Text Supriyo Bhattacharya and Christian Abels ––– Photography
Most companies across all sectors have now recognised the opportunities that digital transformation brings and are rolling out digital strategies. They are either establishing new business models or developing existing ones further.
However, one of the major challenges they face is finding the right partners to help them set up and implement a digital strategy. Faced with a staggering array of market offerings, most businesses are overwhelmed when trying to pick out the right digitalization concepts for their needs. A lot of these concepts often adopt a holistic approach when it comes to IT landscapes and make the mistake of setting out to create one-size-fits-all solutions.
In the modern business world, companies want and need to be faster at aligning their IT to new technologies or processes. If they are to respond promptly to market trends and get their outmoded legacy IT landscape onto a future-proof footing, they need two essential ingredients – modularity and scalability. These two elements ensure companies can build platforms one on top of the other, in a building block principle. Starting from physical components such as racks, a UPS and cooling systems and stretching as far as the application components provided in automated and standardised software solutions, modularity has to be a common theme throughout the IT landscape.
Rittal and Innovo offer precisely that kind of structure – one that is also based on a holistic concept. Both companies are focused on ensuring customers enjoy fully comprehensive support and consistently prioritise standardisation, automation and modularisation as they renew IT systems.
The cloud needs powerful DATA CENTERS
Renting instead of buying is completely normal in many areas of life, and that same approach is starting to take hold for company IT landscapes, too. Lots of businesses are turning to the cloud to make sure their IT systems can be adapted to new technologies or processes. According to the current Cloud Monitor of industry association Bitkom, more than two thirds of German businesses already use cloud services. The availability of the cloud and the prevalence of new technologies have established standards for the provision, costs and flexibility of IT infrastructure, and these are now also beginning to be applied to physical resources. Companies expect rapid, straightforward and needs-based access to infrastructure components – in a service-style approach.
At the same time, technological developments and increased security requirements are putting physical IT resources back in the spotlight. Part of that is ensuring data is available everywhere at all times and can be processed locally in real time. New data center solutions are based on a networked ecosystem with solutions from all layers: from the physical infrastructure located locally at the customer’s site with optional connection to a central cloud to the fully comprehensive managed service operating concept.
Physical and virtualised infrastructure components dovetail perfectly in these approaches. The effects that can be thus achieved in terms of the scalability and modularity of an IT landscape appeal to both companies that are just starting out on their digital journey and businesses with an advanced level of digitalization. The latter may, for instance, be looking to extend the level of automation in their digital business models.
The logical consequence of companies demanding modularity and agility from their state-of-the-art IT is that data centers themselves would also adopt a modular make-up. Indeed, data centers must be able to provide additional space quickly and securely. Normally, when it comes to building a conventional data center, the construction work can take at least one to two years. Standardised solutions, such as edge data centers, can be the right choice here: so-called empowered edges.
Their advantage is that Rittal assembles the edge container according to the company’s requirements and configures it. Innovo – together with this company – is designing the structure of the platform, which will be installed in the edge data center. This minimises the outlay at the user’s end. These new data centers incorporate – in addition to the outer skin as in the case of containers – IT racks, power supply, climate control technology, servers, network technology, storage, cloud platform services and appropriate management software as preconfigured cloud components. Ideally, these can be chosen in line with the proposed deployment scenarios, and form the platform for additional cloud-based services (XaaS).
Regional proximity brings speed
Let’s take ‘click and collect’ as an example – how many products are available in branches and can be reserved through an online shop? Companies pursuing digital business models need live data, and latency times within milliseconds are crucial for real-time analyses. To meet both these requirements, IT systems must process data very close to where it is generated.
This is where ‘edge computing’ comes in. Innovo and Rittal have established Germany’s first cloud park designed specifically to satisfy these needs at Industriepark Höchst in Frankfurt am Main. The containers from Rittal ensure the data centers can be scaled on a modular basis at short notice, while Innovo provides the necessary cloud infrastructure. Another advantage of the Höchst site is its security, which is underpinned by the German legal system on the one hand and the on-site security team on the other.
Modular IT ecosystems have a decisive advantage because they are standardised from end to end and therefore considerably reduce time-to-market and costs. Service components ranging from simple server racks to entire containers and XaaS ensure companies can respond quickly to new requirements, taking out new components or scaling back their resources. This means businesses can create the infrastructure for new business models a lot faster, test innovations on the market sooner and then get them on sale. All the while, standardisation helps drive down the costs of individual IT solutions.
Security comes first
Security can often be the all-important factor when choosing the right IT partner or cloud provider. Financial service providers in particular need to meet stringent security standards and compliance requirements. Due to the standards of the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (known by its abbreviation BaFin), financial service providers need a partner who helps them monitor IT outsourcing. This includes a regular inspection of data centers with external auditors.
Personalised Service Level Agreements (SLAs) play an important role here, as do third-party processing contracts, which are always involved according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when personal data is processed by external service providers. Therefore, many companies are concerned that their data do not leave the place where they do business (in our case Germany). Picking the right provider isn’t just a question of trust, it’s a matter of whether the provider’s IT security systems can be adapted to the needs and demands of the relevant industry and clientele. In fact, this provider is also responsible for building and integrating the infrastructure and connected service solutions and running them smoothly and securely.
Fundamentally, companies working on data center ecosystems need to think carefully about how security can be ensured consistently across all components. Which relevant certifications, such as ISO 27001, does the supplier have? What experience do they possess in the sector? What security components are available?
Time to let go of legacy waste in IT
In terms of technology and the market, IT is constantly changing. The IT systems a company installs today can be superseded by a new generation of solutions in a matter of a few years, sometimes just months. Many businesses really struggle with their IT systems when trying to digitise processes and business models.
In a recent study, specialist research company IDC established that around three quarters of companies find it difficult to implement their transformation strategies. The high outlay involved in integrating new digital solutions into existing systems is a particularly big cause of projects stalling. This is where Innovo is seeking to establish a strong position for itself. It assists companies as a reliable partner in the implementation of their digitalization strategies. The modularised platform approach practiced by Rittal and Innovo helps individual customers to upgrade their IT landscape step by step and keep it agile.