When considering approaches to sourcing IT infrastructure and business applications, CIOs need to balance acquisition and operating-cost efficiency with agility, scalability, availability, and resiliency. IT departments that are slow to respond to business-unit requirements may find those same business units circumventing corporate IT and sourcing their IT and applications from cloud-based offerings.
Whether as pure infrastructure-on-demand suppliers or providers of software-as-a-service (SaaS), many third-party cloud-services offerings are designed to simplify the procurement process, support on-demand scaling, provide high-availability, and enable rapid recovery. Many also provide the option of a variable-cost pricing model, which is often more palatable to business-unit executives. CIOs that want to remain competitive with cloud-services offerings should move aggressively to adopt the core enabling technologies of Infrastructure 2.0 that underpin cloud-based offerings. These include:
- Virtual servers,
- Virtual networks,
- Virtual storage,
- Virtual file systems.
Rather than viewing cloud services as competitive, moreover, CIOs should plan for the development and deployment of an infrastructure that incorporates private-to-public-cloud extensions. No place is this more obvious than in the fast-growing area of rich media content.
The IT services that support the operations of Colonial Williamsburg provide an excellent case study. At Colonial Williamsburg, 80%-85% of file data is described as rich media, which includes photos and videos. Most of the file data is infrequently accessed, but as an institution that incorporates travel and entertainment, educational, museum, and research activities, all of the data is considered important. Colonial Williamsburg implemented ARX Series file virtualization technology from F5, to enable automated, policy-based migration of data through two tiers of storage. Files that are not accessed for 90 days are automatically migrated to tier 2 storage. Doing so reduced the overall cost of supporting rich-media file growth but also eliminated the out-of-capacity notifications that were occurring with individually-managed tier 1 filers from NetApp. The organization further reports that only about 3.5% of data migrated to tier 2 storage is migrated back to tier 1 storage in any given month and that the cost of tier 2 storage is approximately half the cost of tier 1.
As a next step, Colonial Williamsburg, which provides IT services out of a single, campus data center, is evaluating how the current tape-based backup and recovery process can be eliminated and how file services can be extended to a cloud-based offering that incorporates multi-site replication.
Action Item: CIOs should develop an agile, flexible infrastructure strategy with a view towards future integration of private and public cloud offerings. Public cloud services should not be viewed as competitive, but rather as another tool in the IT tool box. The proliferation of rich-media files provides a relatively low-risk proving ground for a strategy that sources long-term archiving and disaster recovery from public-cloud offerings, while serving the needs of more-frequently accessed files and short-term archives from in-house private clouds.