Transformation through smarter computing

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By Ireen Catane

IBM has learned that it must constantly transform and renew the way it does business. This means anticipating changes down the road rather than reacting to them when they are at our doorstep. There is no aspect of our business where this lesson is more valuable than in the IT department.

Just like our customers, IBM has had to face the exponential growth of Big Data and the IT challenges that result. At one point, the company?s global application and server sprawl had grown to more than 15,000 applications running on 15,000 servers in more than 150 data centers.

Such decentralization meant more time and resources were required to manage them. Maintaining this growing Web of technology was hard enough, but we also realized that the challenges were only going to intensify.

We needed a new plan that would take advantage of the information we were collecting, and strategically prepare for and manage future growth.

We adopted a rallying call of “radical simplification” and embraced Smarter Computing to transform our global IT infrastructure. Today, we have reduced more than 11,000 applications, replaced almost 10,000 physical servers with fewer than 100 highly virtualized systems, and operate in only five data centers.

These efforts have contributed to a 25-percent reduction in internal IT spending over the past five years and has allowed us to invest resources in transformational projects.

We have built an IT infrastructure that unlocks the value of data, improves data center efficiency, and simplifies the IT experience

Unlocking the value of data

Unlocking the value of data requires technology that takes advantage of all available information and turns it into insights that improve decision-making across the company. What the business doesn?t know can hurt it.

A clear and truthful view of every aspect of the business is essential, though admittedly difficult with a flood of data that includes everything from text, audio and video to click streams log files and, increasingly, information generated by sensors.

A key ally in managing Big Data is compression and de-duplication technology to reduce the volume of data, and more efficiently store it, with similar data. Using these tools enabled IBM to deliver faster access to data at reduced cost, along with the ability to support 25-40 percent data growth every year without having to increase our budget.

Improving data center efficiency

Because each task inside an enterprise is different, improving data center efficiency requires matching the job with the right technology, using no more or no less than needed.

The best way to successfully accomplish this is to do a full assessment of business needs along with an inventory of IT assets. This is hard but necessary work, and the payback will make it worthwhile.

At IBM we did a careful review of business needs — from the processing more hundreds of thousands of paychecks, to sales and product support, to testing new technology from IBM Research. And we matched small, non-critical tasks with less robust systems while assigning mission critical jobs to commensurate technology.

As part of this process, we also took on server sprawl, managing the consolidation and virtualization of thousands of servers to best-fit technology, freeing up facilities, while evaluating future workloads, and eliminating the need for new or expanded data centers.

So far, we have consolidated more than 6,500 servers, helping us save 74,000 square-feet of floor space and 30,000 megawatt-hours of energy — enough to power a town of 3,000 homes for a year.

Simplifying the IT experience

In the Age of Big Data there are few things more important than quick, easy, and flexible access to data and data services such as cloud and analytics. Real-time access to information facilitates collaboration and sharing.

One of IBM?s first major cloud deployments now manages nearly all product developer requests for resources to test new offerings. The test cloud has reduced server setup time from an average of five days to one hour and cut the number of physical servers needed. Other IBM clouds support HR, collaboration, and data storage.

IBM?s private cloud for analytics — the world’s largest for this purpose — completes sales support and other projects that used to take weeks or months in hours or minutes. Accessible to more than 200,000 IBMers, it collects information from nearly 100 different sources and analyzes more than a petabyte of data. It has become invaluable to our business.

Smarter Computing is a journey we continue on as we explore new ways to make technology work for us. In the process, we have created a leaner, more nimble enterprise that seeks constant improvement through innovation. This is a way of traveling and not a final destination for IBM as we are constantly evolving.

The author is country executive for systems and technology group at IBM Philippines

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