastructure.

Instead, customers now understand that how the data centre is managed day-to-day and the competencies of the staff are actually more important than the age of the building, or how many generators are on-site.

Personally, I am seeing customers asking more and more questions around the ability of the team to deliver consistent, uninterrupted service availability, and the team’s proficiency to use the levels of in-built resilience to provide the right customer experience.

These capabilities absolutely have to be deep enough to maintain the data not only over its lifetime, but way beyond the end of a customer’s contract.

As an industry, we need to realise that our behaviours will have to adapt in the mission-critical environment to drive levels of service availability, and exploit the investment made in resilience.

Areas such as the Internet of Things, converged services, hybrid IT, and many more will only continue to determine the required behaviours for running mission-critical data centre environments.


Changing skills profiles

As IT and toolsets become more and more integrated, the knowledge of the data centre team will need to progress to an even higher level. As the scope of the data centre continues to evolve, teams will need to be thinking even more carefully about security requirements, processes, commercial and legal requirements and technical and customer-facing skill requirements.

All of these areas will impact user experience and customer satisfaction levels – they are all factors that affect service availability and levels of resilience every single day.

We’re also seeing the growing use of automation, so understanding and incorporating this into data centre services to maintain service availability and resilience will also be vital.

If you have a clustered environment over two data centres, for example, understanding the status of this service will be key in determining how Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) is provided. If it’s ignored, it could risk the end users’ service availability or levels of required or contracted resilience.

It’s no secret that our human behaviours in the data centre environment are the largest threat to service availability and resilience.

This means that our behaviours in every intervention in the mission critical environment must be maintained at a minimum, but should also be evolving and adapting. These skills profiles need to be maintained and grown as the demands of the technology and customer expectations also change over time.

If we as an industry can facilitate collaboration amongst our data centre teams by encouraging the adoption of ISO, and other leading industry certifications such as those from the Uptime Institute, we will be able to further enhance levels of service availability, thus maintaining a high level of resilience. By being transparent and demonstrating competency, it will only improve customer satisfaction.

We are at a crucial point in data centre management whereby our thinking needs to extend beyond just the design. We need to be demonstrating our capabilities to properly maintain mission-critical environments whilst proving in-depth knowledge and understanding of the impact of evolving and emerging technologies. If we fail to do so, customer service will become the victim.