What Data Center Architects Can Learn from Building Architects

An architectural approach to managing change provides blueprint for cloud adoption in the data center

CIOs face a period of intense technological and business change. Cloud infrastructure and application services now offer a viable alternative to the traditional data center architecture. At the same time, increasing business demand for agility and digital services is not easily fulfilled by a traditional data center. Once guardians of monolithic systems, data center leaders are increasingly brokers for both internal and external services.

This is why, according to David Cappuccio, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, multicloud strategies will become common for 70 percent of organizations by 2019, up from less than 10 percent today. The question is now not, “Should I implement cloud services to support my business?”’ but instead, “how and when?”

With lots of different approaches and technologies, how do you choose the right one for each task? The answer originates from building architecture, and the concept of “pace layers”. Over time these architectures have to adapt to both technological and business change.

“Architectural layers have direct ‘paces’ of change, but they must be designed to work together, so that the building can function effectively,” explained Mr. Cappuccio. “This same idea of pace layers can be used to build an application strategy that delivers a faster response and better return on investment (ROI) without sacrificing integration, integrity or governance.”

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He identified three layers to help distinguish between business capabilities and identify the appropriate platform:

  1. Systems of Record
    These systems focus on standardization and operational efficiency, and are usually held to tough regulatory requirements. They are core to the success of the business and often remain in place for years. The impact of failure is huge, including likely loss of revenue or even risk of injury. Therefore, these systems are more likely kept on-premises, or in outsourced data centers that focus on operational efficiency, high availability, standardization and compliance.
  2. Systems of Differentiation
    Competitive advantage is the mantra of these of these systems. They enable unique company processes or are very industry specific. These can either be run on-premises or hosted on the cloud depending on latency requirements, service-level requirements or resource capabilities.
  3. Systems of Innovation
    These are new applications, built to address emerging business requirements. These applications are critical to identifying your company’s next business move and putting them in the right place is crucial. They could be run in a public cloud environment to benefit from rapid deployments, processor and storage elasticity, and the financial benefits of right-provisioning.

Expect to see applications move between these layers as they mature, or as the business process shifts from experimental to well-established to industry standard. For example, an experimental cloud-based mobile application may become critical to customer satisfaction, requiring more rigorous performance guarantees, and therefore requiring that the application is moved to another layer and a different physical location.


Gartner clients can read more in the report, The Future of the Data Center in the Cloud Era by David Cappuccio.

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