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May - 2007 - issue > Technology
Do-More-with-Less
Praveen Cherian
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
In a world where business fortunes may turn in a split second, the key to success lies in the ability to flex and adopt to the unknown and unpredictable. More often than not however, many IT infrastructures that support business processes today are overly complex and rigid, and spread across islands of under-optimized computing resources, hindering a company’s ability to react swiftly.

This problem occurs since over the years, companies have often bought IT systems and applications to support specialized needs on an adhoc basis. As a result, they have built up several layers of systems and servers, each running on a different operating system, supporting a single application, spread out across dispersed facilities and data centers. In addition, server and storage capacities are sized to handle peak workloads, which result in significant under-utilization for regular workloads: up to 90 percent of available capacity can remain idle at any given time.

As operational costs for maintaining existing infrastructure and applications are expected to grow two-and-a-half times faster than hardware spend within the next few years, it is hardly surprising that CIOs surveyed recently have indicated that the alignment of IT to business strategies and cost reductions of IT manpower, management and infrastructure are among their top priorities for 2007.

Simplify, simplify, simplify
To deliver greater business value while reducing costs, simplification is the key. Firms need to start looking into ways to optimize their IT investments, trim the fat off overly complex and underutilized IT systems and create a lean and dynamic IT infrastructure that is easier to manage and upgrade, and less expensive to run. To achieve these goals, enterprises are turning to IT Resource Optimization (ITRO), a predefined set of hardware, software and services which encompasses the concepts of virtualization, consolidation and provisioning. ITRO enables businesses to manage more applications on fewer systems, reduce resource usage and complexity, and improve market responsiveness—all at a lower total cost.

However, while simplification is the goal, implementing ITRO is anything but simple. To be successful, ITRO projects need to be delivered according to a structured and comprehensive framework that covers the following phases:

Phase One – Simplify,
This first step involves consolidating IT assets and standardizing systems and software. Consolidation of physical data centers directly translates into reduced hardware maintenance and support costs – you employ fewer, more capable systems to run applications and store data. In addition, applying similar standards for common operating systems and software applications ensure greater interoperability between applications and processes, allowing organizations to manage and monitor server, storage and application capacity across the network. This streamlined infrastructure provides the foundation for later phases, and eventually allows for greater control and adaptability to specific market conditions at lower costs.

Phase Two – Virtualize
Emerging virtualization technology, which is rapidly transforming the IT industry, goes hand in hand with IT consolidation strategies. Once organizations start to consolidate their physical infrastructure, virtualization technologies can help increase asset utilization and improve application availability. By creating a virtualization layer over hardware platforms, a company can either cluster existing low-to-mid tier IT assets (such as servers or storage) into a single logical hardware platform so that they can be shared across applications without regard to where they physically reside, or partition a single high-end IT asset into virtual segments that can run multiple applications in parallel.

Phase Three – Provision,
Provisioning increases the flexibility of an organization’s business processes and the end users’ ability to react to the changing environment. Server and storage management provisioning tools automate setup, configuration and change management for systems, improving its responsiveness to organizational needs. Applications and directories are synchronized across the board, enabling resources to be rapidly deployed or retired as needed. At this stage, the goal is for enterprises to achieve better systems management by implementing centralized control and secure, automatic and self-healing computing capabilities, thus replacing error-prone manual tasks and repetitive IT resource capacity management tasks.

Phase Four – Orchestrate
Once IT infrastructure and systems have been consolidated and standardized, the organization can now begin the process of aligning its IT resources to business strategies to achieve business goals and greater value. The orchestration phase seeks to imbue IT systems with the ability to sense and dynamically schedule and adjust IT resources to meet changing business requirements, building on the foundation delivered by the initial phases of consolidation, virtualization, and provisioning.

Less is more
Already, ITRO has helped many companies across various industries better utilize finite IT resources and align them with business goals. For example, IBM has helped a billion-dollar global consumer products company optimize its IT environment to tackle the growth in service offerings and workload without a corresponding escalation in IT infrastructure and costs. Through virtualization, provisioning and orchestration technologies, the company achieved more efficient usage of IT resources, reducing operational costs by 10 percent year on year, despite increasing workloads. Other cases of ITRO implementations have reported similar impressive results - reducing IT budget by 14 percent, reaping the returns on investment within the first year of implementation and cost savings of up to two million dollar per year.

By optimizing infrastructure and consolidating operations, ITRO makes it possible for enterprises to spend less on maintaining complex and under-utilized IT systems, and more on new projects and initiatives that deliver direct value to the business goals and bottom line.

The author is the Country Executive - Marketing, Strategy and Transformation for IBM Global Technology Services, India / South Asia.
He can be reached at pcherian@in.ibm.com


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