The elastic business: three ways to right-size your digital estate

January 9, 2019

Right-sizing your tech is essential to ensure businesses have the resources they need at all times. Too little and your systems cave in under pressure. But too much will burn a hole through your budget.

Businesses have always struggled to accurately manage their corporate digital estates. Traditionally, purchasing patterns meant buying physical hardware and software as part of a five-year plan, with demand often outstripping capacity long before the cycle ended.
 
But as the speed of business accelerates, this approach has been replaced with the need for greater flexibility and responsiveness - and this is where the DevOps model comes in. But as many business leaders have discovered late in the day, the use of Cloud services is not a one-way ticket to cost control. Indeed, misconfiguration and misunderstanding means that many teams have not adequately controlled resource usage, leading to much larger bills than expected.
 
So how do companies manage capacity effectively in the age of elastic business? Here are three points to consider:
 
1. Plan for peaks in demand
When planning a traditional on-site data centre deployment, the CTO must specify enough processing and storage capacity to deal with peaks in demand. Even if this estimate is correct, the unused capacity is wasted when demand is lower – the sort of waste that makes the CFO particularly unhappy.
 
The on-demand, infinite scalability of Cloud infrastructure helps to overcome the capacity planning challenge. Configured correctly, additional processing and storage can be added automatically as demand surges. And like elastic, those services are scaled back once demand drops.
 
This elasticity is available for non-data centre operations as well. Hosted software like Microsoft Office 365 is available on a per-seat rental basis, so businesses can add and remove licenses as headcount changes. In other words, teams always have access to the tools they need, and they are never left holding a bunch of (costly) unused licenses between busy seasons.
 
2. Don’t forget bandwidth
A survey referenced by Comms Business magazine found that UK businesses rate Internet connectivity as one of the most important factors for their operations. 42% claim that operations would be disrupted should they lose external connectivity.
 
The same study also found that investing in faster connectivity would deliver the greatest business benefits, according to nearly a third of respondents. Despite this, most firms are failing to make the necessary investments, leaving them at the mercy of competitors who do.
 
Although Internet bandwidth grabs the headlines, businesses have always struggled with issues in this area. Advances in wired and wireless technologies periodically increase available capacity – but there is always an accompanying development elsewhere that immediately eats away at it.
 
However, the issue of internal bandwidth will reach a critical point in the near future. Gartner tells us that there will be 20.8 billion "things" in use by the end of this year as IoT reaches critical mass. Generally, these smart sensors generate relatively small amounts of data – but it quickly adds up when dealing with thousands of devices on top of existing systems.
 
3. Use elasticity as a criteria when assessing partners 
Because the IT industry has traditionally solved capacity issues by throwing hardware at the problem, many technology vendors are still set up to propagate this model. If a prospective partner makes their money by shifting boxes, their definition of “elastic” will probably involve buying more kit.
 
Instead, look for an experienced vendor who not only sells Cloud services, but who can help businesses adapt to take full advantage of them. Elasticity is not about unrestricted use of on-tap services. Instead it is about an intelligent use of hosted infrastructure to control costs without impacting performance. For example, this could include re-engineering applications to make full use of Kubernetes containers and similar technologies, introducing elasticity into your processes as well.
 
Elasticity is a multi-faceted
In order to properly serve a constantly changing market, businesses need to increase their ability to spin up and down. Obviously this transition is neither quick or simple,  but it is also completely unavoidable.

And although your CTO knows that the Cloud can answer many of the infrastructure and bandwidth issues, deploying services correctly is not straightforward. It may be that you need to choose a technology partner before work on introducing greater elasticity commences.


Key takeaways:

  • Scalability is crucial to meeting customer expectations and demand.
  • The Cloud provides a way to manage peaks in demand without significant investment in redundant systems.
  • Bandwidth is a crucial aspect in scalability provisions.
  • IT strategy needs to address increased demand on external bandwidth to access hosted resources.
  • Implementing true elasticity is not simply replicating existing infrastructure in the Cloud.

 

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