You’ve got to know what you’ve got before you know how best to use it.
That’s the advice being doled out by various vendors at CDXpo Tuesday in
Las Vegas. Evangelists from Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and
Computer Associates argued over what to call this drilled-down notion of
IT/business alignment — On-Demand Computing, Utility Computing, e-Business
On Demand. But what they generally agree on is that it’s time for IT
managers to get to know their infrastructure better. Once they do that, they
can set it up to better meet the company’s business needs.
”It’s about understanding business processes and understanding the network
infrastructure, and then understanding how to make them work together,”
says Tony Siress, a senior director at Sun. ”You’re paying 100% of the
costs of managing your infrastructure whether you’re using 80 percent of it
or 15 percent of it. The cost doesn’t change based on the utilization, so
you want to make sure you’re utilizing as much as you can.”
Siress explains that in order to make sure a company’s business processes
and its infrastructure are working in harmony together — instead of
against each other — managers need to take a close look at both sides of
First off, IT managers need to figure out exactly what is running on their
network, what is running at or over capacity, and what is running way under
capacity. What is the infrastructure’s baseline? Is it generally at 25% of
bandwidth capacity, except for one or two days a month? Is the data center
baselining at 15 percent of capacity? Is one critical application being
taxed too heavily?
”People don’t know what they have in their infrastructure and they don’t
know what they’re paying for it,” says Siress. ”During the big run on IT
a few years ago, everyone was buying. No one was pricing. Now the economy
has tipped and executives need to know what they’re getting on their
investment. Why should they give IT another dollar?”
Siress says being able to plot out the infrastructure and it’s capacity is
an integral step to figuring out how much it’s costing the company.
Once you know what the baseline demand on the infrastructure is, you know
what the infrastructure has to deliver on a daily basis. You make sure your
infrastructure can deliver that baseline. If you have a seasonal peak —
say a holiday rush for an e-tailer — then you can plan to lease that extra
capacity or outsource the demand.
”If you have family coming to visit for a week, you don’t buy a bus, do
you?” asks Siress. ”You might rent a bus that week.
”It’s about applying the right mix, and owning your baseline” he adds.
”And you need to understand your business policies and processes. If you
don’t know when you’re going to have that extra demand, you won’t know how
to provision for it, and then you’ll end up spending too much or you won’t
be able to deliver when the demand comes in.”
Ric Telford, a director at IBM, says it sounds complicated but it all comes
down to improving customer service.
”You need to be able to make intelligent decisions about where your
company’s needs are going to be,” says Telford. ”You have to think
through your business needs and then set up IT to better support them.”
Sun’s Siress says it’s a matter of eliminating excess capacity and then
managing those spikes in demand. Think of the infrastructure, not as
individual islands of technology — the data center, bandwidth,
applications. Instead, think of it as an overall pool of resources.
”Instead of administering a server, I’m administering a service,” says
The benefit of administering that service is to be able to sit down and view
the infrastructure and the business needs in their entireties.
For instance, say a company’s infrastructure runs under capacity most of the
month. Then at the end of the month, there’s a major spike in demand on it
because monthly financials are being calculated, inventory is being done,
HR taxes are being figured and sent in and the sales department is issuing
its forecasting reports. With a full view of this, managers can shift the
business processes, moving the due dates of the sales forecasts and
inventories, to level out the demand on the infrastructure.
”It’s increasing responsiveness to business,” says David Hochhauser of
Computer Associates. ”Find the pain points. Where are your biggest costs?
Where are your sticking points? Find that and you’ll find out where to
start. This is the holy grail of what we really want to get to.”