IT departments are feeling the pressure. Organizations expect their IT teams to take advantage of powerful new technologies to improve productivity and deliver advanced capabilities.
Meanwhile, spending on legacy equipment is steadily declining, challenging IT staff to maintain existing operations and services at acceptable levels, while also investigating promising new solutions. This environment demands a logical approach: Organizations must devise an IT strategy that allows them to do more with less.
“Organizations today face static to declining IT budgets — especially compared with the growing data set they must manage — and therefore must look at cutting costs in all areas,” says Lee Caswell, vice president of VMware's products, storage and availability business unit. Fortunately, addressing some basics will set almost any organization on the path to cost savings and improved IT efficiency.
Any effort to cut costs and improve efficiency should begin at the IT core: the data center infrastructure. By deploying up-to-date hardware, organizations can take immediate advantage of new features, including improved performance and reliability.
“The growing costs of retaining an aging IT infrastructure, including the increase in failure rate, downtime and support costs beyond year three, can justify a programmatic technology refresh program,” says Michael Swan, director of global business development for HPE Financial Services.
State-of-the-art servers, for instance, offer greater processing power, allowing them to handle more and heavier workloads, including sophisticated data analytics. “Not only are the servers more robust performancewise, but they’ve got more compute capability, can handle more workloads, have more memory and also have better resiliency,” says Greg Schulz, founder and senior adviser at StorageIO, a technology consulting firm.
A revolution in storage technology is helping forward-looking organizations to simultaneously store more data and lower overall storage costs. Flash is an increasingly popular option thanks to its speed, energy efficiency and reliability. “Solid-state flash, nonvolatile memory storage, is in your future,” Schulz says.
“Although at one point it was mostly reserved for specialized niche or high-performance apps, over the past year or so, we have really seen flash storage turn a corner and hit the mainstream in a big way, mainly due to the compelling economics,” says Brad Parks, HPE’s director of storage and Big Data product marketing. “The benefits are clear: less space, less management, less power, more predictability, greater performance, lower latency.”
Declining media costs and new technologies that use flash more efficiently are making flash economics increasingly compelling for many organizations.
“Many larger organizations have now flipped to a flash-only storage strategy for their critical apps, and we're starting to see this change trickle down into smaller businesses as well,” Parks says.
For organizations that still aren’t ready to make a total commitment to flash, hybrid storage (incorporating flash along with traditional arrays) provides a way to improve performance and gain flash efficiency benefits, while using less expensive storage options for lower priority workloads.
Trimming data center power and cooling consumption is a frequently overlooked method for increasing IT savings. “You can have the most effective, the most efficient systems, but if you have a low-performing power or cooling system, you may offset your savings,” Schulz says.
Schulz notes that data center service optimization — the next step in efficient data center infrastructure management — optimizes energy resources by making them an integral part of data center business planning, cost accounting, energy resource design and management.
A data center's physical configuration also plays an important role in its power and cooling efficiency. For optimal results — and cost savings — server racks should be deployed in hot and cold aisles arranged in alternating rows, with cold-air intakes facing one way and hot-air exhausts facing the other. Typically, cold aisles face air-conditioner output ducts while hot aisles face air-conditioner return ducts. A 2014 survey by the Uptime Institute found that 80 percent of sites have implemented hot- or cold-aisle containment.
Another path organizations are taking to lower the cost of power and cooling, as well as computing and storage resources, is transitioning to a hyperconverged infrastructure. HCI tightly integrates computing, storage, networking and other infrastructure technologies into a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor.
“A major advantage of HCI related to power and cooling is a more efficient architecture that can dramatically reduce the overall IT footprint in the data center, resulting in noticeable facility and real estate savings as well,” Caswell says. “Additionally, HCI systems can offer organizations a building block to the software-defined data center, where all infrastructure is virtualized and delivered as a service.”
In addition to realizing savings by updating key elements of their infrastructure, many organizations save money by acquiring key IT solutions on a subscription basis, including Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service offerings.
The subscription model provides valuable cost benefits, says Patricia Adams, IT asset management evangelist at LANDESK Software.
“Many capital costs can be reduced by making the costs part of the operating budget,” she says. “Software upgrades, patches and version updates can all be handled by the supplier at their location, thereby reducing the impact on the central IT team, which can continue to work on other higher value projects.”
Subscription services also ease the purchasing process and speed up IT rollouts, because organizations don't have to waste time researching technology, ordering hardware, and then testing, configuring and deploying their investment.
This model also allows organizations to scale up IT capabilities quickly without being forced to make large capital investments. Further, they can scale down capabilities just as quickly, avoiding spending on assets that are no longer needed.
“In many cases, businesses buy applications they don’t really require, but they have no recourse for making returns or demanding refunds,” says Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology research firm.
For more on how your organization can increase its IT savings, visit CDW.com/doingmore.