Most traditional IT infrastructure teams are faced with the necessity of periodically updating their hardware stack. It’s true whether they use colocation or in-house data centers. The servers, storage, networking, security and data protection equipment and licensing all become outdated and are usually replaced in a cycle every three to five years.
Hardware refresh events are often the change events that cause IT infrastructure teams to consider hyperconverged equipment or cloud infrastructure as alternatives to traditional server and storage hardware.
The evaluation process often includes building a set of requirements that include:
- Compute, memory and storage requirements today, with estimates on growth for the next cycle
- Changes to or replacement of the networking and security hardware
- Changes to or replacement of the backup and disaster recovery infrastructure
- Software licensing to support all the above changes
- Hardware, licensing, and service agreements to protect the equipment and licensing
- Time and money for staff training to support the changes
Unfortunately, IT infrastructure professionals don’t always consider the risk involved in each of the alternatives they consider for the next refresh cycle. Without evaluating the risks, the refresh project can experience problems like delays, cost overruns, or worse.
What risks should be included in your evaluation?
Ask yourself these questions:
What’s the risk of…
- Doing nothing – Is the hardware five years old but no problems are occurring with existing applications and no changes are expected in the future? Can you put a refresh off one more year?
- The new infrastructure not supporting the business climate – Is your industry, market or organization undergoing explosive growth or steady shrinkage? Are you adding remote locations or losing them? Does the new infrastructure support an incremental and trackable growth pattern based on industry, market, or organizational change?
- Inaccuracy with your budgeting and estimates – Do you need to be highly accurate with your IT spend estimates and your actual spend for the next cycle? Is your job dependent on it? Do you need a level spend? Can you go back to the well for more money when you need it? Will a mistake mean additional hardware replacement and huge additional expenditures rather than minor upgrades and incremental increases?
- Application portfolio changes – Are the mission critical applications that run your business about to change? Will they work on the new infrastructure, be hosted in a cloud environment, or exist as cloud-native, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications? How do the application changes affect the new infrastructure?
- Increased bandwidth and complex connectivity requirements – More application development, more cloud infrastructure and more SaaS applications mean increased bandwidth requirements. Accessing multiple SaaS and cloud providers can introduce networking complexities that infrastructure teams have never seen before and are not ready to design, maintain and troubleshoot.
- Outages and disasters – How well-protected are you from hardware failures and data center outages? Do you risk losing credibility, clients and market share? Would a recovery require heroic efforts from your IT staff and services providers just to get back to normal?
- Staffing changes – Probably the most ignored risk we see, changes to IT infrastructure staffing seem to be more common with full employment and scarcity of qualified professionals. If one or more of your key IT infrastructure administrators leave, how does it affect your ability to support the infrastructure? If you use a service provider instead of in-house staff, what happens if you fire them? Are you in for an arduous reselection process because of your infrastructure choices?
Many organizations find that the right approach to address the risk categories above is a highly integrated VMware-based enterprise cloud infrastructure with appropriate connectivity to in-house data centers, remote locations and multiple cloud connections. But enterprise cloud infrastructures differ wildly in both implementation, performance and support. Read this case study to find out how Columbus Metropolitan Library addressed their broad risk profile using enterprise cloud architecture.
Doug Theis is the Director of Market Strategy in Expedient’s Indianapolis market focused on engaging with and improving the regional IT community through planning, sponsoring and attending community events, facilitating IT-focused continuing education opportunities, and sharing strategies, tactics, and research to help IT professionals stay abreast of best practices and industry trends. Connect with Doug at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter.