Branch Offices Ripe for IT Consolidation, Forrester Says

At many enterprises, branch offices account for 20 percent of a company's IT infrastructure, according to a report from Forrester Research. Currently, most of the consolidation work is centered around the central data center, but IT departments under marching orders to cut costs and increase efficiency are turning their attention to branch offices as consolidation candidates. Eventually branch offices will be served by a cloud computing environment, but that probably won't start coming until 2010, Forrester said. In the meantime, there are some solutions enterprises can use now to bring down costs and increase efficiency in branch office IT environments.

For enterprises looking to save money and increase efficiency through IT consolidation, one place they should focus on is the branch office, according to an analyst with Forrester Research.

In a recent report, analyst Chris Silva said branch offices can account for about 20 percent of the infrastructure of a company, and should be a prime candidate in a company's consolidation plans. However, that hasn't always been the case.

"The branch office is a latent pain point in the battle to streamline IT," Silva said in his May 26 report. "While the data center has likely reaped the benefits of power, cooling, physical space and operating expense gains from the adoption of technologies such as virtualization, consolidation of storage and server infrastructure, and increased use of software as a service (SAAS), branch offices have largely been ignored."

That's going to have to change, because IT's role within companies is changing, he said. No longer viewed as simply a group within the company that rolls out technology services and support, now IT is being tasked with helping to bring costs down and increasing efficiency throughout the company. This is all helping fuel the push for consolidation, and in "most large companies, the branch office is a source of considerable opportunity to consolidate," Silva said.

Click here to read about Aruba Networks' virtual branch office solution.

Eventually branch office consolidation is going to take one of two paths, he said. One is what Forrester calls "branch office in a box"-or BOB-in which a base piece of networking gear, such as a secure router, is used as the foundation. Put on top of this are services such as file and print, as well as local identity management controls, remote access capabilities and WLAN management tasks.

The problem with the BOB model is that most offerings lack enough variation to suit a wide range of needs, Silva said.