Greenwich Technology Partners next week will launch a new services offering aimed at helping enterprises reduce IT costs by helping them to consolidate their IT infrastructures.
The White Plains, N.Y., consulting firms IT Infrastructure Consolidation Solutions cover a range of consolidation projects, including server, storage, data centers and network operations center consolidation.
GTP formalized the work it has been increasingly doing for clients, as IT spending continues to focus on ways to wring costs out of computing while increasing performance.
“About 75 percent of the people we normally talk with are now in some kind of rationalization in a consolidation effort,” said Stuart Tomlin, national practice director for systems and storage in White Plains. Tomlin is the architect of the new services, which spans multiple practice areas.
The GTP consolidation services, which also cover security systems, applications, databases and IT personnel, are based on the consulting firms NetValue methodology. The services draw on GTP consulting expertise in storage, security, internetworking, network economics and performance management.
The motivation to consolidate is always cost savings, but the strong focus now springs from the massive investments made in IT infrastructure during the Y2K buildup and e-business boom, believes Joseph Beninati, CEO in White Plains.
“The whole plan was motivated by the fact that corporate America spent an enormous amount of money over the last three or four years during boom times. Now times are tight. Weve come up with solutions to make better use of what youve already purchased,” he said. The IT infrastructure buildup was the largest capital expenditure boom in the industrial age, according to Beninati.
“The US bought 40 percent more (computing) equipment and software than it needed to run the economy,” said John Parkinson, chief technologist for the Americas Region at Cap Gemini Ernst & Young in Chicago.
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GTP joins CGE&Y, along with IBM Global Services (IGS), Accenture and other IT consulting and outsourcing firms that offer IT infrastructure consolidation services. Beninati believes GTP is unique in its depth of technology expertise and in its focus on consulting instead of outsourcing or business strategy consulting as IGS emphasizes.
“This work is too technical for the likes of KPMG (now BearingPoint Inc.), Deloitte (Consulting Inc.) and the others. The engineering prowess required makes us uniquely qualified to do this,” he added.
But GTP, IGS and Accenture all share a holistic approach to IT infrastructure consolidation that takes into account the impact changes will have on user productivity.
“We try to get clients to look at a singular outcome. Looking at just servers could leave money and problems on the table,” said Paul Brown, director of IT architecture for IGSs Business Consulting Services unit in Philadelphia. “While we can look specifically at storage, the trend is to explore beyond that or look beyond just servers to look at disaster recovery, planning, high availability and storage. They are all connected.”
Tomlin agreed that consolidating servers, storage or data centers has an impact on business continuity and recovery plans and then some. “You have to take the entire picture into account. Our strategy is to understand the impact. When you close data centers, you move applications away from the end users – so whats the bandwidth impact,” he said.
A lot of enterprises will take on consolidation projects without the help of consultants, but many get blindsided by focusing on just one element.
“GTP understands theres more to it than a one-dimensional, saving cost perspective,” said Jerald Murphy, senior vice president and service director of Global Networking Strategies at META Group, Inc. in Princeton, N.J. The reality is, the right solution isnt a template. It depends on the nature of your business – who is using your system, where are they, what are they doing. All those can make a very diff strategy for consolidation,” he added.
The trick is to look at consolidation from a 30,000-foot architectural view, according to Brown. “If you dont, you may simplify your server archictecture by consolidating servers, but you may have added storage directly to those instead of across your enterprise. Or you may not have architected your network and data center for a need for lots of feeds,” he said.
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For GTP, projects typically start with gaining an understanding of the true business objectives and performing an in-depth analysis of the IT infrastructure, which includes getting an accurate inventory of the IT environment. “Getting that information is key, because it builds the case for what you can consolidate,” said Tomlin. Subsequent steps include analyzing current performance indicators, actual implementation, then re-analyzing performance to insure that objectives are met.
IGS breaks the task down into four steps: assessment, design, implementation and operations, which can include outsourcing of that function or keeping it in-house. Those steps can be applied individually to servers, storage, networking or disaster recovery, but they often uncover other potential cost-reduction opportunities.
For example, one IGS client began with a request to consolidate 100 Intel servers in one data center but found opportunities to save money on storage and networking. In the process, IGS found the client had 1.5 terabytes of unused storage, according to Brown.
Where the biggest opportunities for cost reduction are is a matter of debate and depends largely on the clients objectives. Most enterprises look to reduce head count, facilities expenses and future capital expenditures, but other savings can come out of hardware maintenance costs and software licensing costs.
Tomlin maintained that “field technicians are probably the single most costly element of any infrastructure.”
Accenture has seen some of the biggest savings in its consolidation projects for clients result from reduced software licensing costs. The time frame for return on investment and the amount of the return also varies from one project to the next.
Accenture typically sees “ROI in the order of $8 to $10 for every $1 invested in the consolidation project,” said John Kaltenmark, a managing partner and chief architect at Accenture in Chicago, Ill. “We were able in one case to deliver over $13 million to the bottom line,” he added.
Such significant savings are driving an increasing number of Fortune 1000 companies toward consolidation.
For Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, about 18 percent of its project work in North America is now focused on consolidation efforts and about 20 percent of its consultants are engaged in that work. And those numbers are expected to go up.
“We still really dont know at end of day whether people will push through all the opportunities that are available to them once they get seriously into this infrastructure consolidation process,” said Parkinson, who added that CGE&Y doesnt see anything on the horizon to derail the consolidation cycle.