A legacy problem

Chris West, Head of Global Accounts at Keysource, the data centre and critical environment specialist, looks at the challenges global businesses are facing when it comes to provisioning critical infrastructure across a legacy estate.

The list of challenges is lengthy to say the least including the increasing complexity and demands of IT deployments, through the ever-changing threat landscape, to operating more efficiently, with less risk, at lower cost.

With the adoption of virtualisation to centralised data centres, greater reliance on cloud and the increasing need for flexible working, the only constant is change.

At a critical infrastructure level, this means transformation and investment in the latest technologies to ensure secure and robust connectivity underpinned by resilient and efficient infrastructure.

In my experience, when it comes to transformation within legacy infrastructure the key issues are clear.  What is the legacy infrastructure capable of and what standards was it designed to support?

In the case of one of our customers, a leading player in global insurance, we identified many legacy facilities that had been built to standards which demanded high levels of resilience, resulting in multiple redundant systems.

While some sites needed to retain this, we have been able to identify many where business changes or the adoption of off premise IT has enabled resizing and re-provisioning of resilience out of regional offices. This presents opportunities to release capacity from redundant systems by adopting N resilience or reducing the capacity of systems as they come up for lifecycle replacement.

For this customer, staying up to date with the required standards presents an even greater challenge in emerging market countries. As these markets have developed, revenues grown, legislation implemented and data requirements expanded, we find that many facilities no longer meet the required business standards and do not have enough resilience.  This results in the need for inflight upgrades and in some cases feeds into a business case for a complete relocation of the facility. 

In practice, global standards need to be a simple and concise set of performance metrics, guidelines and requirements.  They should be approached from the standpoint of overall business impact and risk. The discussion needs to be less about technology and more about security, revenues, productivity and functionality, focusing on metrics such as uptime, resilience and efficiency.

Beyond that it is very difficult to incorporate detailed physical M&E or IT specifications unless the decision maker or budget holder is onboard with solution ‘cost v risk’.

While businesses can enforce standards, this doesn’t align with modern workplace/destination employer aspirations and enforcement is only a point in time. We need local business leaders to understand and appreciate the need for standards, so they will flow through changes now and into how the facility will be managed and maintained going forward.

The key for us is to establish risk as a primary anchor. We might align the business impact to, say, four levels of reducing risk, with each level representing a growing set of business choices. There would then be a corresponding set of guidelines as to how the M&E and IT need to align to it so you can encourage business leaders and budget holders to engage in the process and, importantly, to see the adoption of company standards as a necessity rather than an cost burden.

Discussion, explanation and occasionally negotiation and education are all part of the process but once the local team is engaged the whole process becomes a lot simpler. In fact, for us, one measure of success is our ongoing relationship with the local business units. As the new standards are adopted and the revised infrastructure is being implemented we are often asked to provide further engineering and IT support as we become a trusted partner centrally and locally.

This is the case with our global insurance customer where we have developed the standards, worked with the local budget holders and supported the implementation program.  We now also provide guidance for the ongoing management of the estate including maintenance regimes aligned to the new standards, M&E monitoring and asset management through evolving technologies such as DCIM.  Our dedicated 24x7 remote monitoring helpdesk centrally monitors all alarms and performance information for the critical M&E estate across EMEA. 

Engaged at the earliest stages of the real estate or IT transformation projects, Keysource are conducting site surveys to provide clear guidance around feasibility, planning and budgeting.

On every project our aim is to help ensure consistency in approach and certainty of outcome through clear and structured communication, a robust approach and proactive thinking. That way we can help global businesses overcome the challenges they face.


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