Enterprises strive for consolidated view of IT systems

With the days of spending money on IT infrastructure like drunken sailors long over, enterprises are grappling with getting a better handle on what hardware and systems they have and how they might consolidate.

“”A number of functional areas roll up into what we call infrastructure management,””

says David Senf, analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. The three major areas, he says, are system management, network management and storage management. It’s the latter that has the most potential for growth — IDC is predicting it will grow 13 per cent CAGR through 2006. “”The big shining light is in storage management and more particularly, SRM — storage resource management. SRM is basically when you have a single view into all of the capacity within the organization.””

For Alex Wilkinson, CIO with Agriculture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC), infrastructure management involves a whole “”slew of components,”” including software and hardware, as well as the standards interconnectivity between them.

“”It’s a critical part of our ongoing planning and upkeep,”” he says. “”And it’s ever-changing as we move from internally isolated business applications where you’re focused on one business line, to integrating those to provide better customer service. There’s enormous impact on your infrastructure.””

A Crown corporation of the Alberta government, AFSC has outsourced most of its IT to Fujitsu Consulting. Wilkinson says as an organization moves to provide services directly to its customer base, there will be a considerable impact on infrastructure, so IT planning has to be made part of ever-changing business plans.

“”You start to look at alternatives around security and how you’re going to provide information and how it’s going to interlink,”” he says. “”All of it is based on that infrastructure.””

Senf says tough economic conditions and a push for cost savings are a huge driver for infrastructure management.

“”Once you can see what you have, you can manage that capacity such that you can reduce the number of overall assets that you need,”” he says, “”so you can procure less, which means you have less staff required to manage those devices.””

IT departments are starting to keep track of which business unit is using what in terms of IT infrastructure, says Senf. “”Organizations are starting to look more closely at adopting that type of technology so they can bill back to departments for their usage. As purse strings get pulled tighter and tighter, things such as that become more important. It’s one of the indicators of the state of the union.””

BMO Nesbitt Burns has reorganized its IT department to support business processes instead of select applications, and create tighter bonds between the IT department and various business groups, says Mark Saunders, senior vice-president and CIO.

The financial services firm has moved to a utility computing model with the help of Hewlett-Packard Canada.

“”We used to have 21 servers spread across the country because network speeds were much slower and more expensive, so you needed to put the computing power closer to the end user. But now, with networks and bandwidth being more cheaply available, there are bigger benefits to having the equipment centralized and we’ve been able to reduce the number of servers down from 21 to four and get a utility type model in place.””

Building an infrastructure that’s based on usage is particularly useful for the financial services sector.

“”We don’t have the same predictability as perhaps some other business,”” says Saunders. “”We can’t tell what the market’s going to do. The real trend is to have variable infrastructure in place.

“”We’re constantly under pressure in these hard times to be more efficient, do more with less, look for innovative deals,”” he says.

Infrastructure in the foundation everything is built on, says Jim Love, practice leader for enterprise value management with Fujitsu Consulting in Toronto.

“”It’s so integrated with the solution you’re trying to build, it’s impossible to really deal with the solution without dealing with the business organization,”” he says. “”It’s being rediscovered as part of the intricate Web of solutions we put together.

“”Organizations are complex beasts,”” he adds. “”So when I push here, what happens in the organization. Or if I need throughput here, where does it come from?””

“”We’re finding there’s a huge demand for things that help manage assets, and the economy is the main driver,”” says David Hochhauser,

Computer Associate’s vice-president of Unicenter marketing.

Meanwhile, IDC’s Senf says it’s a balancing act as IT/business alignment gets more attention — balancing technical priorities with business priorities as well as customer requirements and available resources.

“”Ultimately, investment priorities rule the day,”” he says.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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