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Home > Cover Story> Full Story

Know your own e-business infrastructure
Abraham Thomas

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Abraham Thomas is Managing Director, IBM India Ltd. He oversees and manages IBM's sales & marketing, services and exports business in India. He began his career with IBM in 1986. Since then he has moved across various divisions within the company in ASEAN and South Asia, right from handling Business Server Systems to the Financial Services Sector, before taking over as the Managing Director.

A 24x7 total and up-to-the-minute management solution is now a vital part of e-business infrastructure

Business viewpoints change. The IT infrastructure of a company, once regarded as a secondary entity, is now seen as a critical business driver that must be well managed, tightly aligned and highly efficient.

As Internet euphoria swept across the world in the last few years, many companies found their infrastructure unable to cope with the unpredictable traffic and with competing applications that came their way. They found themselves locked into proprietary systems and unable to adapt and adopt new technologies. Managing their infrastructure became a nightmare of juggling complex, unplanned, interlinked but non-integrated systems.

Mergers and acquisitions, decentralization and a spate of unexpected competitors have added to these challenges. CEOs, CFOs and CIOs alike are learning that in the world of e-business, their companies' IT assets will be key to supporting change, reducing costs, heightening efficiency, opening new channels and sustaining customer relationships.

Boosting the bottom-line, not burying it
A relatively new concept, known as Infrastructure Resource Management (IRM), has emerged to address the increasing need to effectively manage enterprise-wide change while maintaining control over the total cost of ownership to ensure that IT infrastructure serves to boost the bottom line, rather than bury it.

A Gartner Group report as early as 1999 articulated this: "The complexity, interdependence and business need for the IT infrastructure has become so critical that it must be managed as a whole."

As an organization's capabilities broaden and develop, so do the costs and complexities. Managing a traditional bricks-and-mortar business with a basic Web presence is relatively low-risk, whereas the impact of e-commerce and other e-business initiatives can be substantial. As these transformations become increasingly requisite, e-business infrastructure management is fast becoming a critical component of overall e-business administration.

The Four C's approach
Effective IT asset management oversees every level of the IT organization. The Giga Information Group breaks these responsibilities into four distinct data categories:

  • Characteristics (hardware data)
  • Configuration (software information)
  • Contracts (service and warranty information)
  • Costs (financial data) of all IT assets

By utilizing the technical and financial data comprising these Four C's, companies can begin to fully understand the nature of their organization's technology resources from requisition to disposal so that intelligent management decisions can be made.

For example, as the supply chain from procurement, warehousing and inventory to distribution and delivery becomes a more critical link between companies and their e-commerce and e-business customers, an IRM solution can assist employees and customers in tracking purchases from order to receipt and ensuring accurate delivery dates. These capabilities rely on supportive, carefully aligned and well-managed e-business infrastructures, plus solid coordination of on-site activities.

By providing 'big-picture' oversight, IRM can speed the integration and enablement of sprawling e-business enterprises while providing assurance of continuous availability, reliability, flexibility and scalability. Although deploying such a comprehensive solution can be a daunting proposition, the results can be dramatic.

When it's done right . . .

Effective management of a company's e-business infrastructure can translate into significant cost savings, such as:

  • A bank, saving $2 million through invoice verification
  • A telecommunications company, cutting $600,000 by canceling duplicate software licenses
  • A tobacco company, recovering $600,000 by correcting lease and invoice errors

Build to measure
The process IRM is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. But most technology consultants will follow a three-step approach:

  • Evaluation: This stage will include an assessment of the company's current infrastructure and total cost of operations.
  • Design: The second step is one of implementation, in which IRM strategists will work to discover the resource management needs of a company and provide strategic design for its IRM solution.
  • Implementation: Finally, the technology consultant can oversee and help put into practice the in-house or out-tasked resource management initiatives.

Increasing demands on infrastructure
In less than five years, Internet users have grown from 16 million to nearly 200 million. IT transactions have soared threefold, and the requirement for computing power surged six fold. Yet the Internet revolution is less than three percent complete.

Business applications for use in key areas such as core banking and moving toward more complex requirements like wealth management, will drive an explosion of complex, data-intensive and highly-integrated transactions that threaten to overwhelm networks. Throwing additional server or storage capacity at the problem isn't the answer, nor is hiring armies of IT workers; analysts already forecast a further shortage of qualified technology workers.

But how will the current infrastructure evolve to support the next wave of e-business?

Wealth Management solutions, as a classic e-business application will be driving the need for more scaleable, reliable and flexible systems. The trends in e-business also calls for unprecedented demands on servers where 24x7 is a basic requirement.

Wealth Management needs to embrace open standards and inter-operability in order to provide a fuller view to bank clients, from interconnected systems. Operating systems are technically becoming more and more irrelevant to customers, who see them as roadblocks to making systems work together. It is critical that variety of devices, based on various OS platforms, should be able to submit transactions, and securely access information.

E-business in no longer a stand-alone project for most companies, it has become an integral part of day-to-day operations. Today, a company's e-business infrastructure is probably accessible 24-hours-day to their customers, partners, suppliers, or all of the above. Investing in the most sophisticated e-business applications and latest servers has become second nature to many companies. This investment must be protected with an aggressive and proactive security policy.

The integrity of a company's e-business infrastructure can make or break a business. When the trust customers, partners and suppliers place in a company is broken, it is most likely irreparable. So don't wait, secure your company's future today!

E-business is here to stay. In the near future there will be an increase in direct interaction between a company's e-business infrastructure and its customers, partners and suppliers. So a 24x7 total and up-to-the-minute management solution is an absolute necessity.

 
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