Storage Soup

Mar 7 2012   11:04AM GMT

Risks from IT changes are real

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

There is a great hesitancy on the part of IT in data center optimization initiatives due to the risks involved. IT pros are aware of the problems that can occur and almost everyone has painful stories to tell of things that have gone wrong. Even with the great benefits from data center optimization, the hard-earned experience IT pros gain prompt them to carefully consider the risks.

The risks are the negative outcomes and their consequences that can occur with any project. Unforeseen issues that arise are the most feared. These include factors beyond the influence of IT, such as delays in construction and power upgrades.

Another area of risk for IT comes from vendor solutions deployed for data center optimization projects. The vendor product may not work as advertised. For IT, there is“this has happened before” sensitivity. For vendors, there may be unique usage environments or changes in what was originally planned that can cause the system to be less than optimal and cause IT and vendors to scramble to address the new situation. Another risk that can have an impact is the loss of key staff at an inopportune time.

The positives of data center optimization initiatives include economic gains from greater efficiencies and capacity expansion. The efficiencies come from better use of server and storage resources, greater automation, and simplification that can lower administrative costs. Server utilization is addressed primarily with server virtualization and storage systems capable of supporting increased demand from the virtual machines running on a physical server. Storage efficiency is addressed with thin provisioning, data reduction, and tiering. Other efficiencies include better storage management and data protection.

The risks and the potential impacts from IT projects are real. We saw an example of that last weekend when a merger of major airlines (really a takeover but merger sounds nicer) led to a transition to a single reservation system and a single scheduling system. Even with more than a year for IT to prepare, big problems occurred causing delays and cancellations. Just to give a personal perspective on the problem:

• For my flight the next morning after the switch over, I could not check in because there was a problem with my reservation. I was supposed to call a customer service number to have it straightened out.

• There weren’t enough agents to handle the number of IT-related problems, resulting in a long hold time.

• The time to fix the problem was longer because the agent said she was learning a new system and the system seemed slow.

• I learned of a possible future problem because my mileage accumulated over years of flying on the airline was not transferred to the new system. A note said that this would get fixed in the next three days.

The person on the phone said at least three times that everything was going well in a scripted statement. Hearing that while the problems continued was at first amusing and then irritating. It did not take long to get to the infuriating stage.

These IT problems were significant and appear to be continuing, although the number of flight problems decreased between Saturday and Sunday. The risks were great and problems — expected and unexpected — occurred. These results show that the hesitancy of IT to make changes because of risk is well justified.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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