Middle East CIOs Need to Present a Strong Business Case for Deploying a High-Performance Networking Infrastructure
IT leaders must demonstrate how strategic changes to the network infrastructure will deliver fast ROI and ongoing returns that enable businesses to operate with greater agility
February 29, 2012 12:00 by Colin_Saldanha
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 29, 2012: Although IT infrastructure is viewed as a strategic investment for business development, getting budget approval for technology upgrades is never a cakewalk. Fortunately, when it comes to critical network upgrades, IT leaders have some strong allies in their corner- business unit heads whose requirements call for strategic infrastructure improvements to help them manage new demands and support regulatory mandates.
According to The Global Information Technology Report 2010-2011, Transformations 2.0, released by the World Economic Forum, the UAE ranks 24th in the world and 1st among Arab countries in its use of ICT to enhance competitiveness and development1. As more business process find their way onto the network, the conditions favourably suit network infrastructure investments.
Sufian Dweik, Regional Manager – Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at networking vendor Brocade Communications says that virtualization has already seen high penetration in the Middle East and is only set to grow at an accelerated pace. And in 2012, as organizations turn to the Cloud to gain a competitive edge and reduce infrastructure costs, flatter fabric-based network architecture will address the scale, traffic forwarding efficiency and latency requirements. Fabrics will drive cloud adoption and virtualization to the next level by supporting heavy traffic volumes and demand.
A modern enterprise network should meet four basic requirement- non-stop networking to maximize business uptime; unmatched simplicity to overcome today's complexity; optimized applications to increase business agility; and investment protection to provide a smooth transition to new technologies while leveraging existing infrastructure. CIOs who want to upgrade to such modern end-to-end network infrastructure need to make watertight arguments about how their proposals will deliver a justifiable Return On Investment (ROI) within ever shorter time frames, while flexibly supporting anticipated demands over the next five to seven years. This, of course, is a daunting challenge, but highlighted below are four key guidelines to help CIOs frame such a proposal.
Business Case Builder #1: Demonstrate Future-Proofing with a High-Performance Network
A future-proofed network vision emphasizes the ability to scale and deliver the agility needed to meet business requirements, while leveraging existing investments. For example, the ability to add blades, line cards, or other modules to cost-effectively meet new requirements and avoid the expenses of having to rip and replace components down the road is a key driver for companies as they seek to meet growing user demand.
CIOs could outline the growing use of the network as the core communications medium. Leveraging a unified network infrastructure for real-time collaboration could address the travel costs associated with in-person meetings while supporting increased network usage as opportunities for expansion begin to emerge.
To support a far-reaching unified communications infrastructure, CIOs should invest in networking solutions that can reliably and cost-effectively deliver switching and routing today and- as business conditions demand- be configured to support IP-enabled voice, video-conferencing, and dynamic document exchange, all in the same architecture.
CIOs can also begin to future-proof their data and storage networks. Part of that is obvious: Investing in IP products whose architecture, system design, and backplane are purposely built to support Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) today- as well as wire-speed 10 GbE, 40 GbE, and 100 GbE as required in the future.
Business Case Builder #2: Demonstrate Fast and Ongoing Cost Control in a High-Performance Network
Creating a more power-efficient network infrastructure is an important way CIOs can address immediate ROI in their business cases. Modern networking equipment not only deliver high density and performance, but also draw only a third of the power that older systems do. Power savings on network components, along with server consolidation and visualization, means IT departments can achieve 40 to 50 percent savings on network infrastructure costs for a fast and definitive ROI that continues to generate paybacks on electricity charges year over year.
Of course, one of the highest-cost elements in any IT organization is managing environments in which a range of different network tools are in use. The ongoing expenses are for the licensing and support of point tools, and also include costs associated with training and maintaining the IT staff to effectively use them. CIOs can make a business case for simplifying management- and lowering costs- by leveraging a cohesive network management platform and interface for operational simplicity.
Business Case Builder #3: Investment Protection by Leveraging Existing Infrastructure in a High-Performance Network
By continuing to gain value from existing investments, businesses can reduce capital expenses and avoid lock-in to a single vendor's solution and architecture, with all the repercussions this can have on future efforts to control costs. Towards that end, networking infrastructure must be able to seamlessly integrate with other IT solutions.
IT leaders' business cases should emphasize how their planned investment will fit fluidly into the heterogeneous infrastructures that characterize most IT environments, through support for open standards and by use of interfaces that foster choice and avoid the disruption that can ensue from abandoning existing tools.
One guiding principle for CIOs should be the ability to integrate with the orchestration frameworks that already exist to manage the data center. The importance of this will only grow as virtualization and LAN-SAN convergence begin to change data center paradigms, requiring even-tighter co-ordination among network, storage and server domains.
Business Case Builder #4: Demonstrate the Value of Greater Network Expertise
As demands on the network grow, IT leaders must explain to the business that their plans account for creating and accessing talent to ensure high performance during the rapid infrastructure changes taking place.
Virtualization and LAN-SAN convergence might require IT leaders to break teams out of their functional silos and create tighter coupling among various groups. Networking experts, for instance, must learn to be more cautious about turning on features in virtual software switches that might decrease server performance. Storage administrators and network infrastructure personnel would also have to cross-train each other in their areas of expertise and collaboratively address issues that will emerge over time as the enterprise moves to a converged infrastructure.
For CIOs, upgrading the network infrastructure provides a good opportunity to bring these parties to the same table. The business ultimately benefits from having a more comprehensively skilled IT staff, along with more efficient service, greater business continuity, and lower management costs that free up money for investment in other areas of the enterprise.
In conclusion, if there is one point that IT leaders must emphasize throughout their business cases, it is this: A highly optimized, always-on network offers strategic advantage to the enterprise and can be leveraged as a competitive tool- it is time for businesses to recognize this and give the network its due importance.
Brocade (Nasdaq: BRCD) networking solutions help the world’s leading organizations transition smoothly to a world where applications and information reside anywhere. (www.brocade.com)
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