How To Be Agile In IT

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The term "agile IT" has been around, but lately, it's gaining traction. With growing emphasis on time to market, and mounting global competition, solution providers are tasked with responding and adapting quickly to the needs of customers. Julie Parrish, vice president of worldwide sales at NetApp (and a CRN Woman of the Channel), shares how an agile IT infrastructure can enable business right now.—Jennifer D. Bosavage, editor

You've probably been hearing the words agile and agility a lot recently, and there's a good reason for it. We're entering a new era in technology, an era in which IT agility is going to be central to business success. Because your customers are increasingly hearing this message, you as a channel partner need to be ready to help them think differently about how their IT can respond at the pace of global business today.

Related: How to Update a Customer's Data Protection Plan

Competition, an always-on global economy, and the urgency to make data a propellant for advantage all require your customers to have an infrastructure that’s agile enough to cope with their very dynamic business environment.

Customers want to accelerate their business with greater efficiency and productivity, but they must think differently to remove the complexity, cost, and inefficiencies of decade-old IT approaches. They are reaching an inflection point, and they must fundamentally rethink their approach to information technology to be more agile. This is change. This is our future. This is your opportunity.

What exactly does agility mean? The word is most often used in sports. It typically refers to the ability to change position efficiently, often requiring the integration of isolated movement skills that use a combination of balance, coordination, speed, reflexes, strength and endurance. Agile IT gives businesses the ability to respond and adapt quickly to the needs of customers and partners. But attaining that goal means that your customers need to make critical decisions about their IT infrastructure that enables, not disables, their business, not later, but now.

One of the most pressing needs for agilie IT is in the crucial area of data storage. Agility in data storage means combining flexible storage systems with rich data management software. With agile data infrastructure, performance and capacity can be scaled by pooling together multiple systems of different sizes, instead of locking up data in a few large, monolithic systems. New storage capabilities should be able to be brought online seamlessly and scaled over time without affecting the uptime of the rest of the IT ecosystem.

In fact, by breaking down silos of infrastructure that tie applications to specific arrays, storage can become an infrastructure layer enabling nondisruptive operations and continuous data access. Downtime for scheduled maintenance, infrastructure upgrades, or even complete hardware refreshes is simply no longer required, allowing true agility from IT. The opportunity in IT today is about taking this “shared approach” and doing away with the “rip and replace” attitudes and dramatic changes of years past.

This is a tremendous opportunity for you, as a trusted IT advisor, to grasp and lead the conversation about agility. For example, you need to help customers understand that only by embracing agility as a design principle can IT departments gain full value from investments made in virtualization and cloud computing. An interesting thing about agile data infrastructure conversations with customers is that it applies not only to the IT infrastructure teams, but also to the application and product development teams, providing speed, flexibility, and efficiency to the business in different areas that complement and enhance each other. This means new opportunities for you.

Don’t forget, agility is not all about new products, it’s about helping customers achieve business efficiency by using existing infrastructure to support scale with greater productivity, without sacrificing growth or opportunity. I encourage you to spend time thinking about your vendor and partner ecosystem, challenging those you work with to leave behind legacy approaches to IT. Change and thinking differently are not easy, especially in IT.

On the next page are some partners who have embraced the future of infrastructure technology and have helped their customers use agile IT foundations to accelerate business.

Next: Partners who have embraced agile ITPeakColo. To enhance its competitive edge, this service provider launched its PeakColo WhiteCloud Services, a unique IaaS solution that allows value-added resellers, systems integrators, and managed service providers to rebrand the solution for their own cloud services. With an agile IT foundation in place, partners have provisioned data storage in less than 2 hours and their infrastructure has scaled to manage 300% annual growth for new market opportunities. They are meeting rigorous 100% availability SLAs and decreasing capex and opex, with 73% less storage required.

Insight Integrated Systems. This solution provider is working with customers to deliver new and enhanced services with agile data infrastructure as a foundation. While allowing their customers to focus more on their business, impact to the bottom line has been substantial, with savings in space, cooling, energy, and other costs. They have helped their customers increase business productivity by nearly 84% while also realizing a 60% reduction in system footprint.

World Wide Technology. This systems integrator has embraced the opportunity to grow its business while helping clients evaluate, incorporate, and support agile data infrastructures. They provide a wide array of solutions to commercial enterprises and government agencies that are striving to increase efficiencies, lower costs, provision and reprovision resources, and easily migrate applications and data to adapt to rapidly changing service-level requirements. WWT’s established data center practice is well known for successful implementations of agile data infrastructure in fixed, mobile, and data centers that enable 99.999% availability and zero downtime of critical applications while enhancing disaster recovery and business continuity across geographically dispersed locations.

Datalink. Agile data infrastructure is central to Datalink’s data center optimization strategy to give its customers more agility in IT, less provisioning, greater efficiency, and improved overall scalability. This solutions and services provider has designed and deployed 90 infrastructures with agility in mind, including virtual data center solutions. A software as a service (SaaS) vendor leveraged the new infrastructure to quickly add SaaS capacity to support new customers. A county health and hospitals system dramatically improved access to patient care data while laying a foundation to scale quickly to support future growth. And a satellite and broadband service provider achieved greater efficiency in system deployment and management.

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