UK and European businesses have identified virtualisation, consolidation, cloud computing and compliance as top priorities for 2012, according to a study by TechTarget. But stagnant budget trends also revealed, mean that professionals will need a solid strategy and long-term view to carry out these initiatives.
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This article summarises the research results and offers some expert guidance for IT strategists.
IT growth tempered by tight budgets
The IT priorities for 2012 survey found that nearly one in three professionals (29.2%) want to expand their company’s IT to support business growth; another 25% want to spend in a few key areas of their infrastructure, and about 18% want to help their business automate more.
As for infrastructure projects, professionals continued the emphasis on server virtualisation with more than half (58.3%) citing it as a top priority this year, while 41% cited both disaster recovery and business continuity each.
Respondents were split when it came to budget allotment for IT in 2012. Twenty-one percent said IT budgets will increase by more than 5%; 18.7% said budgets will remain the same; and 16% expect an increase of less than 5%. Meanwhile, budget cuts were also in the cards. Seventeen percent said IT budgets will decrease by more than 10%, while a similar number said their budgets will decrease by less than 10%. Around 11% of professionals admitted they aren’t aware of how their 2012 budget will differ from their 2011 budget.
Are professionals’ IT plans for 2012 aligned with the budgets set out for 2012?
“The main vendor messages around virtualisation and private cloud are about cost savings,” said data centre expert Clive Longbottom. “So, for organisations looking to reduce expenditure, these two areas fit in with the ‘do more with less’ attitude.”
Professionals’ IT initiatives get expert nod
Experts say that all the initiatives identified in the survey are important and point out that projects having to do with virtualisation, consolidation and cloud computing focus on cost reduction and better utilisation of resources.
While it might be tempting to sit back and do nothing in a poor economic climate, that strategy just delays problems for the future. “For those companies that acknowledge that they have to invest to survive, virtualisation and private cloud are definitely the way forward,” Longbottom said.
“Many of these initiatives can be carried out by using new technologies with strong ROIs -- all clearly expressed by the vendors,” said virtualisation expert Hamish Macarthur.
Initiatives such as server virtualisation, consolidation and cloud computing will address a more effective and responsive system infrastructure with contained costs, a key requirement of all businesses, according to Macarthur.
There will also be an increasing need to bring in management tools to ensure that system managers are fully aware of what is happening across the systems. This will ensure the business is always serviced appropriately and in a deterministic way.
“One key issue is to establish the overall framework and strategic direction so that consolidation will enable better savings in software licences,” said Macarthur. “For example, there will continue to be a mix of physical and virtual platforms requiring data protection and security. Ensure that there are not unnecessary licences left around because the business [may not be] fully aware of the inventory of systems.”
Don’t just do it, but do it right
While experts like Longbottom and Macarthur give a nod to organisations’ IT projects for 2012, they insisted that it is also important to ensure that the IT changes are fully aligned with the business and its need to change, requiring systems that will support new ways of doing business.
The fact that server virtualisation is a key initiative suggests that IT is taking the vendors/platforms’ offers too literally, experts said. “For example, storage management can be better achieved by harnessing specific storage arrays rather than using the JBOD approach of the virtualisation platforms,” said Macarthur.
Build a private cloud successfully
Incorporating cloud automation, self-service provisioning and integrating IT management tools will help IT make their private cloud project a success.
TechTarget’s study also identified the cautious and pessimistic approach to budgets. Nearly 40% of respondents felt their organisations are recovering slowly from the effects of recession. While 28.2% of professionals said they are still stuck in recession, only 9% said they are back to normal.
“The more intelligent organisations will be looking at virtualisation and cloud as being investments that will change the way IT supports the business. These people realise that this requires a ramp [up] in investment, even if it is over a short period of time,” said Longbottom.
Compliance could incur expenditure, but is still important
Among the broad initiatives examined in the study, regulatory compliance may be the only area that would drive higher spend.
“Compliance is certainly not a cost-cutting exercise -- it is the only [initiative] that is a definite bottom-line cost,” said Longbottom. “But it is a form of insurance, and with the amount of governance requirements that are now hitting organisations, compliance has become a necessity rather than something that can be avoided.”
Compliance projects will help IT administrators to ensure that systems are operating to the required standards of the business, regulations and inspectors. “The requirements for compliance will also bring best practice to the fore, across all business areas,” Macarthur said.
Action plan for professionals’ IT initiatives
Our experts outlined a few steps that IT professionals can take while carrying out IT projects in 2012. They are:
- When embarking on changes, ensure that all the consequences of new systems and technologies has been taken into account.
- Be prepared for the unknown to ensure that budgetary overspends and service level surprises are obviated.
- Build a plan for the future, with incremental gains within a contained budget envelope. Do this in conjunction with the business.
“If virtualisation is planned and implemented correctly, then the savings will be massive. If done wrongly, the business costs will be high,” warned Longbottom, offering these additional best practices:
- Carry out a full IT audit to identify what you have at the application and hardware level.
- Rationalise the number of applications in the environment. Minimising licenses will help reduce licence fees and software maintenance costs.
- Consolidate virtual machines (VMs) onto virtualised platforms to lower the amount of IT equipment required.
- Implement a full IT lifecycle management (ITLM) approach that covers everything from purchase through implementation/provisioning to monitoring and maintenance and finally through to de-provisioning and disposal.
- Lower the IT estate by up to 80% with full virtualisation to a cloud architecture.
- Don’t discount public cloud and colocation. Outsourcing strategies can effectively reduce the stress on the private data centre and further provide better business support at a predictable cost.
Forge ahead for 2012
While 2012 will be another tough year in terms of IT budgets, with due diligence, strategic planning and a long-term view, IT professionals will be able to implement their preferred IT projects this year.
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