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Issue of March 2006 

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The need for capacity planning

Naveen Mishra

Naveen Mishra, Senior Research Analyst, Enterprise Systems, Gartner India, says that, if done right, capacity planning (CP) can ensure a smoothly-run business with a minimum of IT upgrades and downtime

Capacity planning (CP) is fast emerging as a critical requirement in large organisations. This is triggered by the pace at which change occurs in the overall business as well as the business processes.

IT has to constantly align itself seamlessly with these changes. For this it is necessary to understand the business’ different dimensions /matrices and measure them effectively. Capacity planning has also changed and become more complex, costly and difficult due to constant change in the current business and IT scenario.

A proper CP ensures a healthy IT infrastructure which is geared to meet the organisation’s future needs. It also provides the enterprise and CIOs with timely and strategic insights so they can not only utilise existing resources to the maximum, but also plan proactively for future needs

A proper CP ensures a healthy IT infrastructure which is geared up to meet the organisation’s future needs. It also provides the enterprise and CIOs with timely and strategic insights so they can not only utilise existing resources to the maximum, but also plan proactively for future needs.

Changing Environment, New Models

It is imperative for the enterprise and CIOs to understand how and where CP is implemented. This is because it is no longer possible to follow the legacy styles of CP.

Since the mid 1990s there has been a gradual shift from the earlier centralised model to a hybrid procurement style. Though some procurement is done at the central level, equal amounts of procurement are also done at local, site and process levels. This is because different needs exist even within an enterprise.

With all the occurring changes, it is very difficult to do CP at one go. It is quite painful because you cannot have a constant and complete view of the change in IT infrastructure.

CP needs to have the flexibility to adapt to business environment changes. This is the key challenge that today’s CIOs face. So somewhere along the line, all procurement types have to be integrated with overall corporate and enterprise-wide CP, provided it is already put in place.

The computing environment has also changed very fast. Procurement time, which was earlier between six to 18 months, is now just a few weeks. The net result is that standard tools or CP methods can no longer be used to calculate the enterprise’s exact CP.

Variables such as environment changes, intense competition, and procurement timeline changes drive a new premise for CP. The enterprise now has to take those changes into account. It has to consider things from the processes viewpoint instead of a tool-based viewpoint. Otherwise, the enterprise will end up with unnecessary infrastructure and will have to bear the costs. This will not yield the desired result.

CP Tool Limitations

Different CP tools are available today but they are isolated tools and infrastructure-focused. They do not consider the complexity or changing environment in the enterprise. Nor are existing operations and manpower considered. Hence, they are not robust enough currently to assist CIOs and define the CP strategy based on business needs.

Vendors also understand that there is a critical need for more flexible tools which focus on existing organisational capacity to analyse CP. However, there is no product even close to these needs so far. Nor will there be, in the near future. The reason is that there are certain aspects which have to be taken care of at an enterprise level. There are limitations which stop technology providers from delivering such products.

The tools can only be used as a starting point. They are just the means and not the end. To understand and perform the audit of present infrastructure and integrate those components into the assessment is a tedious process. This is why there is no tool at present which is a complete CP solution.

Existing tools have to be used in a rational manner so that the enterprise can leverage the tools’ benefits, while improving business processes so that existing and available infrastructure/resources are considered in CP and are well utilised.

Centralised Vs. Hybrid

Large organisations normally have a centralised data centre environment. A CP process is in place with a centralised command and control operations model. Here they try to estimate the different types of servers, storage and infrastructure needs of the enterprise.

However, in organisations where there is hybrid control or command, there is no single point of control. Here CP becomes much more difficult.

For instance, consider a SAP implementation in an enterprise. The tools and techniques can help you define how many servers you need for a particular type of SAP environment in a specific data centre type. However, they do not focus on existing user organisation, components already installed, already existing and utilised capacity and so on. Therefore, at the end of the day CIOs end up buying redundant infrastructure and too much money is spent because of tool-based CP analysis.

Having a centralised structure may not serve business needs. Different processes may have different needs which in turn trigger enterprise infrastructure changes. However, when it comes to CP, all structures bring a different set of challenges such as exactly what, how much and when to buy.

If the right process is in place, you move forward towards real time infrastructure. This is because the proper process ensures that the organisation is ready to adapt effectively to any business change without damage to business results.

Indian enterprises, especially BFSI data centres with countrywide operations are most likely to have successful CP implementations, also large telecom companies with nationwide operations. Given the large amount of data they carry, it is imperative for them to work on these lines. Any large enterprise with huge amounts of data will be early adopters of a proper CP. However, the SME segment is not working actively on this.

From a CIO Viewpoint

CIOs can get by without a CP team. It is better to understand and consider it as a process rather than as an issue to be analysed and implemented by running a tool. This is because if a single process is followed, the organisation can understand the additional capacity required.

CIOs need to understand that CP is critical and increasingly complex, as the role of IT increasingly gets integrated with business. Service delivery expectations are higher each day. CP must be a part of the operations process and should work cohesively with asset, configuration, and network management.

It is imperative that CIOs focus their attention on CP. But they also need to change the way in which they do it. It is necessary to start investing in a small but significant set of resources at the operations and infrastructure level. This can be part of a consolidation or process-improving project where CIOs try to identify and smoothen the procurement process and improve CP.

For this, CIOs can use standard methodologies like ITIL as a basis for a driving process tool and then customise it to suit their own need. This will help prevent wastage of money on needless infrastructure. This extra amount can instead be used to leverage technology and innovations like virtualisation and work load management. Only by following the process viewpoint will the enterprise be able to move forward and leverage the benefits of real-time infrastructure—the future of infrastructure.

Global And Indian Trends

User organisations are struggling with CP even globally. India is following the same trend. In both scenarios, the ground reality is business change.

It is the pace of response to change in IT infrastructure (including servers and storage) that varies in both these cases. India lags behind in infrastructure adoption, but in the key challenges that include an approach to CP as a process, we reflect the global trend.

Future Of CP

CP must be looked at from a process perspective in order to achieve the vision of Real Time Enterprise (RTE) as well as Real Time Infrastructure (RTI). The focus must be on operational processes like CP, asset management and configuration management. Without these the enterprise will struggle to justify use of emerging technology.

All these ensure that the enterprise has an optimal structure from the operation angle. Only this approach can help the enterprise move forward and achieve RTE since it will be geared up for any business change and can adapt to changes very fast.

As told to Kumar Dawada

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