Reducing IT costs is now mission-critical
In a difficult business climate, every dollar must be invested as wisely as possible and innovative development becomes a crucial business goal. Such development, however, must be funded. For this reason, many CIOs are turning to IT operations and asking this: "How can we spend less, yet achieve comparable service levels?"
Simply put, IT must now accomplish more while using fewer resources.
According to a market overview published by Forrester this year, this means that "enterprises will look at solutions that increase IT operations' productivity, reduce the time needed to correct problems and eliminate wasted time." A Gartner forecast for 2009 is even more specific, suggesting that overall IT growth in 2009 will be worse than it was in 2001 during the bursting of the dot-com stock bubble. Gartner states that reducing IT costs has, in 2009, become the second-most important strategy for CIOs—up from the tenth-most important in 2008, with business and IT alignment in the lead.
Achieving substantial cost reductions without compromising service levels, however, will require more than merely adjusting business strategies or processes. It will also require, in many cases, new IT solutions designed to fulfill those strategies and drive those processes. This is particularly true in the case of the enterprise-class data center, commonly the heart of IT operations, where optimized solutions can be leveraged to obtain exceptional improvements in cost-efficiency.
IBM Tivoli solutions reduce costs through improved visibility, control and automation
IBM can help. The IBM Tivoli service management platform, built on open standards and supported by proven best practices, represents a way for organizations to obtain more business value from data centers. This becomes possible through three categories of optimizations: Visibility (seeing the business), Control (making real-time adjustments to the business) and Automation (spurring business agility through intelligent orchestration of resources). Because the Tivoli portfolio is modular, organizations can select from it those solutions which pair most closely to their needs, over time arriving at a tailored data center characterized by quantifiable cost reductions and enhanced service levels.
What challenges do data centers face today? Consider how they commonly function. They are typically comprised of hundreds or thousands of systems—and increasingly, thanks to virtualization, each of those systems acts as a host to multiple virtual servers. Each virtual server must, in turn, be provisioned with a complete software stack of an operating system, applications, middleware, drivers, configuration settings, data and other elements. When IT must manually provision servers, that process requires enormous time and energy, ultimately translating into higher costs and lower IT agility. Furthermore, each manual provisioning process can create inadvertent errors, which could lead to such undesirable complications as system failure, security breaches, compliance shortcomings and others. When such complications occur, costs will inevitably climb and quality of service will decline.
Additionally, there is the question of workload distribution to consider. Ideally, a data center would act as a flexible, scalable engine of business strategies—automatically allocating workloads in real time to higher- and lower-performing systems, as well as all necessary resources such as storage, to ensure that business goals are met. Typically, though, workload management is neither this intelligent nor this automated. The business outcome is lower performance and higher costs—exactly the opposite of the CIO's goal.
Finally, effective cost tracking represents a third goal many data centers have yet to achieve. As data centers become more complex, based on more and more solutions, systems, applications and services across a heterogeneous infrastructure, it becomes harder and harder to know how and why costs are accruing.
Armed with quantified information on these topics, however, the organization can take direct action to reduce operational costs in many different ways. One possibility lies in chargeback to different departments shown to have created those costs; not only does this improved visibility serve to shift costs to the appropriate parties, but it also acts as a deterrent to unnecessary cost-generation in the first place. Furthermore, cost-tracking serves to quantify the price of services rendered by IT and informs and suggests budget strategies as well.
Three emerging challenges—and three compelling solutions
Fortunately, the IBM Tivoli portfolio directly addresses all three of these areas through targeted solutions to help organizations reduce overall costs, yet also increase service levels.
1. Automated provisioning
IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager (US) (TPM) provides automated provisioning of complete software stacks to any server in the data center, whether virtual or physical—in fact, TPM can even provision a bare-metal system with a blank hard drive using a customer-defined library of disk images. Thanks to features such as Web Replay and its support for scripts, TPM can ensure that all data center servers have exactly the software they require without requiring direct human oversight, thus dramatically reducing the costs of server management over time while also supporting compliance, security and other key operational mandates.
Amoi Electronics, a major consumer electronics manufacturer, recently leveraged TPM to achieve impressive cost reductions. By enhancing application provisioning through automation, Amoi was able to increase system flexibility in proportion to business volumes and simultaneously reduce administrative costs in IT.
2. Workload optimization
IBM Tivoli Workload Scheduler (US) (TWS) is a scalable, flexible tool organizations can use to enhance workload distribution and thus improve the customer experience while minimizing resource waste. Thanks to its integrated workload broker, TWS empowers organizations to get improved business value from the data center even given unpredictable spikes in demand. When such spikes occur, and higher performance or more resources are required, TWS can deliver them in proportion to the business need, then scale back when the demand level falls. This dramatically increases the data center’s total ROI.
One example of the TWS value proposition comes from HealthTrans, which leveraged TWS to achieve the dynamic workload execution needed to get improved agility and responsiveness from the data center while also driving down costs. HealthTrans can now process more than 284,000 claims daily—yet despite this high demand, the response time is, thanks in part to TWS, less than a second on average. Furthermore, job processing time has fallen roughly eighty percent, from forty-five minutes on average to just ten.
3. Quantified cost tracking
Organizations looking to improve cost visibility will find an excellent solution to that problem in IBM Tivoli Usage and Accounting Manager (US) (TUAM). This offering can, thanks to its intelligent agents, collect and analyze data pulled in from different elements in the data center and then create reports that reflect costs in any required level of detail or logical dimension. For instance, costs can be shown as accruing by the business project, team of staff members, application, service or IT element, spanning virtual, distributed and mainframe environments to deliver a complete picture of just how and why costs are going up (or down).
The experience (US) of Con Edison, a regulated utility serving the New York City area, helps to illustrate how TUAM can support cost reduction strategies. In order to better determine the source of costs and thus suggest possible optimizations, Con Edison deployed TUAM as part of a larger cost-control initiative. The results: an average energy savings of forty percent or more, an average payback period of less than two years, and the deferral of new data center investments.