Over the past few years, Canada’s public sector organizations have begun a major transformation to become even more effective, cost-efficient and accountable in their delivery of services. Throughout this process, they have progressively taken advantage of technology innovations, spurred by the need to do more with less. This has put data centre relocation and consolidation high on government’s list of IT priorities.
Gone are the days when managing a data centre meant focusing on how much capacity the computers could handle. The data centre is evolving into an organization’s “control centre,” and is required to manage a growing spectrum of activities that stretch far beyond traditional computing into a complex ecosystem.
Handling a data centre today involves managing everything from business compliance and risk issues to volatile energy costs and environmental sustainability questions.
It requires the ability to manage a host of smart devices that link into the data centre from around the world as well as the executives and employees, who are increasingly tech savvy and operate in a 24/7 model.
It means being able to deal with an explosion of data within the enterprise as well as outside of it. This is no small challenge. The amount of data stored doubles about every 18 months.
It requires integrating cloud computing into a company’s strategy so that huge amounts of data and analytical resources can be accessed from the Internet.
This increase in responsibilities raises the risks and cost pressures that IT managers face. With the data centre acting as the organization’s control center, IT managers could feel completely overwhelmed.
The data centre, though, is evolving to meet these demands. One way to deal with the increasing expenses caused by the rising operational costs of systems and networks, the explosion in the volume of data, and the difficulty in deploying new applications and business services, is to simplify the storage environment. Virtualization and consolidation are just two options available to IT managers.
For example, IBM uses just three global data centres to support 80 percent of the company’s applications. Thirty-one networks have been combined into one globally managed network, and deployed applications have been reduced from more than 15,000 to 4,700. Over a period of five years, these kinds of IT transformation and optimization efforts yielded US $1.25 billion in savings.
Consolidation and the associated documentation of inventory can also lead to some surprising finds. Some corporations uncover storage devices that they didn’t even know they had. These are costly and potentially risky discoveries. More important, though, consolidation improves manageability and service levels by increasing data accessibility. And it pays off, reducing the total cost of ownership up to 30 percent by reducing complexity, labor expenses, cutting power and cooling costs. That means that the typical payback happens within three to 12 months. High performing, energy-efficient data centres can produce 15-50 percent annual energy savings with less than a two year payback.
Today data centre managers are also on the frontlines of security strategy. Their responsibilities are exploding as compliance demands increase, the number of devices hooking into the networks and systems skyrockets, and the amount of information pumped into these systems jumps.
Organizations can take many different steps to improve security, but the human factor remains one of the biggest risks that businesses face today. Mobility is at the heart of today’s networks. Employees bring in devices from home, log in from hotels, home, or other offices, and take laptops and smart devices on the road. Lost or stolen devices can expose intellectual property to competitors. Careless use of corporate networks can lead to the uncontrolled circulation of internal documents. Malicious insiders can introduce malware or undertake corporate espionage.
Fully managed information protection services can reduce these risks while saving up to 40 percent of the total cost of ownership.
Data is the currency of our society and drives every aspect of business. It is integrated into every aspect of our lives, whether it’s Facebook pages, iPhone apps or corporate or public entity networks.
As data centres continue to evolve into full “control” centres for organizations, public sector departments able to capitalize on emerging trends will be able to save significant costs and be even more effective for constituents in the future.
David Drury is general manager, Global Technology Services, IBM Canada, and David Hathaway is vice president and partner, Public Sector, Global Business Services, IBM Canada.
Tips for consolidation
• Build an IT plan to support the business or policy mandates that is continuously updated, not only to help boost efficiency, but also to take advantage of an ever-changing set of technologies and services;
• Build a robust optimization strategy that drives cost containment with increased server, storage and data centre optimization while also enabling a more flexible IT architecture for your organization;
• Leverage automation to reduce the costs to support the infrastructure and to increase the speed by which services are provided to users; and
• Whenever possible, align commodity computing capability with each business need –separate complex tasks into discreet functions – if it allows you to move away from complex, highly customized IT systems and toward integrated cloud services.