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Optimizing Enterprise IT

Six strategies for reducing costs and ensuring business value
5. Deploy manageable platforms based on open standards
Industry standards provide the foundation for interoperability and consolidated management in multi-vendor environments. They also provide the foundation on which most vendors build their next-generation solutions, so they increase your ability to take advantage of future innovations without disruptive overhauls.

It is not within the scope of this article to discuss individual platform standards. However, at a minimum, consider each of the following when purchasing new platforms and applications: IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) for server management; DMI (Desktop Management Interface) and ASF (Alert Standard Format) for client management; PXE (Pre-boot Execution Environment), EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) and ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) for all platforms; and WBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management), which includes CIM (Common Information Model), for enterprise management.

You should also track developing standards, particularly those that will emerge from the Server Management Working Group of the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force). The work of this group can be expected to provide an important breakthrough for enterprise infrastructure management, greatly improving cross-vendor interoperability for core management functions.

6. Automate, consolidate and innovate
Comprehensive data center automation is clearly not yet an option, but targeted solutions can deliver substantial benefits in a standards-based IT environment. For example, today’s best management applications can filter millions of logged events, providing automated responses and/or actionable alerts with suggested remediation. This can improve service levels while dramatically reducing staffing costs. Critical advances have also been made in automated network-based tools for asset management, provisioning, change management, software distribution, backup and recovery and troubleshooting.

In many cases, these applications are best deployed following, or in conjunction with, projects designed to consolidate infrastructure and/or operations. The combination of platform consolidation and management automation will often deliver better value than either approach independently, providing faster ROI and better project justification.

When planning such upgrades, there are many options to choose from. Industry-standard solutions now include single platforms with up to 128 processors, enterprise blade frames, and clusters with over a 1,000 nodes. Many of these systems also support advanced capabilities that used to be found only in proprietary mainframes, including workload management and virtualization tools that enable dynamic control of platform resources.

Optimizing Individual Projects

In applying the six recommendations outlined above, it is important to consider every project not as an isolated undertaking, but as an integral part of your larger business and IT environment. Invest the time and resources up front to understand business, service delivery and operational needs, and use that information to create detailed engineering requirements. Involve all affected parties at the inception of each project, including business units, financial experts, and IT development, infrastructure, and support staff.

This comprehensive approach can be daunting at first, since it is slower and more costly than organizing a bare bones business and technical team to develop the solution in isolation. Yet the advantages can be immense. On a project-by-project basis, you can expect better buy-in from affected parties, smoother implementation, and a far better chance of achieving real and measurable business value over the life of the solution.

On a larger scale, this strategy can help you move incrementally and cost-effectively toward a simpler and more consistent IT environment based on industry-standard building blocks. As better platforms, applications and management solutions continue to emerge, you will be better positioned to chose and integrate those that deliver the best total value for your business.

Allyson Klein is Initiative Marketing Manager, Enterprise Platform Group, at Intel Corporation.