By Roger Lawrence, CTO Stategic Enterprise Services - HP South Pacific
Agility is poised to be the differentiator with organisations in the 21st century. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is lowering barriers and globalisation is opening up markets. The strength of enterprise lies with the ability to bring new products and shift business models to meet changing markets. These strengths will set them up for success in the face of these changes.
We’ve already discussed the ability for technology to deliver Real-Time Information to aid in rapid decision making. We have also discussed mobility to remove latency between productivity and information management. In the last post we discussed how to free up capital by moving workloads to elastic platforms, those that you can de-provision when you no longer need them.
Yet there is still one topic that haunts the IT departments of most organisations I speak to: Scalability.
There are two areas where enterprise IT faces challenges in scaling.
The first is a standard operational requirement. This is when a workload simply runs out of space on the current system.
This challenge can catch many, even well organised, teams by surprise. With n-tier architectures every application that is added to the system creates multiple inter-dependencies. Pretty soon the two Domain Controllers for your Active Directory don’t have enough processing power for all the systems they’re supporting. Or your SAN just doesn’t have enough space for the database that is supporting the CRM system, the accounting system and the HR system.
Capacity management is crucial to help identify where systems need to scale and many teams may be responsible for matrixed organisation capacity management. One point to keep in mind is that the inability to scale rapidly has its root in the business and platform architectures.
The second area where IT often struggles to scale is with new business opportunities. Think of a trading house that takes on a new client portfolio; or a university that starts a new faculty; perhaps it’s only the marketing department that wants to drive a social networking campaign.
As with the previous impediments the root of the issue is with the business architecture, as well as the platform architecture.
Cloud as an agility enabler
Pretty much every CIO I speak with begins the cloud conversation focused on operational costs. They always ask, “Can we drive down operational costs of infrastructure, and release capital for investment elsewhere in the business?” After we have discussed operational costs, almost all of our conversations shift to agility.
The ability to provision a platform for a new line of business application in days or hours instead of months means the business can get to market faster. The ability to provide rapid headroom for a struggling application means the difference between providing a service to your customers—or not.
Not just technology
I have a friend who became the IT Operations Manager for a law firm in the city. After three weeks he called me in desperation. It seems that their SAN was running out of space. Upgrading it meant putting in a business case, waiting for a board meeting, specifying requirements, then raising a capital request, a procurement request and then a purchase order. All of this would take months. This doesn’t include trying to identify all of the applications that used the SAN and needed to grow. It also doesn’t include the lead time for the equipment (and there’s currently a global storage shortage), or the deployment of the same.
In the meantime, the system administrators were deleting temporary files nightly to avoid application crashes.
Take note of the inhibitor to scaling here. It’s not just the technology. Yes, the firm didn’t have the actual SAN to scale on to. Yes, bursting to the Cloud, technically would drastically reduce the timeline. The real issue here is the business procurement process. So much time is consumed because of the capital nature of the request. Still, if it takes weeks, or even months to get approval to subscribe to a cloud vendor, the business process needs to change.
Entry barriers are lowering for organizations of all sizes, leading to a dramatic increase in competition.. Agile organisations that can makes decisions faster, and scale to meet new business demands will be positioned to succeed in this changing economy.
There are a number of steps to take to make sure your enterprise can benefit from the cloud:
- Catalogue the IT services you currently provide, so you can understand all of the platforms, capacity requirements, and dependencies
- Move workloads to a Services Oriented Architecture, so you can benefit from the Cloud Services
- Determine the bottlenecks in all processes, business (e.g. procurement) and technical (e.g. design) to make sure you eliminate these