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May, 2011

That’s Business Continuity Service Provider of the Year for a Record 8 Times

Last night (24/05/11) the good and the great from across the business continuity industry made their way to the Hilton Park Lane to experience the 2011 CIR Business Continuity Awards. Many familiar faces but also some clearly promising new faces that will no doubt become regular in years to come.

BC Awards

It’s always a long wait to find out whether our entries and that of our customers have been successful and I’m pleased to report that another year of hard work has been rewarded. SunGard Availability Services took the Business Continuity Service Provider of the Year award for a record 8th time and not only does this make it the first BC Awards hat trick, but this also means we’ve amassed 13 nominations, 12 short-lists and 8 wins and we have to be proud that this represents a tangible vote of confidence in our ability to service our customers.

We’re also delighted to report accolades won by our customers were:

  • BC Strategy – Financial Times
  • BC Manager – Highly commended – John Zeppos, Cosmote
  • BC Newcomer – John Frost, Marks & Spencer

We should not forget that we were also short-listed in the following – which in itself is a major achievement:

  • Excellence in Infrastructure Management
  • Most Innovative Product – Recover Anywhere
  • BCM Software – CMS
  • BCM Consultant – Richard Jones
  • Crisis Strategy of the Year.

This year we also decided to make a change to the way in which we deliver a SunGard presence at the awards; and chose to bring a bit of cool to the proceedings…literally, with an 6m Ice bar. It took 2 weeks to freeze all the blocks required and I even had to get fake-display iPads (which fooled quite a few of the revellers) delivered from Hong Kong to be frozen in metre high pillars at each end. Anyway enough of trying to explain what it looked like take a look for yourself!

SunGard Availability Servicies - BC Awards

SunGard Availability Services - Data Centre - LTC

We have added a further 8,000 square feet to our highly resilient and secure London Technology Centre (LTC) to meet growing customer demand for managed hosting and, increasingly, cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service solutions.

The expansion will allow more businesses to switch their IT costs from a capital expenditure (CapEx) to an operational expenditure (OpEx) model. Our shared service approach makes high quality data centre space available at a fraction of the cost of any one company trying to buy, resource and power its own dedicated facility, recently estimated by Broad Group Consulting to be between £5 and £7.8m per 10,000 square feet. It also addresses the concerns of many businesses that space and power supplies in the capital will be inadequate as data usage continues to rise.
 
 
 

Waiting for others to succeed

Why the time for cloud computing is now

Forty years ago, IT started to be introduced into mainstream businesses as a productivity tool. This development spawned an entirely new industry, as increasingly sophisticated information systems started to actively drive, rather than merely support, business processes, decision-making and competitive advantage.
 
While automation has gradually freed up line-of-business workers from many routine tasks, maintaining the IT infrastructure that underpins an organisation’s day-to-day operations is still a people-intensive practice.
 
Cloud computing is alternately touted as the next big thing by some, and as a reincarnation of the classic mainframe utility computing model by others. Whatever your view, can today’s cloud deliver on the original promise of IT, bringing the simplicity and efficiency that we’ve anticipated for decades?
 
“While automation has freed up line-of-business
workers from many routine tasks, maintaining the IT
infrastructure that underpins an organisation’s day-to-day
operations is still a peopleintensive practice”
 

How IT defies the rules of business

During a sustained period of relative prosperity, businesses of all shapes and sizes expected economies of scale from their IT, to support perpetual growth. IT challenges could often be solved simply by throwing money at them. However, today’s unpredictable conditions require greater flexibility, to meet fluctuating demand or seize time-sensitive opportunities.
 
Organisations are increasingly looking to more sustainable ways of doing business, both in terms of resource consumption and financial stability.
 
But IT has never operated according to lean principles: technology is invariably over-specified to account for the best (or worst) case scenario. Even when buying a PC or laptop for home use, we have a tendency to future-proof the purchase with the kind of “just in case” processing power and storage that is rarely justified by our day-to-day needs.
 
The traditional one workload, one box approach means IT asset utilisation rates are typically poor (sometimes as low as 2-3%). This isn’t just a waste of physical hardware, power, space and cooling – there’s a significant resource burden attached in terms of the staff who are tasked with managing it.
 
It’s not unusual for a retailer to allocate servers specifically to deal with uplift in online transactions during the run-up to Christmas. But what supply chain director would tolerate the mothballing of production facilities for 11 months of the year? What HR manager would happily pay staff to drink tea and play Angry Birds from January to November?
 
According to ongoing research by McKinsey & Company, server utilisation rarely exceeds 6% and facility utilisation can be as low as 50%. Data centres account for around 25% of corporate IT budget, when you take into account the facilities servers, storage and the labour to manage them. 
 
Virtualisation can address server sprawl issue to a large extent through consolidation, but can come at a hefty upfront cost to the business and requires sought-after (therefore highly paid) architectural skills. With the current rate of exponential data growth, virtualisation doesn’t offer the scalability needed to keep pace. In practice, in-house virtualisation projects often fail to achieve their objectives and IT still tends to feel more comfortable operating with a generous amount of headroom. However, since the global economic downturn, ROI must be demonstrated for every purchase, and this kind of profligacy is no longer acceptable.
 

Bigger, better, faster, more cost-effectively

For forward-thinking businesses, cloud computing offers an elegant, cost-effective, open-ended solution. So why isn’t everyone getting trampled in the stampede to adopt? Perhaps partly because “cloud” is a nebulous term, used to describe various concepts. This has led to its reputation being dented over recent years by highprofile tales of woe which, in truth, are isolated to the kind of public clouds patronised by mom ‘n’ pop businesses.
 
So in this context, let’s state three key assumptions:
  1. For cloud, read “Infrastructure as a Service”
  2. That means a secure, private cloud environment, shared exclusively by like-minded businesses
  3. The focus is on reputable vendors with enterprise-grade capability and an SLA to match.
“The overwhelming advantages of cloud
are its scalability and flexibility, embodied in
a pay-as-you-grow managed service model”
 
So when you need more capacity, for example to cover seasonal uplift, a high-profile advertising campaign, or the roll-out of a new finance application, you simply dial up your exact requirements with your cloud service provider. While it’s not quite as instantaneous as flicking a switch, it’s infinitely more responsive than provisioning the expansion of your own data centre facilities. What’s more, cloud keeps capital outlay and depreciation off your balance sheet, and there’s no need to factor in technology refresh.
 
A recent study of 500 IT decisionmakers by Sand Hill found that half of respondents cited business agility as their primary reason for adopting the cloud, while 65% of participants in an Information Week survey said responding faster to the business was a key driver for cloud computing.
 
Cloud can enable your business to focus on its core operations without losing momentum due to IT infrastructure bottlenecks. Bringing greater responsiveness to your IT can enable your business to be more adaptable to changes in the external environment, while reducing time to market will make you inherently more competitive.
 

Nay-sayers and fence-sitters

A dwindling number of IT decision-makers still view production hosting as a threat – a loss of command over the empire. Cloud infrastructure puts the remote control firmly in your hand so you can continue to orchestrate your will from a distance. A responsible provider will be reassuringly transparent and specific in responding to concerns such as where your data and applications are located.
 
It becomes the vendor’s responsibility to manage demand, monitor customers’ usage profile across its entire estate, and ensure sufficient capacity is available. But a partner worth its salt will have vast experience and expertise in managing a production environment, as well as the specialist tools to provide the required visibility.
 
Consequently, you’ll see the emphasis of your IT department’s role gradually shift towards one of strategic advisor to the business and custodian of information technology policy, rather than caretaker of the data centre. 
 
Cloud’s detractors are still quick to raise “health and safety” objections, such as physical and logical security, interoperability, reliability and business continuity. However, an enterpriseclass vendor will invest heavily and continuously in state-of-the-art facilities that are beyond the financial and technical means of most organisations. Its disaster recovery measures will almost certainly exceed typical in-house provisions, and its procedures and practices will have been ruthlessly interrogated and penetration-tested.
 
Minimising risk in the cloud all comes down to finding a robust provider with a formidable track record in large-scale managed services and business continuity.
 

Not if, but when

While organisations need to be able to respond at short notice to threats and opportunities, vast IT buffers aren’t in the long term interests of most businesses.
 
Cloud computing is increasingly perceived as an inevitability. The time has come to stop debating its merits as a concept and start asking searching questions of potential providers to prepare your business for the transition. Infrastructure as a Service doesn’t have to involve migrating your entire data centre on day one – consider exploiting the cloud as a development sandbox or for hosting a specific application in order to accelerate deployment.
 
Inertia is undoubtedly costing businesses opportunities as well as money, so now really is the time to harness the cloud to bring affordable scalability to your IT and agility to your business.
 

Analysis of SunGard Availability Services’ customer invocation statistics for 2010 paints a picture of dramatic change, with workplace-related problems now the main cause of invocations for the second year in a row.

SunGard customers have undoubtedly increased their resistance to threats by housing critical information within our secure, highly-resilient data centres. This perhaps explains why technology invocations have fallen steadily since 2002 with a dramatic drop evident from 2006 onwards culminating in a 46% fall last year. 2006 was, of course, the year we opened our second data centre in London – Technology Centre 2 (TC2) – proving the old adage that prevention is better than cure.
 
However, Workplace invocations tell a markedly different story. Even without any major terrorist attacks or wide area flooding last year, the workplace has firmly established itself as the main source of disruption – leading to a significantly higher number of invocations than technology failures.
 
Two years ago, we explored how the economic downturn might affect invocations in years to come. We highlighted the possibility of budget squeezes affecting investment in building and facility maintenance works, increasing the risk of flooding, air-conditioning or power failure. In 2010, we saw environmental failure running at its highest level in five years – although still a relatively low cause in relation to other causes of invocation – which could be an early sign of budget cuts taking effect. It is certainly a trend to watch.
 
The single biggest reason for Workplace invocations is power failure – although this is only one fifth of the figure ten years ago – but the real cause for concern is communications failure, which has risen so fast we expect it to be the main cause of invocations when we publish figures for 2011.
 
This hammers home the need for business continuity managers, facilities managers and IT directors to consider how they can ensure their people stay connected to the information they need to do their jobs. After all, there is no point in having data available 24/7 unless your workforce can access it. So while exciting developments like home recovery and virtual desktops are the current hot topics, our message is don’t neglect the basics!
 
 
Rise in communications failures cause for concern
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Cloud IaaS built on availability, resilience and recovery

While Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) has already been enthusiastically embraced by small and medium-sized businesses, its potential is now being exploited by larger firms, eager to reap the benefits of secure, resilient Cloud IaaS. Many have eagerly switched to SunGard Availability Services’ fully managed, enterprise-class private Cloud IaaS since its launch in October 2009. Here are some of the reasons why:

Increased agility
SunGard’s Cloud IaaS gives customers the ability to dramatically accelerate the rollout of new applications. Without needing to arrange capital expenditure, purchase hardware, software licences and manage the implementation process for a new physical environment – a process that typically takes at least three months – SunGard can deliver a live, Cloud–based IaaS solution in 30 days or less.

Resilience
While some aspects of the cloud are still the subject of fierce debate, there is one point on which all the experts are agreed: a successful transition to the cloud hinges on the resilience and security of your cloud provider. Unsurprisingly, given SunGard’s 30-year track record in business continuity and managed IT services, our Cloud IaaS has been built with availability at its core. It is delivered through multiple highly resilient data centres with the best network links between them to meet mission-critical standards.

Scalability
Traditionally, IT departments would have to commit vast sums to build under-utilised in-house IT departments to future-proof for growth. SunGard’s huge pool of high performance, redundant computing power and storage enables our cloud customers to buy only what they need now, secure in the knowledge they can scale up quickly in line with actual business needs.

Flexibility
Unlike many other cloud providers who are only able to accommodate an “all or nothing” approach, the SunGard IaaS Cloud integrates fully with our hosting model so customers can adopt a hybrid solution that incorporates both physical and virtual environments with no concerns about interoperability.

Cost-savings
As customers are buying a fully managed service, rather than a mere computing resource, staff are freed from the considerable burden of management and monitoring. Consequently, SunGard’s Cloud IaaS is typically up to 60% cheaper than the equivalent in-house alternative.

Environmentally responsible
In the light of issues associated with real estate, power draw, cooling and other resources, a shared data centre that can service multiple organisations is intrinsically a more sustainable model than companies trying to buy, resource and power their own standby facilities. For instance, a typical SunGard Cloud IaaS server consumes significantly less power than a dedicated or co-located physical server of an identical specification.

In summary, SunGard’s enterprise-class Cloud ensures unrivalled levels of availability, scalability, resilience and quality of service…where else would you want to build your cloud?

To find out how it could benefit your organisation read our white paper on the real value of cloud computing.

SunGard Availability Services will be attending SmartGov Live. This free to attend public sector event will provide you and your colleagues with the latest insights and information shaping IT today, together with the opportunity to meet new and existing suppliers in one place.

IT is at the heart of cost savings across the public sector, with the joint challenges of reducing costs within IT whilst enabling your organisation to deliver services more efficiently, SmartGov Live provides access to innovation suppliers and influential figures from public sector IT who will address this key issue.