Many CIOs are working towards "greening” their organisations. As a reseller, you need to know where businesses are heading in order to provide them with the best solutions and opportunities to enter a green-conscious marketplace.
Organisational legislative requirements, operational savings or the marketing value of eco-friendliness are some of the drivers behind most business’ decisions to go green. But building an eco-nirvana can be a complex and expensive activity for any business and the path to energy savings is littered with bad options, risky choices and – in some cases – questionable technologies.
CIOs looking at reducing their company’s carbon footprint are finding that reducing their physical footprint can not only help accomplish that feat, but also net immediate savings and deliver a future return on investment. Nevertheless, shrinking operations without adversely affecting productivity remains a serious challenge for most businesses. The best bet is to find a solution to those challenges before they have time to become problematic.
With enterprise IT operations, reducing the physical footprint comes in the form of consolidation. There are several forms of consolidation that CIOs must consider: consolidating servers using virtualisation, consolidating storage by using storage area networks (SANs), and consolidating branch office operations into the corporate data centre.
These three activities can substantially assist businesses to meet their green goals and improve operations. However, previous experience has shown CIOs that there is a hidden cost associated with consolidation, a cost that amounts to a failure in the ability to provide remote users with the capacity to perform their computing tasks effectively. In short, distance becomes the enemy responsible for branch office consolidation projects falling apart.
At present, many CIOs focus on providing IT resources to end users as close to them as possible, to guarantee they have applications at hand to maintain a high level of productivity. That creates a need for branches and IT resources to be spread out over large areas, increasing costs and decreasing the ability of the business to go green. When operating a distributed, branch office, wide-area network (WAN), power usage is increased, additional travel is required for IT support teams and a physical presence is needed at the branch office consuming even more resources – creating a merry-go-round of inefficient operations that can only negatively impact any potential greening of a business.
With this problem comes a critical question: "why can’t I shift IT operations back to the data centre?” The answer comes in two parts: latency and bandwidth. It is latency and bandwidth which dictates how an end user properly manages applications – too much latency and too little bandwidth can halt the correct usage of applications, which naturally affects productivity and the timely completion of tasks.
Some CIOs have turned to technologies such as QoS, increased bandwidth and the cloud to attempt to solve latency issues and allow a consolidation attempt to progress, but none of these technologies are able to deliver LAN-like experience to the end user accessing applications over a WAN, as the applications themselves are still hindered by high latency.
So should IT managers and CIOs give up on the dream of branch office consolidation? The answer is no. New WAN optimisation techniques and technologies have been developed which eliminate many of the problems that come with consolidation. And it is important that the channel be aware of the advancements as the idea of green businesses edge closer to reality, making it more affordable and more realistic to do so than ever before.
Even though WAN optimisation has been around for a while now, it is only recent advances that moved the technology into the enterprise "greening” space. Advanced capabilities have arrived which enable the end user accessing the WAN to achieve a LAN-like experience. A WAN optimisation solution can painlessly eliminate the need for IT resources at the branch office; in some cases even eliminating the need for the branch office itself. The end result proves not only to be a green approach to reducing the carbon footprint of a business, but also as a means to reducing operational costs. That leads to a significant impact on the business’ green goals, because an optimised WAN reduces travel, supports telecommuters (further reducing environmental impact), reduces the amount of physical equipment needed and reduces support costs.
Optimising a WAN can not only become part of the green solution, it can become the catalyst for getting greener thanks to the improvements the technology offers to end users. Moreover, WAN optimisation offers other improvements for the network, although CIOs and IT managers need to choose correctly as the technology comes in a variety of models. Each model is more suited to a particular solution, although the best solutions all include specific functionalities which make them viable, including:
The ability to harvest additional space on the WAN by "deduplicating” network traffic, removing redundancy in email, file sharing, replication and so on. Often this can multiply bandwidth capacity up to five times – in some cases 20-fold – which can significantly reduce network costs.
A technology that simplifies traffic by turning the protocols which run on the WAN. Most often this is TCP, but may also include Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) for virtual desktops or others. The streamlining technique allows traffic to ramp up much faster, utilise more of the rated throughput capacity and prioritise key applications.
The ability to understand the applications and find inefficiencies in chatter, which is compounded by latency issues and which in the end significantly degrades performance on the WAN. The best products have a diverse range of application-specific optimisations, which can improve performance by a factor of 10 or more when combined with other performance enhancers. The result is a performance improvement which enables the end user to complete tasks that would normally take two hours to finish in a matter of minutes, even seconds, independent of the distance involved.
While these three technologies are primary capabilities included in an ideal WAN optimisation solution, there is much more to a solution than them. Any good WAN optimisation solution should incorporate platform flexibility with options for mobile workers, virtual data centres, cloud computing environments, clustering for scalability and high availability. All these features should be part and parcel of any effective solution, which then provides CIOs the best way to green their business by supporting branch office consolidation. Greening a business is changing the marketplace and as a reseller you are perfectly placed to take advantage of the changes and help influence the creation of the eco-nirvana that CIOs are craving.