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Systems Management Initiatives Tap SOA to Boost Systems ROI

By David Almquist and Lane F. Cooper

IT managers tasked with “innovating” their way out of cumbersome technology infrastructures and outdated business processes are re-thinking their systems management strategies by harnessing the potential of Services Oriented Architectures…or SOA. The move to SOA represents a major departure from traditional systems management practices of identifying projects that need to be automated, and then dedicating technology resources accordingly.

This old way of doing business has often led to redundant capital investments and low resource utilization rates that have upped costs without necessarily improving performance. Instead, say industry observers at Wintergreen Research, a critical mass of IT managers are now looking for ways to optimize the value of their systems by using solutions such as SOA to consolidate, virtualize and then share resources from a pooled set of capabilities that can be quickly and cost effectively brought to bear on the constantly changing priorities of the enterprise.

As a result, they expect demand for SOA offerings to soar from $2 billion in 2007 and reach $9.1 billion by 2014. This growth, say analyst, will be justified on two fronts:

SOA, say the experts, will help IT improve systems ROI by optimizing and reusing existing resources. “As a result, while we’re seeing organizations at different stages of SOA adoption, it isn’t a question of whether they are going to move to SOA but when and how,” says Samir Mehta, Websphere Virtual Enterprise Marketing Manager at IBM.

Expanding virtualization into the application environment

Indeed, SOA is creating an environment that significantly enhances the chances of success of consolidation and virtualization initiatives.

“IT managers have been studying how they can best optimize their physical servers and hardware,” says Mehta. “They’re looking at storage virtualization and maybe desktop virtualization. But application virtualization is just beginning to be addressed, with the utilization rate of the typical server running at about 15 percent.”

Businesses usually buy servers to satisfy peak demand for processing, leaving the vast majority of their data centers’ capacity idle most of the time. Each application server tends to have dedicated hardware, making it difficult to share resources with other applications in other clusters. As a result, while some application servers are seeing minimal use, others are at almost peak utilization most of the time. Consequently their response times and other performance metrics are suffering.

“To overcome the pitfalls of application ‘silos’, virtualization in the data center is expanding into the application environment,” said Mehta. “We call it application infrastructure virtualization. The idea is you separate the application layer from your physical infrastructure so you can bring underutilized resources into a common resource pool and then dynamically adjust resources across the infrastructure.”

Besides saving on additional hardware and software, it lowers administrative costs by allowing the versioning, tracking and updating of a significant number of servers to be managed centrally. It also allows IT to be more energy efficient because more applications can be provisioned and run on existing hardware reducing the need for additional power and cooling. In addition, it helps IT meet service level agreements and provide better availability along with improved performance because systems can now automatically deliver needed resources to their mission critical applications.

Key requirements

From an application perspective then, key technology requirements would include SOA, application servers and application infrastructure virtualization.

Application servers are the middleware technologies that support transaction processing and make sure applications are highly available, load-balanced, well-managed and running optimally in their environment.

Application infrastructure virtualization helps, especially in these economic times, by allowing IT to lower costs, be more energy efficient and deliver the quality of service that the business units require. It offers an entirely new road map for doing more with less in the data center.

To learn how IBM can help you optimize your systems management initiatives please call 1-877-426-3774.