The data center is a major corporate asset and expense. There are online calculators intended to help organizations determine from a cost standpoint whether it is more advantageous to build or outsource their data center. With public cloud solutions playing growing roles in enterprises, there are initiatives afoot to eliminate spend on internal IT facilities. Nevertheless, the bottom line for most enterprises is that there will be a persistent need to keep some, if not all, mission-critical IT assets in-house in data centers.

This brings us to the disconnect between the CEO and the data center.

Jeff Klaus is general manager of Intel DCM, which provides data center management solutions. He said C-level executives need to understand the role of the data center in their companies by seeing how it helps the company avoid costs, what the other alternatives were, and how the data center came to the rescue.

"A great engineer or IT department can illustrate and clearly articulate the magic they craft in the background and how much that helps their organization financially," Klaus said.

But to do this, executives in charge of the data center need to change the way they speak.

"IT is an engineering-oriented discipline that has its own goals," he said. "This language doesn't always translate well when you are talking to a CEO or a COO. The problem for many data centers in the past is that their managers haven't realized this gap in vocabulary. Consequently, they have not done a good job of explaining the value that the data center brings to the company."

Klaus recommends that data center managers and executives begin the process by translating their initiatives and use cases into something an end business executive can relate to.

For instance, BNY Mellon has a 71,000 square foot data center in Northern Pennsylvania where it offset 75% of its domestic electricity consumption for renewable energy. And Southwestern Illinois College saved $281,366 over three years though a server virtualization project. Both are costs that contribute to the bottom line of the business.

SEE: Big data policy

The need to invest

But there is a second prong to the data center value proposition: the need to continually invest so that your IT department can enable new business goals that are dependent on technology to carry them out. This is why governments and healthcare companies invest in data center infrastructure like improved telecommunications and network quality of service to bring healthcare to rural, hard to reach regions. It's why major retailers invest in web-based technology and supporting infrastructure to improve the performance and the revenue-gaining capabilities of their e-commerce sites.

Investments like these are easy to explain at the very top level--by citing benefits such as delivering better service or outreach and improving brand and market strength. However, they also require someone at the lower, infrastructure levels of the projects to explain in plain English exactly why a certain network technology, security package, storage, and/or system infrastructure investment is required to support the strategy--and what the cost and payback will be.

"You need shared goals, transparency, and awareness of what the "other side" needs," Klaus said. "And you need to be open to new ideas."

Equally important for CEOs, COOs, and CIO/data center managers is to come together and meet often on technology and corporate strategies. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and speaking the same language.

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