As Published In
Oracle Magazine
March/April 2009

From the Editor

What’s Next?

By Tom Haunert

Get ready for your next-generation data center and the demands that follow.

When I read the words next generation , the first thing I usually think of is the television program Star Trek: The Next Generation . Once I get past that pop culture flashback and any other sci-fi notions, I think of generations of information technology.

In data centers, for example, information technology historians can look at the evolution of hardware platforms, operating systems, programming languages, networking protocols, and more to define past data center generations for the industry as a whole. However, there’s not one simple, absolute description of what any company’s next next-generation data center will be, in part because for any IT organization, each next generation is contextual and, by definition, always changing.

Of course, making the decision to go beyond maintaining existing data models, hardware, and software and implementing a next-generation data center requires detailed analysis, extensive planning, and exceptional execution, but what drives this next-generation change?

What Drives the Next Generation?

In “Data Center: The Next Generation,” Lance Knowlton, vice president of modernization solutions at Oracle, states that “one key aspect of moving toward a next-generation data center entails identifying and transforming old applications and data that hinder an organization in the areas of agility, cost, and risk.” That got me thinking about a personal experience in a next-generation data center transformation.

A long time ago, in my university days and the early days of the PC, I got a part-time job in a division of a large bank. The division had committed to a major next-generation data center project that replaced a simple computerized product inventory system and paper folder information storage with a new mainframe system that could better handle the full product lifecycle, seller service, customer service, and more. 

Next Steps

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I initially judged the new mainframe technology behind the green-screen terminal only by what it couldn’t do (word processing, spreadsheets, and so on), but the longtime employees in the division often praised the new system because it was an order of magnitude improvement over what they had been using. (Of course the same employees often cursed the mainframe system in its initial, turbulent months of deployment and its frequent downtime for maintenance as well as daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly reporting.)

My customer service group had previously depended on paper folders for most customer information, and the new mainframe enabled online customer records. These new online customer records in turn enabled better customer service, and they also helped reduce certain types of customer fraud, which directly saved the whole division a lot of money.

Within months of the mainframe implementation, the bank division decided to make my customer service group a 24/7 operation. The mainframe continued to support customer service, but with its required maintenance and reporting downtime, it could not support a 24/7 customer service operation. In my time there and in the years that followed (according to former coworkers I kept in touch with), that mainframe system never achieved true 24/7or even “two-nines” (99 percent)uptime for customer service.

The Next and the Next

It’s easy to see the “rip-and-replace” move from paper folders to a mainframe computer system as a next-generation data center transformation. Not all transformations will be so obvious to enterprise system users, but all transformations will certainly address agility, cost, and risk. And the best of them will also create an environment that can handle the inevitable demand for what’s next.

From modernization and grid computing to software as a service (SaaS) and green technologies, Oracle next-generation data center solutions create flexibility. Building your next-generation data center on these open Oracle technologies provides all the benefits of those technologies, but it also prepares you for the inevitable. When your customers, your businessand perhaps industry and government regulationsdemand your next data center transformation, it won’t be a rip-and-replace event. It will be an evolution of open, integrated, and flexible Oracle technologies.

Tom Haunert, Editor in Chief

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