by Kathleen Lau

Is IT Keeping Up with a Changing Infrastructure?

Mar 19, 2010
Cloud ComputingComputers and PeripheralsEnterprise Applications

As IT infrastructures become increasingly converged and components increasingly interdependent, IT admins are still not factoring in the collateral impact of individual changes to the IT environment, said one exec.

As IT infrastructures become increasingly converged and components increasingly interdependent, IT admins are still not factoring in the collateral impact of individual changes to the IT environment, said one exec.

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Joe Wolke, director of IT strategy for Skokie, Ill.-based IT consulting firm Forsythe Solutions Group said that while technology trends like virtualization, storage consolidation, cloud computing and hosted applications serve to streamline IT functions, they do change the traditional IT equation.

“In many ways they are making infrastructure less complex, but are making the model for identifying direct costs much more complex,” said Wolke.

Changes to the IT environment like adding a new application, business unit or geographic location will have a greater impact than is immediately observable. The foundational issue of running IT as a business, said Wolke, is ensuring costs are transparent and comprehensible to users.

Wolke said it’s critical to align the lifecycle of a new application with that of the associated physical assets. This means recognizing that storage and servers required for the application may not have the same lifespan, so all costs must be accounted for down the road.

Wolke suggests organizations develop “collateral impact metrics” to measure and account for the impact that radiates throughout the IT environment. “If I add 10 more users to the network, what’s the impact on the network?” he said.

Factoring in costs of collateral impact should also happen at the project management phase as applications are being developed. While an organization’s impact metric might state that a new application for 1,000 users will require five help desk people, that number will surely rise to fit the initial learning curve, said Wolke.

On a more granular level, building new applications deserves the same degree of collateral impact planning. Coding is dependent on various components including bits of code, and small applications and licensing from third parties that must be made part of a disaster recovery plan, said Wolke. “There is much more dependency. Applications don’t stand alone anymore,” he said.

A new study from Forrester Research Inc. shows that application developers and their project managers are not keeping up with the times. Mike Gualtieri, senior analyst with Forrester, said IT pros aren’t necessarily adjusting to what is the new reality of a tough economy and the popularity of certain technology trends.

The Forrester research recommends five changes to application development professionals:

1.Embrace the cloud: Developers must understand how to design and architect applications differently to take advantage of the cloud especially when it comes to cloud-specific strategies for scaling data. “Data is the Achilles heel of cloud computing when it comes to application development,” said Gualtieri.

2.Find your inner startup: The unrelenting focus of startups is to make money, so developers should take that lean approach in tough times even if they work for a large enterprise. “It’s really about focus, about trying to get beyond all the processes, politics and management that normally occur as an organization grows,” said Gualtieri.

3.Favour flexibility and cost over platform loyalty: Enterprise IT is typically driven by the procurement department’s decree to stick to a particular vendor stack. Entertain other options like smaller vendors or open source, said Gualtieri. “They are potentially cheaper and give you more flexibility rather than waiting a year for a large enterprise software vendor to get what you need,” he said.

4.Become passionate about user experience: Users want an app experience that is valuable, easy and aesthetically pleasing, and application development teams must catch on to that ever-growing demand.

5.Coach your talent: Project managers often view their developers as “automatons on an assembly line,” but software is a creative art, like making a movie, said Gualtieri. IT skills selection must align with the needs of the specific project. “If this is a customer-facing Web site, it’s a different skill set than a departmental application,” he said.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau