A post from Nigel Pink, VP and general manager UK, Ipanema Technologies
As a result of acquisitions multinational enterprises often have a plethora of different IT systems. Data centre and server consolidation simplifies complex IT infrastructure and reduces IT cost but increases complexity when delivering applications over the network.
The costs of distributed enterprise infrastructure include hardware, software, maintenance, security, and backup. These costs dramatically increase with the number of disparate systems. Global businesses operate branch offices and data centres at various domestic and international locations and, in addition, are increasingly employing mobile workers. To consolidate IT infrastructure, enterprises typically choose between one or two data centres (particularly for disaster recovery) to which existing applications as well as new applications are migrated. Even though these applications are now hosted in increasingly remote data centres they continue to be used in the same way as before. Practically, this means that enterprise information no longer flows locally in the LAN, but rather over the WAN resulting in slower response times and a considerable increase in data traffic. Ultimately, if unprepared, IT consolidation projects can unwittingly cause application performance to be degraded, impacting user productivity.
More bandwidth isn't the answer to user satisfaction
Bandwidth can be an expensive IT cost. Removing server, hardware and maintenance costs through consolidation loses much of its impact if you then need to double network bandwidth capability to support the distributed infrastructure. As we have found working with lots of organisations bandwidth can be consumed disproportionately by non-critical applications. At one oil company a single user was consuming over 90% of the bandwidth at a site through the use of recreational video applications. A WAN must have controls built in that can allocate resources based on the criticality of the application in question. For example, you must be able to specify objectives such as 'any end user session, anywhere, anytime, must have at least 50kbps if using SAP'. The Ipanema system works at this granular level and that's how we can help organisations to specify SLAs for each application at the individual user level. In the industry this is sometimes referred to as Application Performance Management (APM) but at Ipanema we prefer the term WAN governance.
Consolidation and the WAN
Consolidation of servers and applications means more data traffic flowing across the WAN. As a result application performance suffers due to delay, jitter, and packet losses. According to a study we commissioned in the UK, the cost of poor application performance can amount to additional costs upwards of £500,000 per year, due to reduced productivity, unfilled orders, and decreased customer satisfaction. The research also showed that network bottlenecks resulting from centralisation can generally be eliminated by increasing bandwidth. Although 57% of respondents confirmed this, 75% feel that increasing bandwidth alone does not solve the application usage problems that occur from increased centralisation of IT resources.
Significantly, 93% said that they wish for improved network visibility and control of the data traffic flowing over the WAN.
Access to centrally stored remote information, groupware systems such as Outlook, Sharepoint or Lotus Notes, and important proprietary applications like SAP are all vulnerable to performance issues post-consolidation. WAN Governance allows applications to operate according to their level of business criticality and can guarantee the performance of critical applications at the individual user level.
Governing WAN Infrastructure – it's more than acceleration
Current enterprise services run smoothly in the local environment, but were not designed for operation over a WAN. Using the WAN to access applications significantly increases bandwidth requirements between sites.
To solve this problem a variety of WAN optimisation tactics can be deployed including; compressing data and local caching at various locations, accelerating the transfer protocols used on the network, changing the network topology of information flows. However this tactical acceleration approach alone isn't enough. Imagine a Ferrari travelling round the M25 at top speed – it looks impressive. But now try it in rush hour and the Ferrari can't work to even a fraction of its potential. The same is true of an acceleration system deployed on a congested corporate WAN. Acceleration is part of the battle but it must be viewed within the wider context, which is where WAN Governance comes in.
The WAN governed as a whole thus becomes a solid asset on which the business can rely at all times. When conducting consolidation projects we urge the industry to consider the delivery of applications up front. After all users won't appreciate the IT efficiency savings you've achieved but they'll sure notice if their applications grind to a halt.
(This article has been previously published in Datacenter Management)
Illustration: The gluttonous Gargantua, as depicted by François Rabelais and etched by Gustave Doré.