Data Centers, the Pandemic, and the Supply Chain: A Look at Resiliency and Reliability17 min read
I just got back from my first in-person event in over two years. It was wonderful to see real people, attend in-person sessions and had the opportunity to see amazing friends and brilliant industry colleagues. We were like kids who haven’t seen each other all summer!
For four days, the topics ranged from DCIM innovation to edge computing and cooling. There wasn’t a shortage of fun and interesting topics to discuss through a myriad of topics and emerging solutions. That said, there were also some challenging conversations happening too. Interestingly, many of those revolved around supply chains and how new constraints keep attendees up at night. Don’t be surprised if you see a few supply chain questions on next year’s AFCOM State of the Data Center Report.
Let’s go back to pre-COVID (PC) times. I recall there used to be supply chain constraints, but nothing like what we see today. Changes in how we source key pieces of materials are already impacting the way we manage critical infrastructure. The supply chain plays a crucial role in ensuring that we have resiliency in our infrastructure. Before the complexities of COVID, supply chain constraints felt more manageable. Today, they’re reshaping the way we build critical infrastructure and approach our addressable markets. That means that even though we have the best possible infrastructure in place, it can all crumble pretty quickly without a good supply chain.
“While disruption and resiliency are the current favorite buzzwords, these have been the priorities of forward-thinking organizations and integral to IDC research for several years. Digital transformation accelerates the supply chain as companies realize the benefits of visibility and agility through data-driven operations. Information has become more important than inventory,” says Stephanie Krishnan, Research Director IDC.
According to Simon Ellis, Program Vice President of Global Supply Chain Strategies at IDC, “The supply chain continues on its journey of almost unparalleled levels of change. Digital transformation is now the overriding priority for most manufacturers and retailers, with the adoption of digital technologies aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness in the shorter term while providing the opportunity to either disrupt their market segment or be resilient to others that may try.”
Let’s pause here for a second and look ahead. If you’re still managing your supply chain and your partners like you did in the ‘PC’ days, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy. That said, if your strategy is working for you and it’s keeping you happy, resilient, and well-supplied, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re already ahead of the game.
But, if you’re hitting some roadblocks or speed bumps, it’s time to open up your aperture and look at supply chains from a slightly different perspective. A recent IDC post had some interesting predictions around the modern supply chain and what we can all expect.
- Prediction 1: By the end of 2021, 60% of all manufacturing supply chains will have invested in the technology and business processes necessary for true resiliency, resulting in productivity improvements of 25%.
- Prediction 2: Facing increased disruption, manufacturers will digitally transform and accelerate sustainable innovation to improve supply chain operations from concept to commerce, increasing revenue by 20% in 2025.
- Prediction 3: By 2023, 30% of Asian enterprises will ship freight using an independent, SaaS-enabled marketplace platform, resulting in improved efficiencies in load matching and reduced shipping costs.
COVID-19 has focused organizations on overall supply chain visibility and driven necessary transformation. In the data center and technology space, these predictions should force leaders to take a step back and ask some reflective questions on how they are currently managing critical supply chain contracts. Again, you could have the best and shiniest data center on the market, but if you can’t supply essential parts or components, you’ll be in trouble quickly.
Looking at the Supply Chain with a New Perspective, Post-COVID
We rely on our partners to ensure that our infrastructures stay operational. Resiliency and efficiency go beyond your data center walls. Working with a good partner with a solid supply chain methodology is critical to ensuring you meet SLAs and keep your digital ecosystem healthy. Even though you might not be the one sourcing equipment or cables, you need to ensure that your partners have reliable supply chains in place.
This is why it’s critical to ask questions and challenge your partners on their supply chain management. The essential questions to ask include:
1. Does the supply chain have strategic importance to the partner? Can they demonstrate how they align business and strategy with supply chain management?
2. Is quality embedded in the supply chain? That is, is quality built into your supply chain, or do inspection and correction occur after the fact?
3. Where are there risks? What are they? Can you challenge your supply chain partner to ensure optimal performance?
4. Does the supply chain allow room for change?
5. Can your partner support cloud-level supply chain requirements? That is, can it deliver more intelligent infrastructure to ensure faster deployment, better cloud user support, and help overcome complexity?
6. What digital tools does the supply chain partner leverage to ensure greater levels of resiliency?
7. Do you have change management processes that are built-in and that continually review your supply chain elements? Do they also look for opportunities to improve quality and operational efficiency?
8. Does your supply chain minimize the number of touches and the touch time in supply chain transactions to reduce the number of potential points of failure?
9. Can your supply chain partner think globally and execute locally?
That last statement is critical. Look for partners with an extensive worldwide network of local distributors and regional warehouses. A significant consideration for cloud leaders is their ability to grow beyond traditional centralized ecosystems. A good partner that will help you improve your time-to-market will also help you expand your regional coverage.
The digitization of today’s supply chain goes way beyond fun marketing and techy buzzwords. This transformation is all about survival for both technology leaders and those supporting your supply chain. Never become complacent with supply chain management, and constantly challenge your partners to ensure they can help your business. Leaders in the supply chain field are actively looking at ways to improve their processes and levels of support by utilizing new digital tools wherever they can. It’s a key reason why digital transformation is also creating supply chain modernization. You’ll want to work with people that embrace this new way of thinking and help flow new supply chain tools right to their customers and partners.
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data center environments.
Real-time monitoring, data-driven optimization.
Immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to monitor, manage, and maximize the power and cooling infrastructure for critical data center environments.
Industry Analyst | Board Advisory Member | Writer/Blogger/Speaker | Contributing Editor | Executive | Millennial
Bill Kleyman is an award-winning data center, cloud, and digital infrastructure leader. He was ranked globally by an Onalytica Study as one of the leading executives in cloud computing and data security. He has spent more than 15 years specializing in the cybersecurity, virtualization, cloud, and data center industry. As an award-winning technologist, his most recent efforts with the Infrastructure Masons were recognized when he received the 2020 IM100 Award and the 2021 iMasons Education Champion Award for his work with numerous HBCUs and for helping diversify the digital infrastructure talent pool.
As an industry analyst, speaker, and author, Bill helps the digital infrastructure teams develop new ways to impact data center design, cloud architecture, security models (both physical and software), and how to work with new and emerging technologies.