Simplification by converging infrastructure components and the IT organization that supports them has a significant payback. In a recent case study on extreme simplification, the business benefits of taking such an approach were shown to be a reduction of 1/3 or more of the IT budget. The converged components selected were:
- Server Virtualization using HP blades with IO virtualization,
- NetApp Storage virtualization network and snapshot backup software,
- Microsoft Hypervisor, VDI, OS and Application Suites,
- Communication network between two sites for backup, recovery and archive, using the snapshot backup software.
There are many alternative ways of skinning this cat. Cisco, EMC, HP, and others have converged infrastructure combining servers, storage, and networking. Actifio (the subject of a recent Peer Incite led by one of its resellers, Lighthouse Computer Services), Asigra, and others offer local backup appliances and cloud storage options.
A different set of boundaries were drawn in a very interesting recent Peer Incite on achieving hyper-productivity through DevOps, the combining and integration of development and operations in a single cross-trained group.
Choosing from these alternative approaches and other emerging options, and drawing integration boundaries that are suitable for an IT organization and the business it serves, is and will continue to be an extremely important process. The advice from successful early adopters is very useful, summarized from the two references above:
- Choose approaches which:
- Deliver business value,
- Excite staff,
- Utilize high levels of skill in staff;
- If tasks don't meet these three criteria, they should either not be initiated or outsourced;
- Constantly experiment with small projects:
- Create a “skunk-works” fund;
- Choose leaders that can both initiate and kill projects;
- Virtualize all part of the IT infrastructure (servers, IO, storage, networking (as networking virtualization matures), desktops (for low-mobile users)and device virtualization (for data access for mobile multi-device users):
- Separate software and processes from specific hardware constraints through virtualization.
- Simplify all the components and sub-components in the data center ruthlessly:
- Reduce the number software and hardware vendors:
- Do not make the highest functionality the most important criterion in evaluating a vendor or product unless the functionality directly leads to simplification.
- Snapshot technology is an important enabler of backup, whether to disk or tape. Snapshots enable versioning and the ability to backup while applications continue to process new data.
- There is an enormous difference between crash-consistent (volume-based) backups and application-consistent backups. With crash-consistent backups, the amount of data that will have to be recovered or regenerated may be as far back as the last backup.
- Be wary of setting different service levels (RPO) for application-consistent snapshots, particularly when applications are highly interdependent in support of a business process. Ultimately, backups should be business-process aware.
- Do not trust any vendor who claims that they can rid of tape.
- Sure, eliminate tape recovery processes that should be replaced by disk;
- Data volume is rising as fast if not faster than bandwidth capabilities;
- A truck full of tapes give an order of magnitude more bandwidth for an order of magnitude less cost, and will maintain the relative advantages into the foreseeable future;
- New tape technologies such as LTO-5 and LTFS are enabling low cost solutions for many archiving applications
- Even with cloud solutions, tape should be part of the total solution (e.g., Amazon and Google recovery of data from tape after loss of disk copies)
- Develop clear metrics for measuring success such as:
- Reduction of the IT budget,
- Increase in the number of changes made (value of implementations or updates, with an emphasis on number),
- Percentage of changes backed out (quality of integration).
Action Item: Simplification infrastructure projects need strong internal leadership and a strong interaction with the businesses that IT serves. External advice should be sought from IT services that have a track record of success and are independent of hardware and software suppliers.