Infrastructure and applications consolidation have dominated the agendas of the UK's IT departments during the past few years. And rightly so.
It is a critically important issue. Most enlightened IT departments have long realised that they need to demonstrate an appetite for squeezing greater efficiency from their infrastructure and operations.
And consolidation projects are easy to justify financially. Analyst firm Forrester points out that Windows servers typically run at 8% to 12% of their capacity in a distributed IT environment, and Unix servers only use 25% to 30%. Making use of this spare capacity is cost-effective and can reduce software licensing fees.
But listing these benefits does not mean they are easy to achieve. Successful consolidation projects present a two-fold challenge to the IT department.
First, they force the IT department to get closer to the business to ensure it understands fully the drivers of each division and department. Business units that have jealously guarded their own IT infrastructure need to be convinced that the service they receive will improve.
The second challenge lies in ensuring due diligence. Moving any business-critical system is a major undertaking. There is always a risk in changing operational systems as they affect not only the technology, but also the people who use and manage it and, potentially, business processes.
Risks continue even after the project has been completed. The peril is not just in failing to get the maximum savings from the project. Unless consolidation is done carefully, a user organisation can find itself tied into tighter dependency on a small number of suppliers. For many organisations this is not a problem. For some it could be. Either way, it should be a conscious decision.
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