Kelly HemphillPublic sector organizations – from federal agencies to state and local governments and universities – are looking to modernize their data centers to keep up with the compute needs of today’s data rich world, as well as to meet mandates, adhere to regulations, and serve end-users better.

Government IT professionals need to know that data center modernization is about understanding where you are, where you could be, and plotting the path between. Modernization is really based on a concept of managing change in an effective way and as a part of the process of treating IT as a core business proposition.  Those who accomplish these tasks best will have a decided competitive advantage, greater agility and flexibility, reduced time to market and an increased share of revenue to help offset costs.

But there are some best practices that public sector IT leaders need to internalize to avoid common pitfalls.

  • Tip Number 1 — Maturing IT Operations and Delivery

If your organization is still operating in a mainframe deployment model it’s time to rethink.  You might think it doesn’t happen, but I have worked recently with a client with two sites that use the traditional 1980s mainframe replication and recovery models, in which there is a production site and then data is pumped to a secondary site. There is no compute happening at the second site, but data is stored there in case something goes wrong. In today’s world, there is an expectation for data recovery and business continuity (BCDR) capabilities, but there’s also an expectation that data can be accessed regularly to fuel multiple projects across and within organizations.  This is the era of ‘Always On’ business capability; compute capability is critically important as part of a rapid recovery in BCDR plans.


  • Tip Number 2 – Understand Your Organization’s Role as an Internal Cloud Provider

Public sector organizations can generate enormous benefits by becoming an inter-agency or intra-organization cloud provider, but only if they understand what they are building.  A common mistake is to build a ‘big bucket’ or ‘giant container’ for shared services where every partner, or subscriber, organization is lumped together. Designing and organizing in this way, without proper segmentation, erodes the benefits of being a cloud-provider. Without proper rules for segmentation, containerization, virtualization and isolation, technology refresh is difficult and becomes a drag on personnel and resources.  In many cases organizations are running multiple years behind in refresh, or are struggling to minimize and streamline the impacts to their business.   For example, if 50 agencies are comingled across multiple pieces of infrastructure it can be very difficult to gain authority to migrate and to ensure scope of impact in technology refresh activities.  Being able to create traceability and ownership, as well as scope and scale of impact, is a critical success factor to the organization.  Without this visibility it’s difficult to fund a complete technology refresh or to complete it on time.  In extreme cases this can cause business disruption and increased costs in maintenance and manpower.


  • Tip Number 3 – Develop Baseline Metrics

Data Center modernization projects should include metrics.  Once you have instituted effective rules around compartmentalization, so the data life cycle can be managed, metrics can show the access, usage and performance characteristics as a baseline.  This allows for better first placement of data in migration activities and greater success in operations.  The key here is to establish your policies and ensure you establish a relevant baseline and metrics program.

Using policy and metrics will guide strategic change over time and improve your delivery to the business.  Re-architecting and other modernization activities should be guided by factors such as the mission criticality of the data.  This alignment to business relevant metrics and characterization will allow effective management of data throughout its lifecycle.


Interested in learning more about best practices for data center modernization?  Kelly recently participated in a webinar hosted by IDC on this topic.  You can access the on-demand recording here.