The current state of the economy has made it critical for companies to adopt a small-business mentality of doing more with less. Cutting costs will be one of the most important trends moving into 2009 and will drive many IT decisions throughout the year.
As enterprises put forth their most strategic efforts to streamline operations and combat declining revenues, they’ll turn to technology that can deliver fast time-to-value, help optimize resources and show a measurable ROI. These types of initiatives are also most likely to receive sign-off as budgets continue to tighten.
There are a number of ways to optimize and reduce costs within today’s IT infrastructures. Here are five IT trends to watch during the next 12 months:
Trend No. 1: Data center transformation
The economic downturn is bringing data center transformation initiatives to the fore, as is the increasing demand for space. In 2008 alone, the need for data center space grew 14 percent worldwide. Yet, during the same period, the inventory of available space only increased by 6 percent.
While a recent survey found that only 20 percent of surveyed technology decision makers plan to take on “complete transformation” of their data centers in 2009, the remaining 80 percent are looking to implement individual data center transformation projects including automation (64 percent), green IT (60 percent), operations management (59 percent), virtualization (59 percent) and business continuity (58 percent).
Data center transformation initiatives such as relocation, consolidation, hardware replacement and virtualization will enable companies to leverage what they already have, consolidate space within existing data centers and immediately reduce costs. Before undertaking such projects, IT professionals need to conduct a baseline of their infrastructure. A baseline will give companies a snapshot of their entire infrastructure and should be the first step in any major data center transformation project. Your business can’t manage what it can’t measure, so this type of insight into your IT infrastructure will make data center transitions and tasks more manageable. It will also enable companies to identify end-of-life or aging software-an essential component of tracking down and eliminating unnecessary costs.
Trend No. 2: Greener, leaner IT
Besides the obvious environmental benefits a greener IT environment offers, the financial and business continuity incentives of an eco-friendly infrastructure are substantial. Green technology helps companies cut costs, remove data center waste and meet escalating energy requirements. With President Obama’s push to decrease global emissions and boost green energy programs, requirements for green IT are sure to escalate.
Data center power consumption can cause astronomical costs and wasted resources. Between 2000 and 2006, data center power consumption costs doubled to $4.5 billion and could double again by 2011, according to the United States government. An efficient (read: green) data center uses about 25 percent less electricity than a run-of-the-mill one, which could amount to $4.5 million a year in savings at a midsized facility.
Some companies are already experimenting with creative ways to decrease data centers’ carbon footprint. Google is attempting to float data centers on the ocean, Intel is seeing if it can cool data centers with outside air and Microsoft is trying to establish an economical data center inside a tent. But until other companies have an excess of funds to invest in such new, large-scale technology, they’ll have to figure out how to make what they already have greener.
Trend No. 3: Cloud computing
It’s clear that IT is moving toward a service-oriented future and cloud computing is one of the hottest trends. Cloud computing provides a single point of access for an enterprise’s computing needs, allowing the organization to cut costs and create a leaner IT environment. But for all its benefits, cloud computing also presents a number of infrastructure management challenges, including in the areas of availability, security, policy and support. To combat these challenges, it’s critical for businesses to understand their IT infrastructure before and after they move to the cloud.
Maximizing the cloud requires a certain level of IT transparency, as well as a thorough understanding of each infrastructure component and how it relates to others. Without this, companies will lack valuable insight into the cause and effect within their IT estates-which could adversely affect cloud operations down the road.
Virtualization Management, Tracking and Automation
Trend No. 4: Virtualization management, tracking and automation
The rapid adoption of virtualization technology, not to mention the new vendors entering the market, will make virtualization management, tracking and automation particularly important in the coming year. The additional layer of abstraction that comes with virtualization introduces more dependencies-and therefore more risk-to already complex business applications. Multivendor virtualization introduces even more complexity and requires additional IT skill sets. If you can’t properly manage your virtual environment, it can create new IT problems and actually cost your business more instead of less.
For example, a recent survey of 137 user organizations concluded that “lack of visibility into entire transaction flow” and “inability to anticipate performance issues while conducting virtualization projects” were the top two obstacles standing between businesses and optimization of application performance in virtualized environments.
Virtual machine sprawl-this rising tide of invisible servers-is the new threat to operational efficiency. To combat VM sprawl, organizations need to understand where their physical and virtual assets are within their IT infrastructure, as well as the relationships and interdependencies between them. This ensures that end-to-end application dependencies remain clear to support accurate change impact analysis, reduce system outages and increase service availability.
Trend No. 5: Renewed focus on software license compliance
As companies look to cut costs, another key trend in 2009 will be discovering ways to identify and eliminate unused data center software and ensure license compliance. Software licenses are usually contracted based on expected rather than actual use, making it hard to determine when companies are no longer compliant with their licensing agreements. As a result, software is often either heavily over-purchased (which is cost-ineffective) or under-licensed (which can cause serious legal ramifications). Businesses face an ongoing struggle to manage multiple versions and patch levels for instances of the same software product, reducing their infrastructure agility and resiliency.
It’s clear that 2009 will be a year of cutting costs and streamlining IT operations to generate an economic and environmental benefit. But before companies can start down that road, they first need to know what’s there, what it’s connected to and what’s changing in their IT environment. It may then be a challenge for a company to uncover which method, or combination of methods, works best for it. But it will certainly be interesting to see how the year plays out, and what innovative technologies emerge as a result.
Adam Kerrison is CTO at Tideway Systems. Adam has experience in the delivery of software products into operational IT environments that give a true and rapid return on investment. Adam was most recently CTOat Micromuse, with responsibility for direction and road map of Netcool products. While at Micromuse, Adam worked his way through the ranks from support engineer via senior vice president of development to CTO.
Between 1989 and 1990, Adam worked as a software engineer for GEC Avionics on real-time modules for jet fighter head-up displays, relational database design and implementation. Adam has a First Class BSc in Computer Science from Greenwich University, United Kingdom. He can be reached at [email protected]