Kevin McIsaac

Kevin McIsaac

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Impressive ROI reports based on nebulous benefit predictions often slip through the approval process at big organisations. The numbers presented are often so impressive, or so difficult to understand, that no one bothers to question them. Organisations launch big software projects such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) - which can easily cost $50 million apiece at a large organisation - with a completely false sense of whether the project will pay off. For anything but minor projects, the ROI analysis is essential to the business case. But with the CIO responsible for delivery of the IT component of the project within budget, and a business manager responsible for the realisation of the benefits for the project, finalising the ROI analysis is often difficult.

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Conclusion: 2006 will be the year that server virtualisation technology becomes mainstream on x86 based servers. IT Organisations are combining commodity x86 based servers with virtual machines and Storage Area Networks (SANs) to build agile, low cost server infrastructure. They are reporting many benefits including excellent TCO, rapid provisioning, increased resource utilisation and simple, low cost high-availability and disaster recovery.

Of the three core technologies used to build this infrastructure, virtual machines are the newest and most rapidly evolving. In 2006, IT organisations must understand this technology, and the vendor landscape, to ensure they make the right strategic choice for the next 5 years.


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Impressive ROI reports based on nebulous benefit predictions often slip through the approval process at big companies. The numbers presented are often so impressive, or so difficult to understand, that no one bothers to question them. Companies launch big software projects such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) - which can easily cost $50 million apiece at a large company - with a completely false sense of whether the project will pay off.

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Conclusion: Since the beginning of the dot.com boom of the late ‘90s, there has been considerable debate over which web server should be used. By 2004 the web server wars were over with two clear victors emerging, IIS from Microsoft and Apache from the Apache Software Foundation. IT Organisations (ITOs) should move beyond debating the technical merits of various product and select an organisation wide technology standard based on existing investment, skills or alignment with strategic platforms. As part of an ongoing strategy to reduce infrastructure complexity (see “Infrastructure Consolidation: Avoiding the vendor squeeze”), ITOs should create a pragmatic plan to migrate to the new standard.


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The growth of utility computing (UC) and utility infrastructure (UI) is both driving and being driven by open source software adoption. Leading utility IT vendors show that open source-based technologies and applications are now being considered or used to fill important product line gaps. At the same time, feedback from our customers indicates that utility infrastructure partially based on open source-based software will deliver more value to the enterprise than would utility infrastructure purely based on proprietary technologies.

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Conclusion: With the maturing of Server Virtualisation on industry standard (X86) and RISC/Unix servers, all IT organisations should evaluate its role in optimising IT infrastructure. See IBRS research note “Infrastructure Consolidation: Avoiding the vendor squeeze” October-05).

The recommend strategy is to start by using server virtualisation to enable the consolidation of non-production systems (i.e. dev/test/QA), progressing to consolidating smaller non-mission critical production applications and finally creating a virtual server infrastructure that simplifies and enables load-balancing, high-availability and disaster recovery. A well executed server virtualisation strategy will reduce complexity and increase agility, leading to better alignment of IT infrastructure with the applications requirements and business strategy.


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Widely-available, relatively cheap technology is catching up with the long-standing desire of end-users and businesses to use and pay for technology as demand arises, rather than them being forced to buy entire software packages or infrastructure, and then use just a small percentage of the overall capability. At the same time, user business environments have become more nimble, requiring more flexibility in IT delivery and usage, in licencing and payment structures, and in vendor business models. By being aware of new provisioning models, users will be able to gain long-sought improvements in costs and service.

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Just recently, there have been a number of announcements from the heavyweights of the software industry. These events have the potential to make a big impact on the industry and on user plans. Whenever a vendor acquires another company, reorganises or announces a new strategy the effects are sure to be manifested in changed product roadmaps, reduced support or R & D for products, account management changes and many other aspects that could change user plans. By understanding the impact of announcements such as those discussed below, users can avoid costly mistakes when choosing products and services in a constantly evolving market.

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Conclusion: The US State of Massachusetts' policy that by 2007 all Executive Department documents must be stored in Open Document Format (ODF) or PDF is a significant milestone in the ongoing migration from proprietary systems to open standards. The statement is founded in the belief that open standards are the best option for ensuring that official public records are freely and openly available for their full lifecycle. Experience with other open standards (ASCII, TCP/IP, SQL, HTML) demonstrates their central role in interoperability, confirming this belief.

Microsoft will resist ODF in an attempt to maintain control over a critical standard in one of its most profitable product lines. However, like other open standards before it, and for similar reasons, ODF will become the common standard for office documents, though due to the ubiquity of Microsoft formats this may take 6-8 years.


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''On-demand''—or ''adaptive,'' ''agile'' or other terms being used by major vendors includes the combination of business models, processes and operations that are enabled by and which require these IT resources. This concept is therefore more of an overall business strategy, including not just the availability of IT resources ''on-demand,'' but the ability to build, change, adapt and manage business operations using and leveraging the ready availability and variable capabilities of utility computing.

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Conclusion: Infrastructure Consolidation has been a hot topic since the IT downturn in 2001/2. Unfortunately, this topic has been hijacked by IT vendors and used as justification for purchasing their latest high-end technology. To date most consolidation efforts have been technology projects with poorly defined goals that rarely go beyond implementing a specific technology. As a result most consolidation projects fail to deliver lasting benefits.

To ensure long term benefits, IT organisations (ITOs) must view infrastructure as an asset to be optimised for an appropriate mix of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), agility and robustness as required by the business. The critical success factor is the recognition that complexity is the key driver of these characteristics and that a planning process (not technology) is necessary to reduce and control complexity.


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Large vendors repeatedly make announcements of their intention to provide products and services to the large market that small and medium sized enterprises (SME) provide. Rarely however, do these marketing announcements translate into usable solutions for SMEs or marketing success for the vendor. Without identifiable returns, vendor SME initiatives are short-lived. To show a commitment to SMEs, IT vendors must identify their market and create products and services appropriate to the needs of SMEs. Vendors must not assume that their strengths and competencies in the consumer or large business market will automatically guarantee success among SMEs. CIO’s should closely examine any ''SME'' branded offering from a vendor for relevance to their business.

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Conclusion: While the introduction of Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) will have a significant impact on the storage environment though 2006/7, over the next 12 months clients should be wary of the hype vendors will use to promote it. By year end 2005, technical staff should gain a basic understanding of the key features/benefits of SAS. Though 2006/7, IT organisations should begin using SAS, in conjunction with SATA, in DAS, SAN and NAS configurations when it provides a lower cost storage alternative [i.e. than Fibre Channel (FC)] while still meeting application and data service level requirements.


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Despite the "On-Demand" type services, many organisations will continue to own and manage their server platforms. With cost-cutting directives still an issue for all our clients, understanding future events in the server markets and their impact on buying decisions is essential.

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