Forecast is not a NOUN, it’s a VERB

Take a deep breath (and two if you live in the State of Washington) and have a look at David Chernicoff’s recent article about the BIG new data center in Washington. Did I say BIG? Yes, it’s big, really BIG. In fact, as we have come to find out, it’s actually FIVE TIMES the size that it needed to be, and it’s a Lease-to-Own deal that the residents of Washington will continue to enjoy for years to come. (I think that “enjoyment” has recently been quantified as $5 per person each year). How fun is that?  I am sure Washington taxpayers are thrilled to be paying for a data center facility that sits mostly empty.

The point of my note today is that forecasting should not be just a check-box line item for IT. Forecasting has real impacts and sets the stage for ALL other potential goodness to come. IT professionals shouldn’t just create their forecast to get a gold star, they should LIVE their forecast. They should FEEL the impacts of the choices that they make.  Ideally, IT professionals will begin to pay attention and begin to see that the opportunity for forecasting to guide REAL decision making has changed dramatically over the years. VERY mature tools to support bet-your-business lifecycle forecasting for the data center have become easily available.  And along with those solutions, there are a myriad of metrics that can help identify resource usage and availability, there are highly refined capacity planning and optimization solutions. There is also a solid understanding about how physical and logical and virtual worlds are all inter-related. These same IT professionals should begin to realize that all they have to do is RAISE THEIR HAND to start the business forecasting journey.

In the end, we ALL have the ability to start thinking about the cost to do work. That’s really the bottom line. At a macro level it’s easy. Take all of your costs (hardware, software, and resources) and then divide by whatever metric makes sense for you. For instance (and in an over-simplified model) the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could simply divide their whole IT budget by the number of tax returns. This will yield a “Cost to process each Return” for a given IT approach in a given fiscal year. Compare this year over year and the IRS could easily see if they are getting better or worse in their IT efficiency goals. Compare this to the forecasted change in population and the changes to technology and you’d have a pretty good starting point for your forecasting model. The resulting forecast for data center capacity would be directly related and poor forecasting will be seen in a dramatic fashion: create havoc, delays, higher costs to the taxpayers, etc.

As I said above, the solutions to plan the future of the data center are within reach for those that choose to. The goal is to have just the right amount of capacity online at every point in time, Why build a data center that you’ll ‘grow into’ like they did in the pacific northwest? Think of the waste. With all of the options available, In-House, Co-Lo, Modular and Cloud, you already have the opportunity to add capacity in a highly granular fashion at attractive ‘per-unit’ pricing.  Bruce Taylor at Uptime talks about this Converged Hybrid Digital model all the time. It’s real and it all starts with the Forecast, but not as a NOUN, but instead as a VERB!

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