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August 13, 2014

The IT Relevance Gap - Reclaim Your Company's Move to the Cloud

By TMCnet Special Guest
Yarob Sakhnini, regional director, MEMA at Brocade

The new wave of cloud computing applications are dramatically changing the way businesses leverage technology. Together with the promise of increasing efficiency, driving speedy adoption of cutting-edge technologies and decreasing costs, these cloud services are proving to be an attractive option to many businesses. IT research powerhouse, Gartner (News - Alert) has predicted that from 2013 through 2017, US$3.8 billion will be spent on cloud services in MENA region, $1.1 billion of which will be spent on business process as a service (BPaaS)[1]. One trend that has arisen out of this revolutionary technology delivery model is that it has enabled Line of Business (LOB) managers to circumvent IT departments and procure the solutions they need faster.

With the pace of business rapidly advancing, this may seem like a good idea. But instead, it raises new challenges and risks. As insecure and ungoverned cloud applications are adopted and utilized to store and process sensitive corporate information, the risk of data loss increases. Organizations may also suffer diminished productivity as users accustomed to integrated solutions are forced to toggle between disparate, isolated silos of data and functionality in the cloud. And as IT departments play catch-up with each unapproved cloud application, unnecessary costs emerge as they retroactively attempt to integrate multiple vendors on disparate, remote and proprietary platforms as a result of rogue IT spending.

Today, IT executives need to straddle the line between business and technology. As Line of Business (LOB) managers rush to the cloud, IT managers must get in front of this trend before disaster strikes. What is most concerning is the fact that many IT executives don’t realize how pervasive this trend has become and what to do about it. LOBs go as far as swiping credit cards and use their own budget discretion to get the applications, services, and capabilities they need as quickly as possible. As a result, the IT department is disappearing from the LOB managers’ view as the resource to help govern, support, or advise them on cloud-based solutions.

Why IT is losing control

Despite the growing need for technology to revolutionize the way business is conducted, IT budgets and staff increases fail to grow at equally impressive rates. At the same time, IT departments spend 70 percent of their stagnant budgets on maintenance, leaving them with very little capacity for innovation. This makes it difficult to respond quickly to LOB requests. Worst of all, this dynamic has created a “relevance gap” and as IT funding and authority shifts closer to LOBs, this relevance gap widens.

Closing the Gap

Fortunately, in recent years enterprise organizations have made great advancements in their IT infrastructures by virtualizing servers and storage and thus bringing these data center components into the 21st century. However, organizations across the Middle East have yet been unable to fully modernize their network infrastructures and are thus faced with a major barrier to IT agility. Now more than ever, enterprises must invest and future-proof their networks. And with Ethernet Fabrics, they can bring the same agility and cost efficiencies of virtualization to their networks. Ethernet fabrics automate the mundane, leaving IT departments with time to innovate. Starting with as few as two switches, an Ethernet Fabric self-forms and is fully compatible with the existing infrastructure. IT departments can thus leverage Ethernet Fabrics to once again regain their relevance in today’s fast paced business environment.

Increase innovation capacity by eliminating time-consuming, error producing tasks:

With Ethernet fabrics, network links are automatically formed and self-heal while network traffic is automatically and continuously load balanced. This means organizations can move their data center infrastructures into the 21st century, and create the agility they need.

Evolve existing IP storage to a dedicated Ethernet fabric-based network:

Big data analytics and other mission-critical workloads are increasingly leveraging IP-based storage to drive down operational costs and improve provisioning time. Storage array vendors have met this challenge by improving resilience and performance. To reap these benefits however, it is essential that these services are matched with a proven, dedicated fabric based network.

Virtually eliminate server-to-appliance traffic and dramatically reduce capital and operational costs

Instead of costly, dedicated appliances running outside the organization's servers, businesses can choose to run these services as virtual machines inside company servers using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technologies. Today, these technologies are widely accepted and used by cloud providers because they enable agile, optimized execution of network services.

Achieve new levels of automation and orchestration between applications, servers, storage, and the network with Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

Though wide spread SDN roll-outs are still a couple of years away, IT departments can gain an early advantage by laying the foundation and planning for SDN. This would mean preparing teams, refining processes, and ensuring purchase decisions today include only open SDN-ready infrastructure, designed to work with industry standard technologies such as OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and more. This will provide a critical link and improved integration between the data center and the cloud, and help the organization develop its own hybrid cloud.

Cloud based applications are today affordable and functional enough to convince LOB managers to purchase them without the involvement of the IT department. In the long term however, this leads to integration difficulties, uncontrolled and insecure applications, and general loss of productivity. However, if IT managers invest in solutions which automate laborious processes, deliver agility and performance and simplify management, they can free up manpower and budget while creating a solid platform for innovation. When it comes to the network infrastructure, Ethernet Fabrics is the way forward. Leveraging these technologies today can put IT departments back in the driver's seat and eliminate the need for rogue IT spending.

About the author

Mr. Sakhnini is a networking industry veteran with over 21 years of experience in various senior technical management roles including his last position as director, systems engineering, MEMA at Brocade (News - Alert).

Edited by Adam Brandt

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