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Benefits of an Enterprise-Class Server and Data Consolidation Solution
Many CIOs are rethinking how they architect their IT infrastructure to better deliver applications and services to end users

CIOs cited reducing enterprise costs; improving IT applications and infrastructure; improving efficiency; and improving business processes among the top 10 business priorities, according to a Gartner Executive Program Survey conducted last year.

To address these business priorities, many CIOs are rethinking how they architect their IT infrastructure to better deliver applications and services to end users. A study conducted by IDG Research Services[1] in 2013 surveyed 333 IT directors or higher titles at enterprise companies with more than 500 employees and reported that 77% of IT leaders globally believe data center transformation will play a highly important role in delivering business goals to their organizations.

Instead of allowing remote and branch offices to maintain the hardware and data, many enterprise CIOs today are centralizing storage and backups to their core data centers. This makes sense for the sake of simplicity and ensures IT managers adopt a ‘hands-on' approach to device management, which mitigates the security risk and complexity of having multiple backup systems and dispersed data sets. In addition, organizations with offices in sometimes unstable or physically challenging locations may not want any locally stored data in those offices, due to security concerns and potential data risks.

The reality of recovering from a disaster, whether natural or human-induced can be a daunting task in a typical branch office set-up. Most often data protection solutions are tape-based and can take days to recover and leave an organization exposed to delay and data loss. A typical branch disaster recovery requires not only physical hardware replacement, but a rebuild and patching of the operating system, reinstallation of applications, virus scanning, and full-data recovery prior to returning to service. Organizations that rely on weekly full and daily incremental backups of branch data face the additional challenge of restoring from multiple tapes and the loss of new data created between the time of the outage and the last captured backup.

Centralizing storage and backups to core data centers also minimizes travel expenses since data experts are rarely at the edge to provide support and management. According to IDG Research[2], 37% of organizations utilize non-IT staff to manage backups at remote branch offices, and this number grows to 67% when the branch office is located outside the United States. Centralizing these services to core data centers puts the data back in the hands of IT experts, rather than non-IT staff filling a role they are not equipped to manage.

Business Drivers
A significant driver for many organizations interested in storage consolidation, however, is cost. Companies want to maximize their investments in storage area networks (SANs) and realize the benefits of centralized storage. Chief among those benefits is achieving lower IT costs by eliminating the need to purchase and maintain local storage and server hardware. A new concept, which bridges this gap, is storage delivery technology.

CIOs are realizing that core business priorities can be addressed and solved, but they need to start by addressing core IT processes and transforming the data center.

As part of this movement, IT managers can expand storage capacity and look to extend the benefits of a consolidated approach to larger branch offices and data-intensive applications that previously were difficult or impossible to consolidate because of local performance requirements.

A Changing IT Landscape
Consolidation has the potential to empower businesses of all sizes to remove servers and data from branch offices and centralize them in the secure data center - without sacrificing user experience. This new architectural approach makes it possible to centralize backup operations and remove data from high-risk locations, while increasing agility and lowering the costs of managing remote office IT. High-risk locations can be any location that may be more susceptible to natural disasters, remote areas that are difficult to access, hacking, political turmoil, or even outright theft. To succeed in this dynamic environment, IT leaders need agility, security and control, while business users demand performance.

Identifying the optimal deployment location for IT assets such as servers and supporting storage systems is one of the more challenging aspects of the IT decision process today. When the edge of the enterprise and the core at the data center are linked together in an integrated solution, IT organizations can centralize control, security, and protection of distributed server and storage assets. This approach ensures timely access to (or recovery of) data and applications relied on by users across the extended organization while maximizing IT agility. Organizations can quickly adjust to changing conditions with the right information, delivered at the right time and in the right place to serve customers and partners better while keeping employees happy and productive.

Protection of Data
In-line with the growing volumes of data, enterprises should be able to decommission branch backup and recovery systems, shifting data protection operations to the secure data center. Enterprises are able to utilize their well-honed data center backup and recovery systems and procedures and skilled personnel to protect branch data.

Snapshots of a backup - a read-only copy of the data set at a point in time - are an integral part of ensuring your IT operations are running smoothly. In today's IT environment, administrators must be able to quickly set and assign hourly, daily, or weekly storage snapshot policies to ensure application-consistent data protection in conjunction with supported data center storage arrays.

Once storage snapshots are created in the data center, in addition to leveraging the disk snapshot for fast recovery, many organizations are replicating to a secondary data center or sending a copy to cloud storage environments to ensure data is located offsite.

Conclusion
Organizations' information bases and requirements are constantly changing in response to shifting customer demands and business requirements. Consolidation of systems to centralized data centers must make processes faster, less operationally intensive now and in the future. A well-thought-out IT architecture will make it easier to scale, making it simple to expand additional services to new user bases and locations. Finally, a solid IT architecture will make it easier for an enterprise to react quickly when disasters strike or as the needs of the organization change.

Resources

  1. "Gartner Executive Program Survey," Gartner, 2013
  2. "Riverbed Data Center Transformation Survey," IDG Research, 2013
About Gil Haberman
Gil Haberman is a group marketing manager at Riverbed Technology. Riverbed at more than $1 billion in annual revenue is the leader in Application Performance Infrastructure.

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