While the jury is still out on whether the UK economy is heading into a recession or just a period of low growth, there’s never been a better time to look at some of the technologies that have the potential to reduce overall IT spending. So here is my pick of the top 10 technologies to help enterprises of all sizes beat the downturn…[click continue reading for more on this entry]…
1. Server Virtualisation
It may be a rather obvious choice, but with the ability to enable companies to achieve better utilisation rates from their servers, virtualisation technologies must be my number one pick.
While virtualisation has been around in the mainframe world for many years, it burst into the open systems space thanks to virtualisation specialist VMware, which has been one of the fastest growing IT companies in recent years as more and more companies adopt its technology.
Virtualising servers essentially decouples the workload from the physical hardware, which helps to increase utilisation rates and results in a more flexible server infrastructure. The potential savings to be had are well proven, and few large enterprises today are not trialling virtualisation — if they haven’t rolled it out already. Alongside VMware, Microsoft, IBM, Novell, Sun and the open source Xen are all competing for a slice of the virtualisation market.
2. Storage Deduplication
While virtualisation is a great way to increase processing capacity without adding extra servers, storage deduplication is becoming the de facto way of increasing storage capacity without buying any additional storage equipment (although in some instances it may mean an up-front investment in specialist storage hardware).
The driver is simple: in transaction systems especially, vast amounts of the data that is stored on enterprise storage infrastructure contains duplications. By seeking out those duplications and reducing them, great savings can be made.
Redundant data is replaced with a pointer to the unique data copy. For example, a typical email system might contain 100 instances of the same one megabyte (MB) file attachment. If the email platform is backed up or archived, all 100 instances are saved, requiring 100MB storage space. With data deduplication, only one instance of the attachment is actually stored; each subsequent instance is just referenced back to the one saved copy. In this example, a 100 MB storage demand could be reduced to only one MB.
Data Domain is the company all the vendors are chasing to win the hearts and minds of customers in the space, but there are numerous other specialists. The big guns such as IBM and Sun are getting in on the act, too.
3. Open Source
Many enterprises would be surprised at the breadth and depth of open source technologies that are now available, often considerably cheaper than commercial software.
See if there are open source options available when looking for new software or systems. Be mindful of its maturity and where you will get support if it’s needed though, or it could end up a false economy. If nothing else, use the threat of open source alternatives to drive a hard bargain when negotiating with your commercial software vendors.
4. Thin Clients
Not a new concept, thin clients are seeing something of a renaissance in this era of constant belt tightening. One thing that has helped bring the notion back to prominence is that thin clients — essentially a return to desktops with limited computing power that require the applications be run on central servers — is that they are vastly more energy efficient than PCs, partly because they have fewer moving parts.
Of course companies must then ensure their server estate is running to optimum efficiency, but with the help of virtualisation, blade servers and the like, thin clients still hold the potential to save on electricity costs. But just as importantly, thin clients have been shown to reduce management costs too, as there are far fewer occasions when IT support staff actually need to visit the desktop to effect a repair. Centrally hosted applications make for simplified management and administration.
5. Blade Servers
OK, so virtualisation can drive up server utilisation rates, but there are still times when new servers are needed because others have reached the end of their lives, or the company needs new server headroom in a branch office or data centre.
Step forward blade servers, which are guaranteed to reduce power consumption by increasing server density — it’s all thanks to a rack of blades sharing some common infrastructure thanks to the shared enclosure that handles power, cooling, networking and management.
6. Software as a Service (SaaS)
Need some new applications but don’t want to spend a fortune on developing the software in-house, or buying packaged applications and then having to provide your own infrastructure for them to run on?
Software as a Service (SaaS) from the likes of salesforce.com, Workday, Salesnet and RightNow (not to mention the largest software providers Oracle, SAP and Microsoft) means the software is hosted remotely — let the software provider worry about power, cooling and server infrastructure for a change.
7. Desktop Management/Remote Shut-Down
Set to become part of mainstream desktop management consoles, you can be sure, but today a technology in its own right: remote client shut-down and management tools.
Enterprises know that no amount of encouragement has ever convinced employees of the value in shutting down their PCs when they go home in the evening. But technology like 1E’s NightWatchman can remotely shut down PCs that aren’t being used at a certain time or according to a specific policy, saving companies thousands in electricity costs.
8. Efficient Networking Gear
If your company has not refreshed its network infrastructure for some time, perhaps it is about time it did.
The latest generation of network infrastructure equipment has been designed to be far more power efficient while offering better reliability and manageability — for example Brocade’s networking gear for use in data centres is claimed to be able to save many companies 40% of their previous electricity usage and take up 40% of the space of the previous generation, too.
9. Unified Communications
Save both time and money with Unified Communications — technologies that bring integration to previously disparate messaging technologies like email, voice, Instant Messaging and web conferencing.
By enabling better and more seamless communication between colleagues, many firms have found they can reduce travel expenses while still giving greater communications flexibility to staff. The ability to use Unified Communications in support of streamlining business processes — such as in a call centre — is an added bonus. Start with Voice over IP (VoIP) and move to more sophisticated Unified Communications in incremental steps.
10. Print Management
Companies waste thousands of pounds every day on ill-managed printer estates. No amount of coaxing has done very much to reduce the number of times that office staff send documents to the printer, in many cases not even remembering to go and retrieve them later.
Print management technologies can be put in place to reduce the amount of wasted printer usage. A ‘light’ enforcement might do simple things like default to monochrome printing unless colour is absolutely necessary, or route large jobs to less expensive batch printers. A stiffer approach might be to introduce charge-back policies that charge business units or individuals based on the amount of printing that they do. As well as saving costs there is an obvious ‘green’ angle too.
Meanwhile, the latest generation of multi-function printers (MFPs) can in many cases save money and office real estate by being able to do jobs that previously required numerous machines.
Disagree? Any to add? Drop me a comment.