CIO’s obviously need to do their decision-making homework in detail to ensure that planning outcomes are in line with reasonableness, cost, performance, risk, opportunity, and growth. If they are to be successful at convincing their enterprise leadership of the wisdom in their plans, they must help their team grasp the overarching factors involved in evaluating complex infrastructure alternatives having broad business impact.
To help CIOs achieve this goal we have identified nine core “success factors” (Figure 2) that comprise a realistic and holistic view of the dominant points that must be considered by lea-dership teams when choosing a location for a data center and/or disaster recovery location.
Success Factor / Decision Implication
Academic Presence: Pathway for the creation of a trained workforce
Connectivity: Speed, bandwidth, and reliability for user transparency
Cost of Living: Quality of life for attracting and retaining talent
Cost of Operations: Achieve and maintain lower, recurring costs
Economic Development: Active citizenship as an emerging community member
Geographic Diversity: Resilient municipal facilities and robust utility resources
Overall Performance: Peak performance is governed by service level agreements
Regulatory Requirements: No additional overhead for compliance requirements
Skilled Workforce: Ample supply of highly qualified regional talent
These success factors were chosen because they represent the most crucial factors for optimal placement of the critical data center assets. More importantly, they need to be viewed in the totality of the mission objectives with an integrated decision approach. The traditionally vital factors of connectivity and cost are now balanced with factors such as the need for geographic diversity and the increasing importance of a highly skilled and agile workforce. Understanding the dynamics of the aging boomer population and increased demand for top information technology resources, a location in proximity to premier academic institutions providing a pipeline of young, technologically-engaged talent is of paramount importance.
This is a trend that has commenced at several locations around the country. In particular, JPMorgan Chase announced last year that it will invest $30 million over 10 years in an innovative university-industry partnership with Syracuse University to create a financial service technology and infrastructure curriculum and training program.
The partnership includes plans for a new corporate technology center on the Syracuse University campus along with scholarships and internships for students. The program will provide a training ground for new and diverse talent in financial services technology and infrastructure. Employees of JPMorgan Chase will join Syracuse University faculty and students to create a comprehensive interdisciplinary curriculum focused on the fields of financial and information technology and to sponsor new research and development activities.
Syracuse University Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor said, “This comprehensive university/industry collaboration between JPMorgan Chase and Syracuse University provides one of those rare opportunities to pool intellectual capital to make an immediate difference in industry, higher education, and our region.”
Virtualization Can Level the Risk Playing Field
Organizations beginning to address the difficult problem of simultaneously trying to focus on their core competencies, maximize the utility of their computing resources, drive recurring costs down, drive growth, and mitigate risk are finding help from a new migration tool in their strategy toolbox – namely “virtualization.”
Virtualization at the data center platform level is the ability to create an adaptive performance cushion between applications and all the hardware resources they require to execute. Virtualization is a tool that at its most basic level provides a mechanism to increase platform resource utilization, while rendering operating costs more manageable.
Information technology organizations are beginning to exploit virtualization concepts to evolve the whole model of “application deployment” to a more utilitarian vision of “application delivery.” They are viewing their application base as a series of binary “images” kept on servers that can be delivered to end-users (employed, outsourced, or “back-up” folks) or to other servers depending on the image representation and the current performance situation.
The expanded benefit of this view is that once a stable virtualized application environment is created within an enterprise, there is no reason why it cannot be “relocated” to execution resources that reside elsewhere. This provides CIOs with the strategic flexibility of placing their application environment onto “external” resources and eliminating internal resources.
Virtualization of user-platforms (e.g., workstations, etc.), development platforms (e.g., simulated production environments, etc.) and execution platforms (e.g., servers, networks, per-formance monitoring, etc.) will allow CIOs to think in terms of giving end-users the “power to perform their respective enterprise functions” irrespective of “where” that application is hosted.
This makes everything in the computing “asset chain” a lower risk candidate for shifting location and real-time redistribution, where connectivity makes end-user or computing asset location basically irrelevant. The bottomline is that virtualization will forever change the way networked communications, applications, and platforms appear to end-users. End-users will utilize a “delivered service model” to perform their function in any location at any time.
Risk Mitigation Meets Real-World Initiatives
An initiative under way in Northeastern Pennsylvania, termed “Wall Street West,” is a solution that incorporates the Success Factor-Based Approach to Risk Mitigation. “Wall Street West” is a not-for-profit initiative funded in part by a $15 million U.S. Department of Labor WIRED (Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development) grant to further enhance the information technology and financial services skills of the workforce throughout the 10-county region.
The initiative in this 10-county region located about 100 miles west of the metropolitan New York area is targeted at providing CIOs with a solution that incorporates cost-effective data back-up, disaster recovery, and secure back-office operations that blend together regional data centers, quality commercial real estate, and a trained workforce to support financial services, healthcare providers, and related firms.
More than $8 million has already been awarded to innovative educational programs at leading universities, community colleges, high schools, and workforce systems in the region, de-monstrating an understanding of the importance of the academic presence and fueling the pipeline with top talent.
In addition, another $24 million of public and private financing has been made available for network infrastructure to meet specific client needs. Pennsylvania selected one of the leading global telecommunications providers to construct additional low latency diverse fiber optic routes to meet stringent customer requirements between Manhattan and the Wall Street West region.
Realizing the criticality of backing up both the New York and U.S. financial system Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said, “The combination of these significant workforce and network infrastructure investments, our lower real estate, power and operating costs, and geographic diversity from New York makes this an ideal solution for financial firms’ back-up operations to mitigate their risk.”
The Wall Street West integrated approach has already had early successes with SECCAS, a secure electronic compliance firm serving premier financial services clients, selecting a data back-up location in Scranton, Pa.
“Our New York-based firm chose Northeastern, Pa., as an ideal location for our disaster recovery facilities. It provides the added benefit of a well educated and experienced workforce, as well as lower operating costs,” said president Dan Summa. Other New York and New Jersey-based firms, realizing the advantages of this location, are currently in the pipeline to follow the SECCAS lead.
In another development DBSi, a regional provider of high availability disaster recovery and data center services, announced in July a major expansion of its facilities in the Wall Street West region.
“Our latest 228,000 square foot facility further enables us to provide our clients in the New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia corporate markets with secure hosting and disaster recovery services outside of the metro threat zones,” said CEO Bill Bachenberg.
“The very competitive operational costs inherent in northeastern Pennsylvania and the pool of well qualified information technology professionals make this an excellent location for our operations.”
The integrated efforts on the part of the workforce and economic development organizations across the entire region are making a substantial difference.
“Wall Street West projects involve a unique type of regional collaboration this is proving successful. By innovatively connecting entities like the educational institutions and workforce investment boards with the regional economic development efforts, they are creating a model for other areas of the state and the nation,” said Dr. Robert Garraty, executive director of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Boards.
Summarizing the Challenges
The world is a dangerously complex place that is becoming increasingly more unpredictable with each passing day. Simultaneously, businesses are driving toward real-time global footprints to dynamically support their end-users, while effectively mitigating risk.
Within this high-pressure boiler, CIOs are being increasingly asked to evolve and diversify their skill sets to deal with the ever-increasing complexity of reducing application and infrastructure costs while achieving optimal performance within a given risk mitigation strategy.
This challenge will soon become impossible for any corporate information technology organization to address without collaboration. In order for CIOs to achieve their performance goals, they will have to convince themselves and their leadership that owning the hardware doesn’t make sense in the long run and that adding virtualization to their risk management strategy will create the bridge to more fertile off-site options.
By understanding their success factors and exploiting virtualization, CIOs will more easily be able to rely upon partnerships with external consortiums of real estate developers, data cen-ter operators, connectivity providers, hardware manufacturers, universities, economic development organizations, and governments. The outcome of this collaboration will provide the computing and disaster recovery facilities required to drive productivity and profitability in the emerging global economy.
Jim Ryan is the director of outreach for Wall Street West. Ryan has more than 20 years of business experience in the semiconductor and telecommunications industries. He has held various executive-level operations, marketing, and manufacturing positions with Applied Materials and also as vice president of operations for Broad Air Communications. Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Lehigh University and master’s degree from Santa Clara University. He also served in the United States Navy as a nuclear-trained submarine officer.
Dr. Robert S. Colombo is the president of Cerebronix. Columbo has more than 30 years of experience as an engineer, executive, and educator in the financial services, manufacturing, outsourcing, telecommunications, and strategic consulting arenas. Over the last 12 years, his boutique consulting firm has helped global businesses address emerging challenges in innovation, navigation, and collaboration by meshing systems engineering principles with strategic thinking, applied technology, and knowledge management to produce actionable, profitable, and measurable results. Columbo holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and doctorate respectively in electrical, biomedical, and systems engineering from SUNY Stony Brook, a master’s degree in management from the Beveridge Institute and numerous other professional certifications.