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Jul 2 2013

4 IT headaches, and how cloud computing can help ease the pressure

By at 10:01 in Cloud Computing Services and Cloud Data Centres, Featured

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IT budgets being swallowed up simply by Keeping The Lights On (KTLO), delays in deploying new hardware and the knock on effects for business development… IT teams these days have a lot to cope with when dealing with traditional physical infrastructures. Can cloud computing in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) help?

This infographic from Andy Monshaw of IBM (via CloudTweaks) illustrates four of the big challenges that IT teams and their organisations are increasingly facing as IT continues to take a more central role in the day-to-day operations of the modern business.

The graphic reports that on average, around 70% of IT budgets are consumed by operations and maintenance. That leaves just under one third of IT expenditure for the important concern of strategy and innovation (far from an ideal balance as previously noted) and an inefficient use highly skilled IT staff.

Also highlighted are the delays that can be faced when deploying new hardware, with research by Forrester Consulting suggesting time frames can run up to between four and six months for provisioning. It’s no surprise to learn then, that almost two-thirds of organisations find themselves falling behind schedule when there is a requirement for new IT capabilities.

Strikingly, it is also reported that 55% of IT professionals experience disruption during infrastructure upgrades that can last anywhere between a few minutes to a whole week.

An IT headache indeed. The question is, how do we think that cloud can help to work around, or at the very least ease these key issues? Let’s take each one in turn.

1. Redressing the IT budget balance in favour of strategy and innovation

Switching out failed or end-of-life servers, ordering hardware, testing hardware, data centre visits, switch upgrades, piecemeal software and security patching. More testing. Just a handful of the daily tasks faced by IT staff, as they work to maintain their physical infrastructure. A lot of this overhead can be offloaded by moving some (a hybrid cloud model) or all of your infrastructure to a trusted cloud or Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider.

Suddenly, responsibility for managing all of that tin is shifted to somebody else, freeing up a lot of time to focus on more valuable and productive tasks. Of course, there is still management to be carried out — no IT infrastructure, whether it is virtualised or physical, can look after itself. However, when your resources can be managed from a central point, from wherever you happen to be, the whole job becomes a lot simpler and more efficient, helping to reduce the impact of time-draining maintenance.

2. Overcoming delays in deployment

Procurement in the cloud has been likened to a self-service “IT vending machine”. Decide what you want, deploy it when you need it. Dubbed “IT agility”, this idea of compute resources on demand is perhaps one of the most talked about advantages of cloud. Whereas in the past, any new deployment required significant planning to take into account lead times, installation and testing, deployment in the cloud has helped to collapse time scales significantly: from days, weeks (months!) to having resources available for use within hours.

3. Keeping projects and business on schedule

Where there’s IT agility, there’s business agility. By cutting out the delays involved with provisioning IT, a business can move forward as quickly as it needs to, whether that’s accommodating growth in core services and products, or reacting quickly to new opportunities and exploring new markets. It’s in this respect that the benefits of cloud can be seen as a wider business strategy, rather than simply an “IT tactic”.

4. Reducing the risk of downtime during upgrades and expansion

If you’re expanding in the cloud (maybe you need more storage or memory for a heavy workload, or perhaps you need a new virtual machine for a specific task) you’re simply taking more of the existing infrastructure — there’s no disturbance to a physical infrastructure. Because of the flexible approach that cloud offers, it’s also possible to create temporary environments for testing, without investing capital in hardware that spends most of its life gathering dust. Once you’re happy that everything is working as it should, move those qualified workloads into production, and power-down your test VMs (no capital wastage).


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