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Smart Optimization Assessments

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:25 PM


After more than 12 years, the IBM Systems and Technology Group’s Lab Services Scorpion Team is seeing a need for more rapid infrastructure analysis methods. Additionally, more customers are coming to us with a definite idea of which subset of their infrastructure they want optimized or which new technology they want to evaluate. In response to these trends, the team has developed a number of new study offerings to add to its portfolio, several of which are based on both more streamlined as well as more focused infrastructure-analysis methods. The current IT Optimization offerings portfolio now includes:

• IT Systems Rationalization Study
• IT Energy-Efficiency Assessment
• Rapid Workload-Optimization Assessment and TCO for IBM zEnterprise
• IBM Fit-for-Purpose Workshop
• IBM Cloud Infrastructure Workshop
• IT Optimization Rapid Assessment.

The IT Systems Rationalization or Scorpion study is the flagship study the team conducts. This offering produces a set of prioritized recommendations to assist a client in defining a new server-optimization strategy, identifies a more highly optimized alternative enterprise and/or distributed-server architecture, and evaluates the cost and benefits of those alternatives.

This comprehensive study also generates extensive details on the specifics of the current servers in the scope of the study including platform-comparison scorecards and extensive TCO analyses. All of the vendors, platforms, workloads, functions and environments can be included and the Systems Rationalization study can be combined with an IT Storage Optimization Study and/or the IBM Energy Efficiency Study.

The IT Energy-Efficiency Assessment is a new highly specialized and focused engagement that can help an IT department understand its IT infrastructure energy footprint and the issues surrounding energy management and energy support systems and strategies. It provides a comprehensive quantification and deep analysis of an organization’s energy usage and requirements for support of all of the IT systems in the customer’s data center(s). Further, it provides guidance and recommendations for changes in policy, practices and systems, which are based on proven IT energy-optimization strategies that can result in quantifiable energy-efficiency improvements. It will also, where possible, identify multiple alternative methods of saving energy and space.

The IT Energy Efficiency study can provide IT management with new levels of visibility into the energy consequences of implementation choices in systems and servers. This can often result in completely negating or significantly delaying the need for a facility upgrade or new facility build out through better energy usage strategies and actions. In addition, some utilities provide attractive incentives for IT efficiency projects that result in reduced power consumption.

The Rapid Workload-Optimization Assessment and TCO for IBM zEnterprise is a streamlined and targeted consulting offering designed to help customers identify and optimize appropriate workloads–from both a business and technical perspective–on the new zEnterprise hybrid technology. The analysis is based on the client’s own in-scope enterprise and distributed server environments and cost structure and includes a full financial analysis of available alternatives and recommendations for infrastructure hybridization, consolidation, virtualization and optimization. The proper implementation of this new technology can lead to significantly reduced costs and can optimize workloads to improve service levels using IBM hybrid systems.

The IBM Fit-for-Purpose workshop provides customers with a realistic, fact-based qualitative and technical comparison of their current server technology platforms. The results can assist IT management and their planning staff understand and select the most optimal technology platform for current and future workloads and applications.

The analysis is based on a set of highly customized technological and operational decision criteria, which are identified through a detailed analysis of the current server infrastructure. The analysis results from comprehensive interviews with key IT staff in combination with the study team’s extensive experience and the company’s long- and short-term strategies, goals and objectives.

All of the results are input to the Polaris Fit-For-Purpose Decision Support Analysis Model Workbook. Utilizing the workbook and model, the customer can find help choosing the optimal platform based on functional, non-functional, performance, quantitative and qualitative platform-decision criteria. Because of the similarities in the data collection effort and the extensive interviews, the fit-for-purpose study can easily be combined with an infrastructure optimization study to provide prudent cost-reduction and performance improvement recommendations, which can also highlight opportunities to fuel growth by taking advantage of the best actual incremental costs of deploying new workloads across all available platforms.

The Cloud Infrastructure workshop provides a platform-neutral infrastructure assessment in a short time and without an extensive customer data-collection effort. It evaluates the feasibility of implementing IBM's advanced private cloud and dynamic IT infrastructure, and estimates the expected cost and operational benefits.

This workshop provides an extensive evaluation of multiple areas of the IT operation to evaluate the potential effectiveness and benefit of this new technology including an assessment of the organization’s readiness for private cloud technology based on IT optimization best practices. It also provides a review of the current infrastructure along with recommendations for implementing effective optimization techniques focused on dynamic infrastructure and private cloud implementation. As with all Scorpion group studies, comprehensive business cases in support of all of the recommendations are also provided.

The IT Optimization Rapid Assessment is an exciting new workshop oriented infrastructure optimization assessment for servers. This fast-paced study is usually focused on the distributed server segment and can analyze any or all x86, RISC and Power technologies in a customer’s environment or can be focused on only one server technology. This assessment specifically concentrates on the quick identification and prioritization of recommendations for optimizing the target servers for the highest value results from consolidation and virtualization. The emphasis is on solutions, not a current-state analysis. It’s most appropriate for customers who know their infrastructure well, have maintained control over their server environment and want rapid results in the shortest possible time. It can be completed with partial or complete customer server data or without extensive data collection through the use of industry averages, validated rules of thumb and extracts from reliable third-party databases. It too may be combined with an IT Storage Optimization Workshop and/or the IBM Energy Efficiency Study.

A Quick Strike
IBM’s IT Optimization Rapid Assessment is typically delivered in a workshop format conducted by experienced IT infrastructure consultants from the IBM Systems and Technology Group’s Lab Services and Training Organization. It investigates the technical and financial aspects of an enterprise’s infrastructure including hardware, software, environmental elements like power and space and the enterprise’s service-delivery support staff with an emphasis on quickly identifying opportunities for optimizing the server infrastructure and by doing so, reduce the cost of operation while maintaining or even improving IT service levels, flexibility and responsiveness.

A number of techniques are employed to analyze the current server infrastructure, both technical and financial, using time-tested analytics and methods. The foundation of the analysis can be derived from customer-collected data on the servers, costs and information, or data can be based on estimates of the needed variables and information resulting from the interaction at the facilitated workshop. This data can then be supplemented with extracts from other reliable data sources. The customer can then validate the third-party data and experience-based rules of thumb and industry averages during the workshop. This industry data is one area where the IBM Scorpion Team works continuously to keep its metrics, ratios and rules of thumb up to date; team members constantly review and revise these data points against practical experiences and ongoing industry research.

Rapid-Assessment Procedure
1. Prior to coming on site for the workshop, we undertake the usual preliminary steps of understanding and documenting the project scope, goals and objectives. If the customer is able to collect and provide their actual server-inventory data, then we’ll provide data-collection templates and help completing that critical task. If data can’t be made available, then knowledgeable support and management staff can make estimates interactively during the workshop. Again, we can supplement those estimates and information with rules of thumb and industry averages, which the IT staff review and validate for accuracy and usability.

2. Once we’re on site, we begin a group discussion with the senior executive sponsor, outlining the company and IT group’s long-term vision and objectives. We do this to keep our analysis in line with the broader corporate objectives. We then begin our data collection estimation, if data hasn’t been made available. If data was provided, we conduct a session to review, validate and dive deeper into the data. Another major topic of discussion is centered on understanding the various boundaries we need to frame the technical recommendations. We call these the Boundaries of Optimization.

3. We then move on to other technical and financial topics required to build our recommendations and our supporting business cases. These include staff counts and issues, key applications, and server utilization. We deepen our understanding of the various servers’ function groupings, for example: Web servers, database servers and application servers as well as their operational status, for example, production, development or test. We also conduct in-depth discussions on service levels, capacity-planning issues and growth and future trends. As a precursor to formulating recommendations and solution alternatives, we also try to understand staff skill levels and the readiness and appropriateness of the various solutioning directions we might take.

The usual attendees at the workshop can include: a designated executive sponsor for opening discussion and final deliverable presentation, platform server support managers, the operations manager, the key IT architects, IT engineering or operations staff member(s) who can interactively provide data or insight into the servers, and an IT comptroller or a departmental financial analyst who can interactively provide financial data or validate cost estimates.

4. Once we return from the on-site workshop, we complete our analysis and approximately one week to 10 days later we present our findings. The typical study deliverable is a PowerPoint presentation consisting of the consulting teams’ observations, findings and conclusions as well as our technical recommendations and detailed alternative configurations and supporting cost/benefit business cases.

In those cases where no server inventory was provided, we document all rules of thumb, variables and assumptions used in the analysis. When a server inventory was available, we provide the customer with a cleansed and formatted Excel spreadsheet with all of the server data and technical and financial details, allocations and assignments to each server.
The findings also include high-level and long-term recommendations and next steps that may be appropriate to help make the study results as useful as possible.

Widespread Influence
The Scorpion Team has been engaged in more than 1,000 challenging studies worldwide during these last 12 years. Our work has been extremely well received and has helped bring significant and highly useful insights and effective cost and benefit decision support to some of the most modern and sophisticated IT organizations across a broad spectrum of industries. Further, these full studies and rapid assessments have been proven to significantly help senior IT executives in their efforts to develop better IT strategies. They’ve helped reduce total IT infrastructure costs and build a more effective server infrastructure, a more viable systems agenda and a Smarter Planet.

For more on IBM Scorpion Team service offerings, go to

For more information on the entire IBM Lab Services Group’s capabilities and service offerings, go to:

Rick Schoenmann is a certified, executive IT infrastructure consultant with the IBM Scorpion Team. He has more than 30 years of experience in the IT industry and has played a senior role in the delivery of many large-scale IT consulting projects and has developed several significant product service offerings, assets and study methodologies.