By Ireen Catane
IT today is increasingly seen as a driver of business innovation. Companies are competing to bring their products and services to market faster, cheaper, and with lower risk.
This business reality is putting IT managers under pressure to transform in order to build an environment that can deliver speed and agility, at optimum costs.
Business leaders today must realize that there is much to be gained in ensuring the efficiency of data centers. According to a recent report by IDC, data centers that are running at the highest level of efficiency are able to allocate 49 percent of resources to new projects, compared to only 39 percent for their less efficient counterparts?.
This finding clearly indicates that an inefficient data center slows down business innovation, and puts a strain on already limited resources and could even halt expansion or growth plans.
Efficiency = innovation
In today?s dynamic business environment, efficiency and innovation goes hand in hand. Across the region, organizations are taking active steps to introduce radical changes in data center architecture and design. These changes are aimed at improving efficiency and performance, especially as the cost of today?s data centers are escalating.
However, these changes are not adequate, if not accompanied by the latest technology. Legacy software and hardware may not be able to cope with today?s computing demands.
A lot of time is spent on tuning and integrating disparate systems, and making older technology work with new solutions. The result is an inordinately complex infrastructure that drains resources and yet does not deliver the agility that businesses hope for.
Most organizations today understand that data centers must be centered on finding the right combination of hardware and software that are optimized for efficiency and performance.
However, to cope with the speed of business, IT teams need an integrated system that is capable of carrying out reliable, repetitive tasks tuned to business workloads, quickly, effectively and efficiently. To accelerate business innovation, IT must not only deliver components, but also expertise.
Such a system, also known as an Expert Integrated System, reduces reliance on limited skills and resources, realizes faster responses to new business demands and ensures predictability in the environment. Expert integrated systems are pre-integrated by design.
Each layer, from the underlying hardware resources through to the middleware and software, are tuned to deliver and manage processes, services and applications efficiently and effectively. These systems also have built-in patterns of expertise that is capable of delivering the best practices in data management in a repeatable and immediately deployable form.
The expert-integrated data center model
Expert integrated systems mitigate many of the challenges posed by traditional computing models. Data centers today are getting costly to run, with disparate, complex systems that are too slow to capitalize on opportunities in the market.
Organizations are also struggling to develop capabilities that can keep up with the rapid change in technological demands. Added to all these challenges is a heightened demand today for IT systems to be available 24×7, to support continuous business operations.
Clamping down on costs
In many Asian cities, the physical space needed to house data centers is a major expense. The high real estate cost is further compounded by higher electricity bills, as demand from new business applications continues to drive the procurement of additional hardware and software.
Expert integrated systems help curb data center sprawl by deeply integrating and tuning hardware and software into a single, ready-to-go workload optimized unit. These systems are integrated at the factory, eliminating the need to have in-house expertise to configure, deploy, integrate and tune system components.
Managing a single integrated system, through a single interface provides a bird?s eye view of the entire infrastructure and the applications running on it, making it easier to manage and spot failures.
It also represents further savings on manpower requirements, as there is no longer a need to have separate management tools for the entire infrastructure.
In addition, the management tools for these expert integrated systems allows user to configure, capture, deploy and monitor the entire lifecycle of the workload being deployed, enabling easier management as with everything integrated, it allows the system to manage the resources.
Added to this, systems with integrated expertise will be able to automate critical system processes such as moving applications to failing hardware or orchestrating resources for changing workload.
Expert integrated systems also allows the prediction of certain hardware failure and its intelligence can automatically move/transfer critical applications off the faulty hardware, onto a more secure or stable server while the faulty hardware is being replaced or fixed, enabling savings of time and a reduction of the reliance on manpower, leading to cost savings for the data center.
Managing the skills gap
While technologies exist today to enable organizations to be highly responsive and adaptable to market variances, a major barrier to adoption is the lack of skilled employees to manage these new solutions.
IBM?s Fast Track to the Future report cited that only 1 in 10 organizations have the necessary skills required to support functions such as cloud computing, with more than 60 percent citing a major skill gap as the root cause?. Training employees or hiring skilled personnel is expensive.
What data center managers today need is a system that is integrated from the beginning. Such a system is tuned and tested for optimized performance at the factory, with features such as security embedded into the hardware up through the stack to the application.
This cuts down valuable set-up time, and frees up skilled IT administrators to focus on more strategic tasks. In fact, systems that are pre-integrated and configured can reduce set-up time by more than 70 percent?.
This is significant given that it can take up to 6 months to establish hardware and software infrastructure for new requirements in the traditional computing model.
Systems with integrated expertise are also equipped with intelligence to rapidly deploy resources for new requirements. The built-in patterns of expertise are designed to intelligently diagnose and perform repetitive tasks that ensure the smooth running of a cloud deployment.
This includes dynamic data placement that can realize up to 300 percent increased performance of critical applications and automated storage provisioning that can reduce storage deployment time by up to 98 percent.
Simplifying systems management
The traditional data center model has long suffered from ad-hoc procurement of dedicated hardware and software to address specific business needs. This has led to an environment with many disparate systems today.
Businesses spend significant time and money integrating, tuning and managing these components to support their application workloads. The average $1 million IT project requires over six months to specify, procure and implement the required servers, storage and networking equipment?.
This is time that today?s businesses can ill-afford. With rapid advancements in technology, IT is also doubling in complexity every two years. Coping with such increasing complexity will be near impossible for many IT teams.
For data centers to run efficiently today, there is a pressing need for systems to have built-in intelligence or expertise that can automatically respond to infrastructure needs such as provisioning and clustering, without the need for manual intervention by an IT administrator.
A pre-integrated solution also simplifies the data center manager?s experience, by allowing administrators to manage the entire environment through a single interface. This reduces the reliance on large IT teams.
Availability, scalability, and business continuity
With the plethora of software used in organizations today, one significant hidden business cost is software upgrades. A 2011 study by Forrester Consulting showed that about 55 percent of enterprises experience application downtime when performing a major infrastructure upgrade?.
Recovery times can be significant, with IT personnel having to upgrade each disparate system on its own, one at a time. The downtime is counter-productive for users.
With IBM?s PureSystems, upgrades for system components are available through a single fix pack, so that administrators need not have to organize the prerequisites separately. Additionally, an automated dynamic resource allocation can cut down workload deployment time from days to minutes.
To drive today?s service-driven IT, data centre managers need to be able to define and meet business level SLAs that are acceptable to users. IBM PureSystems is well positioned to meet this requirement.
Laying the right foundation for cloud
According to IBM?s Fast Track to the Future report in 2013 almost two-thirds of organizations in ASEAN are increasing their investment in cloud?.
Pre-integrated systems with built-in expertise are just what organizations need to meet the demands of cloud deployments. The pre-integrated standardized systems can be deployed straight into a cloud infrastructure.
Resources can be scaled dynamically to meet the elasticity of cloud computing. Solutions such as IBM PureSystems also support virtualization, multi-tenancy, and automated provisioning for a more efficient cloud deployment.
Coupled with a host of built-in and simplified monitoring and management capabilities, the IBM PureSystems can take organizations to the cloud much faster and more effectively.
In today?s fast-paced business environment, data centers need to be able to respond quickly to business demands. Expert integrated systems automatically balance, manage and optimize the hardware, middleware and software to deliver and manage processes, services and applications at the speed and agility required by today?s businesses.
As a leader in computing innovations, IBM offers businesses PureSystems, defining a category of IT business enabler specially designed for today?s business environment.
These are systems with integrated expertise that combine the flexibility of a general purpose system with the elasticity of cloud and the simplicity of an appliance tuned to the workload.
Combining true intelligence in the form of built-in expertise and overall integration through consolidation, PureSystems is the answer to data center efficiency that in turn accelerates business innovation.
The author is the country executive for systems and technology group at IBM Philippines
??IDC ASEAN Data Center Operational Efficiency Best Practices: Shift Spending to New Projects Through Improved Execution, Sponsored by IBM, released in July 2012
??Fast track to the future: The 2012 IBM Tech Trends Report
??IDC analyst, Matt Eastwood, IDC Directions Presentation, 2011