By Julian Pletts
The financial crisis has not meant that IT infrastructure expenditure has completely ground to a halt.
The financial crisis has not meant that IT infrastructure expenditure has completely ground to a halt. In fact, spending on core IT systems has, to a certain extent, been buoyed by the SMB sector, if Middle East networking integrators are to be believed. These are end-users that do not yet have a long history of large-scale investment in IT solutions and services, but who might be taking advantage of this time to ensure that they get the best services and solutions for their money.
Now this can be looked at two ways. One way is that the SMB sector here can learn from mistakes made in the more mature markets and ensure they benefit from the most important and up-to-date solutions, particularly when it comes to first time server builds. There is also a lack of legacy systems that have to be fastidiously updated to suit today’s ever-changing requirements. The other way is, worryingly, that the region is lacking the wealth of experience which can be found in mature markets.
So when it comes to putting pencil to drawing board on a first time server farm build or system update, there is a danger that all of the options are not properly mulled over before, what is potentially a massive decision, is made. Now, I’m not saying IT managers and network administrators will not fail to take due care and attention in the planning stage, it’s just that there is a real possibility that product evangelists might get hold of the project and exert too much influence.
(This is certainly a danger when it comes to prospects such as setting up virtualised environments — the impression that I got when I recently had a meeting with a local CIO who was adamant that the virtualisation discussion has been overdone in this region and has now become largely a marketing exercise.)
After taking a look at data centre design and what to look out for in the coming issue of Network Middle East, I have seen that there is a clear call for a third party consultant to be brought in to take an experienced and, hopefully, vendor-neutral approach and overview on projects. There is far too much at stake, or too many aspects that have to be tied-down, for such an investment to be entered into lightly. At the very least an IT department should make sure that they have spent a great deal of time and money on training and certifying most, if not all, of their IT team if they are to even consider going it alone.
There is also a cautionary note that must be sounded. Although many a vendor will purport to offer consultancy, these are in-house services and unless the vendor is interested in passing on business to the competition, they will be largely biased. The same thing goes for systems integrators that offer consultancy services. Although they are likely to be highly-skilled and with a great deal of market experience, bear in mind that they will almost undoubtedly be aligned to certain vendors and with product pull-through targets that they have to satisfy.
Having said this, there is no reason why consultancy from the vendor and channel partners cannot be called upon, but it is perhaps most useful when you, the end-user, possibly with the assistance of a professional consultant, have decided which solution best suits your data centre needs.
In the current issue, NME goes into great depth about the key elements of modern data centre design and consultancy, but suffice to say here, the list of potential issues that have to be overcome in the designing of a data centre must not be underestimated. They include the obvious, such as location, space, business continuity planning, cooling and power considerations, identity management etcetera. But then there is the next level such as deciding whether managed or hosted services might be the best route to go down, whether current equipment can be optimised to meet your needs and to what extent the network could be and should be virtualised.
This is of course only the tip of the iceberg and the considerations to be made if the final installation is to be highly efficient, fault tolerant, and answers the many demands of modern firms are numerous, so it is important that IT managers take a long hard look at their experience, the knowledge-base of their staff and truly assess all of the solutions available to them.