Having trouble managing data volume?

As a growing number of businesses across just about all industries adopt new tech trends like bring-your-own-device policies, big data analytics and the Internet of Things, the volume of information stored by such organizations is reaching increasingly high levels.

In an attempt to manage the growing amounts of data, many companies have scaled their existing IT infrastructure by incorporating disparate systems on outdated technology. This creates overly complex IT environments and puts even more strain on storage setups and IT administrators.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

So what are enterprises to do? The current business environment calls for faster and more agile access to critical data. To gain the competitive advantages necessary to stay ahead of the game, many organizations are deploying converged infrastructure.

Moving to a converged infrastructure

Instead of buying one-off machines and separate CPU, storage and network components and having to configure them all, converged infrastructure allows IT administrators to access an preconfigured, integrated experience in a box. A growing number of enterprises are seeing the advantages to implementing converged infrastructure, according to research firm IDC.

Converged systems scale out performance and capacity by virtualizing computing and storage power across multiple nodes. Data protection and failover are managed between the nodes, and clients typically must start with a minimum of three to account for availability. Once the system has been implemented, users can add nodes on an individual basis in order to increase storage and computing resources.

There are a variety of benefits to converged infrastructure:

  • Faster Provisioning: By employing a converged infrastructure model, a job that may have once required a provisioning time of three weeks can be cut down to less than an hour in some instances.
  • Lowers costs: With convergence, fewer single-use components are needed, and fewer components will be used in the data center overall. This decrease means fewer components to manage, troubleshoot and operate, as well as a reduction in the physical footprint of the data center or other IT facility.
  • Simpler management infrastructure: A converged infrastructure centralizes the management of servers, networks and storage, creating more streamlined daily maintenance. This requires less personnel and a lower knowledge base as opposed to traditional upkeep, freeing up skilled tech workers for more business-critical functions.
  • Quicker IT response: Creates a more agile way to respond to changes in the marketplace or with business priorities.
  • Reduced siloing of IT teams: Instead of managing storage and CPU separately, everything is done together. Fewer overall IT resources are needed with converged infrastructure and more knowledge and cross-training becomes available throughout the business.
  • Improved control: Control is now centralized and management of multiple functions and devices can take place at one time.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Allows the capacity of the entire data center or IT footprint to be quickly adjusted to meet client demands.

Produced in Partnership with VMWare

Converged infrastructure offers business considerable savings as opposed to traditional approaches. As the market continues to evolve, systems will become simplified and more third-party integrators will emerge to take over the task from in-house teams. This will lead to increased options and lower costs.

Modern converged systems focus management on virtual machines, moving commodity computing resources and disks to the background. As the market continues to grow, more options will emerge that offer both options in combined nodes, enabling improved scalability. Sometimes referred to as hyperconvergence, this unites storage, computing a networking in a single unit around a hypervisor that takes care of all of the management duties.

With enterprise data volumes increasing all the time and as the need for reliable, agile and secure management solutions become more important, working with a third-party service provider to create a converged infrastructure solution is more often than not the best way for business to access competitive advantages.

Making it through extreme weather with your network and business intact

It is hard not to get excited about the start of summer. With its warm weather and longer days, summer brings with it a sense of freedom and happiness that is greatly anticipated after the harsh cold and endless nights of winter. However, summer does not just bring along sunshine and smiles. It also brings strong storms – lightning, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. – that can severely disrupt businesses and their technological infrastructure.

"40% of small businesses won't reopen after being affected by a weather-related disaster."

With extreme weather on its way, businesses need to get a jump start on their disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Enterprises can be severely affected by natural disasters, leading to lost revenue and major repair costs. Storms can have such a negative effect on companies that 40 percent of small businesses will not reopen after being affected by a weather-related disaster this year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Luckily, organizations with a strong business continuity solution in place can weather the storm and come out just as well as they went in. Here are a few tips to help enterprises put together the best disaster recovery plan possible:

Businesses need to put recovery plans in place before severe weather disrupts operations.Businesses need to put recovery plans in place before severe weather disrupts operations.

Understand how a disruption will affect different assets
There are a variety of different variables that must be considered when putting a business continuity plan in place. How will employees access company programs and files? What information is critical? Who needs to be made aware of a service disruption or office closure? All of these things and much more must be addressed by a recovery plan.

In a severe weather event, the majority of employees will be accessing files remotely, so a cloud-based solution is the most reliable option to keep operations running smoothly. A cloud disaster recovery as a service option will keep business going after a disruption, but not all files will be available immediately, nor should they be. Non-essential data should be given low priority in DR solutions, saving space for files crucial to daily operations. Utilizing the cloud will also provide administrators a way to contact employees, vendors and any other necessary personnel that the office has experienced a disruption.

Test your plan beforehand
It is important to identify any problems or gaps in your DR plan before it needs to be put to use so any issues can be fixed. Scheduling periodic tests ensures the most reliable business continuity possible. Make sure to test each necessary system – phones, computers, data recovery, servers, etc. – separately and as a whole to discover any pain points before the real thing happens.

Work with a trusted industry partner
Putting a reliable DR plan in place can be difficult, but working with a knowledgeable service provider can make everything run smoothly. Companies like ISG Technology offer cloud-based solutions customized for the client that address the specific needs of each organization. ISG's expert staff take care of the maintenance required to keep a DRaaS solution running, letting users focus on other critical functions in times of emergency. Not only is ISG's staff prepared to keep your business running during extreme weather, but its infrastructure is ready as well. ISG's Missouri data center is located within a limestone bunker, shielding it from practically every kind of extreme weather event that might come its way. With such a strong network of facilities and staff, disaster recovery services from ISG are the most reliable choice to keep enterprises running no matter what mother nature brings. 

Cloud IaaS market growing

The cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service market is growing at an accelerated rate, with providers bringing in increased revenue, according to IT analyst firm Gartner.

A recent Gartner report found that global spending on cloud IaaS solutions will reach almost $16.5 billion in 2015, an increase of more than 32 percent from last year. As more businesses move an increasing number of workloads to the cloud, the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 29 percent through 2019.

"10% of CIOs consider cloud IaaS their default infrastructure option."

Last year the absolute growth of public IaaS workloads surpassed on-premise workload growth of any type for the first time, the Gartner report revealed. According to a survey of CIOs conducted by Gartner, cloud IaaS is considered an infrastructure option by 83 percent of CIOs and 10 percent already consider it their default choice.

This growth in the IaaS market is also causing a consolidation of service providers, according to Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Lydia Leong. The market is rapidly revolving around a small number of trusted service providers, so IT buyers will need to select their vendors carefully.

"We urge buyers to be extremely cautious when selecting providers; ask specific and detailed questions about the provider's roadmap for the service, and seek contractual commitments that do not permit the provider to modify substantially or to discontinue the offering without at least 12 months' notice," said Leong.

The cloud IaaS market is growing and providers are consolidating.The cloud IaaS market is growing and providers are consolidating.

IaaS proves a versatile tool
Cloud IaaS solutions can be put to work for practically any use case that can reasonably be hosted on virtual servers, but the most common are development and testing environments, high performance computers and batch processing, Web-based apps and non-mission-critical internal business applications. Gartner suggests that businesses adopting a cloud IaaS solution operate in two essential modes, otherwise known as bimodal IT. This allows them to keep sight of what is needed to maintain IT operations while at the same time innovating with new, digital possibilities.

"Cloud IaaS can now be used to run most workloads, although not every provider can run every type of workload well," said Leong. "Cloud IaaS is not a commodity. Providers vary significantly in their features, performance, cost and business terms. Although in theory, cloud IaaS has very little lock-in, in truth, cloud IaaS is not merely a matter of hardware rental, but an entire data centre ecosystem as a service. The more you use its management capabilities, the more value you will receive from the offering, but the more you will be tied to that particular service offering."

When first starting, most organizations deploy cloud IaaS for mode 2, agile IT projects that may be on the periphery of the organization's IT needs but can still have a major impact for the business. As the company becomes more comfortable with its use of IaaS overtime, some organizations may choose to use it in Mode 1, for traditional IT projects.

As time goes on, many enterprises, especially those in the mid-market, will likely migrate away from operating their own computing facilities and instead host their workloads in a data center run by a service provider and rely primarily on infrastructure in the cloud.

There's more to data center security than you think

When it comes to computers and technology, there is one thing at the forefront of everyone's minds these days: security. This idea is especially critical when talking about data centers, as digital, physical and structural security are all critical to operations.

There are a variety of different security concerns when it comes to data centers, from compliance requirements to building security to protections against the weather. Businesses need to make themselves aware of the security precautions taken by their data center service provider and carefully consider three areas of security before choosing a facility.

"Businesses need to carefully consider three areas of security when choosing a data center."

Most people think digital security is the only concern when it comes to data centers, but if the power supply cuts out or a tornado tears the facility down, that can be even more debilitating than a data breach. Consider these physical aspects when choosing a data center:

  • A secure location: The site needs to be located a good distance away from company headquarters and out of the path of natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.
  • Redundant utilities: A secure facility will employ two separate sources for critical utilities, being able to trace electricity back to two unique substations.
  • Controlled building access: Make sure the data center has security guards in place and a limited number of entry points into the building, as well as security cameras and gates to keep out unwanted visitors.
There are many different security concerns that must be addressed when choosing a <a  data-cke-saved-href=There are many different security concerns that must be addressed when choosing a data center.

While the physical considerations of a computing facility are very important to the overall security of the building, digital security precautions must also be taken in order to protect the files stored within.

  • Implement two factor authentication: Biometric identification is increasingly being used in data centers as a second layer of security to ensure only the appropriate people are handling certain information.
  • Encrypt data in motion: Encryption is a necessity when working within distributed computing environments where application workloads communicate across both private and public networks.
  • Meets multiple regulatory compliance requirements: Make sure any data center being utilized meets the necessary guidelines to be compliant with industry regulations for the sector you're operating in.

Separate from physical and digital security measures, steps must be taken to build security into a data center's infrastructure to create a robust protection strategy and atmosphere of defense.

  • Anticipate changes to workloads: Enterprise applications are not static entities, but are instead workloads that move from one location to another and must be monitored as they go. Utilizing adaptive security measures allows workloads to move freely while enabling IT administrators to focus on other business-critical operations.
  • Future-proof application development: Make sure security solutions are deployed that can stay consistent across private and public cloud platforms so the same level of protection will be maintained no matter where the apps run.
  • Audit application interactions: Periodically take stock of the traffic flowing between the individual workloads that make up each application. This will provide enterprises with a comprehensive view of the interactions taking place, as well as any connection requests from outside entities that may be popping up.

Top 3 IT trends impacting data center infrastructure

As technology continues to play an increasingly large role in the enterprise, the investment in infrastructure to sustain the necessary hardware and software has become overwhelming for many organizations, especially those in the public sector. Managing in-house IT systems without the help of an expert third party can sometimes be incredibly expensive and complicated, and few agencies have the budget or manpower to address server sprawl or maintain outdated systems and infrastructure components on their own. Conversely, while many organizations are offloading assets to the public cloud, such a strategy involves giving up a lot of control and direct oversight over data, something that government agencies simply can't do.

In order to cope with growing technological demands, many public sector organizations are now looking to take advantage of emerging IT trends – hybrid cloud computing, mobility, big data –  to offload their data center operations. State and local agencies are beginning to take advantage of the increased capabilities these new innovations offer by modernizing their data center technologies and applying hybrid cloud services wherever possible. These changes help to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their data center infrastructure, as well as protect against hardware and software failure.

Public sector IT administrators find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place with new mobile technologies, as they offer employees a variety of benefits but also present widespread security and infrastructure challenges. Network strain, increased bandwidth demands, additional storage needs and more strict security measures all become necessary when an increased number of mobile devices are put to work within an organization. Most public sector IT departments do not have the human or fiscal resources necessary to improve and secure mobile access as they are already at their limits trying to support current data center operations. To solve this problem, many organizations are employing virtualized machines and storage to keep up with the bandwidth demands and user expectations.

Hybrid cloud computing
The ability of cloud solutions – when properly paired with on-premises options – to reduce server sprawl and maintenance worries are drawing many government agencies to the technology, and many have adopted cloud services for all of their routine business processes. A survey of government IT executives conducted last year by American City & County magazine revealed that almost half of all respondents utilized cloud services, with the most common use case being email and data storage. Participants reported experiencing a number of advantages after employing a cloud platform, including better accessibility from mobile devices, reduced IT infrastructure build-out and maintenance cost and improved management efficiency. While many government agencies aren't able to use public cloud providers because they do not hold the necessary state and local certifications, alternative solutions like colocation and shared private cloud environments are rapidly being employed. 

Big data
With so many business functions revolving around the Internet these days, government agencies and public sector organizations are dealing with massive amounts of data on a daily basis. The advent of big data analytics is making these data stockpiles incredibly useful by allowing groups to improve efficiency and decision-making, as well as creating a better understanding of citizens' needs. However, most agencies have less than half of the necessary storage capacity and computing power to effectively leverage their big data initiatives, according to the American City & County survey.

A major hurdle when employing data analytics is sufficiently meeting federal, state and local regulations regarding the proper collection and storage of data. In order to effectively secure their information, IT departments should look to utilize a tiered storage model. Each tier is dictated by specific spending, access and capacity requirements, providing each type of data with the right amount of access and security, which is generally more cost effective. Different categories of data are assigned to different types of storage solutions, placing the most sensitive information that is frequently accessed in storage from which it can be retrieved easily and data that is less critical would be kept in lower storage.

Increasing focus on data center infrastructure
Taking advantage of the hybrid cloud, mobility and big data can completely transform public sector IT operations, but changes must be made to data center infrastructure. Agencies can improve the way they manage their computing facilit​ies and boost data center efficiency by making enhancements in key areas like power usage, virtualization, data storage and network infrastructure. Changes in any of these categories would contribute to the improved efficiency, performance and cost savings of data center infrastructure, as well as creating more resilient facility. 

Big data causing big changes in the enterprise

A lot of IT buzzwords get thrown around without there ever really being any context as to what the technology does for a business or how many companies are actually utilizing it. For 2015, that buzzword is definitely “big data”. It pops up everywhere, but what is the real picture? According to a recent study by EMC, big data is more than just a buzzword, it’s a necessary tool for enterprise success.

The recent report “Big & Fast Data: The Rise of Insight-Driven Business” sponsored by Capgemini revealed that a growing number of companies are investing in big data initiatives and are seeing positive results. According to the study, 70 percent of IT decision-makers believe their organization’s ability to extract value from big data is critical to their future success. Another 65 percent said that they risk becoming irrelevant or losing a competitive advantage if they don’t utilize big data.

Businesses bracing for shifts as big data takes hold
The study, which included interviews with more than 1,000 senior executives and decision-makers across nine industries in 10 countries, provides a variety of insights into how companies are responding to the changes big data has brought to the enterprise. More than half of respondents believe that investments in big data will outstrip past investment in information management over the next three years. This is due in part to the fact that 63 percent of participants believe the monetization of data could potentially become as valuable as existing products and services. This is especially true among those in the telecommunications sector, where 83 percent of respondents agreed with the statement.

One of the most significant statistics is the fact that 47 percent of senior executives believe their organizations’ IT systems are not properly optimized to allow business decision-makers to do their jobs effectively. These executives reported seeing a need for increasing the cadence of their IT systems’ improvement to keep up with the increasing client, supplier and stakeholder requirements outside of their organizations.

In order to accommodate all of the changes brought about by the increased use of big data, businesses will need to ensure that their data center solutions and IT infrastructure are up to the challenge. Working with a trusted service provider to upgrade infrastructure and improve data center performance is the most reliable way to ensure that new big data initiatives will be implemented successfully.

Leveraging data boom to solve medical mysteries

The Internet has made accessing vast amounts of information both easy and affordable,and is dramatically improving the research processes of many industries. One sector in particular that has benefited from the convenient access offered by the Internet is health care.

With new innovations like electronic health records, hospitals and doctor's offices are able to compile and share medical information digitally and greatly improve their knowledge of specific diseases and treatment options. Big data initiatives are also starting to play a major role in health care, with organizations using the vast amounts of available information to draw conclusions that may otherwise have gone unseen.

IBM is now looking to throw its hat in the ring in an effort to improve sharing and analysis of health data with the creation of its Watson Health business unit. The unit, which launched in early April, aims to use big data analytics and mobile technology to help doctors, researchers, insurers and patients achieve better health outcomes. Watson Health will offer cloud-based access to IBM's Watson supercomputer to enable healthcare professionals to analyze medical data. IBM has also partnered with Apple, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic to make it easier for health care organizations to store and analyze patient data.

Taking advantage of the data boom

"Each person creates 1 million GB of medical data throughout their lifetime."

Watson Health allows users to take advantage of the cognitive capabilities of Watson and create "new health-based offerings that leverage information collected from personal health, medical and fitness devices," providing "better insights, real-time feedback and recommendations to improve everything from personal health and wellness to acute and chronic care," according to a release from IBM.

IBM's Watson supercomputer may hold the key to solving medical mysteries.IBM's Watson supercomputer may hold the key to solving medical mysteries.

Watson Health operates on a rather basic premise: Each person creates approximately 1 million gigabytes of medical data throughout their lifetime, so why not use that information to create positive health outcomes and fuel new research? A recent report by IDC Health Insights predicted that 80 percent of health care data will pass through the cloud at some point in its lifetime by 2020. The study went on to predict that this shift to the cloud will drive 70 percent of health care organizations to invest in consumer-facing mobile apps by 2018. With so much digital health information being created, and more being made all the time, there has never been a better time to use such data to improve health care and patients' quality of life.

The Watson supercomputer is able to adapt and learn based on information it is fed. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York has been inputting medical literature focused on cancer into Watson for more than three years, and the computer has used the data to learn how cancer has been treated traditionally, and perhaps eventually create new, progressive treatment options.

"What Watson can do is look at all your medical records – he has been fed and taught by all the best doctors in the world – and comes up with what are the probable diagnosis, percent of confidence, the why, rationale, odds and conflicts," said Ginni Rometty, chairman and CEO of IBM.

Rometty explained that there is differing potential for false results when diagnosing different types of cancer. Watson's first task is analyzing data on melanoma and figuring out how to determine whether a melanoma is actually cancerous.

According to Rometty, this is the ideal time to launch Watson Health because three technologies essential to the project – big data, cloud and mobility –  are converging and enabling medical breakthroughs. These main technologies already comprise more than one-quarter of IBM's business and Watson Health plans to capitalize on that.

3 reasons skeptics don't like the cloud, and why they're wrong

After a long period of slow growth, it appears as though this year is poised to become a turning point for the cloud computing industry. According to estimates by research firm Markets and Markets, the global cloud market is expected to be worth more than $121 billion by the end of 2015.

The industry’s rise is hardly surprising, as an increasing number of organizations have begun to turn to the cloud as a reliable alternative for traditional computing processes. The growing number of cloud-based services available are helping people to more effectively manage their lives and businesses, fueling the technology’s popularity. Cloud computing is gaining such a foothold that research firm Gartner has even gone so far as to suggest that traditional IT sourcing will be replaced by cloud office systems before the end of the year.

“Gartner analysts believe traditional IT sourcing will be replaced by cloud office systems before 2016.”

Despite cloud’s rapid rise, however, there are still some segments of the enterprise that are wary of the technology – or just change in general. Some companies, especially smaller organizations without the budget to hire extensive IT departments, prefer to stick with that they know, choosing to continue using outdated systems like Windows XP and trusting their business growth to legacy CRM software. This reluctance can make sense in theory – the enterprise already owns the license to the old software and knows where its data is stored – but in practice these companies are letting fear of change and modernization get in the way of business development.

Cloud skeptics have some legitimate concerns about transitioning to the technology, but all of their fears about cloud computing can be easily calmed.

Some companies continue to be skeptical about the cloud. Some companies continue to be skeptical about the cloud.

Data security
One of the biggest concerns businesses have about utilizing the cloud is the security of sensitive enterprise information. Security worries continue to be the most common barrier to adoption of the cloud, according to a recent report by tax advisory firm KPMG. More than half of business decision-makers have cited data loss and privacy as a major reason for hesitation. While security in the cloud is something all companies should be concerned about, the question is more of whether an organization’s service provider is safe and less about if the cloud itself is reliable. Reputable vendors offer security measures that are likely stronger than what an enterprise could deliver within its own budget, and cloud providers employ IT professionals who are solely focused on protecting sensitive information in cloud environments.

Another frequent criticism of the cloud is that it forces businesses to rely too heavily on the Internet to complete processes and serve clients. If a system were to suffer a disruptive event, even a brief one, service would slow down dramatically and sales could be lost. This is a very real concern for any company utilizing the Internet, not just those relying on the cloud. However, trusted service providers take precautions to assure redundancy during an outage and most will automatically resync when systems come back online. Even on-premises solutions can run into service problems, but when they occur within a cloud environment there is a team of trained technicians ready to fix the problem as soon as possible, which isn’t always the case with on-site systems.

Return on investment
Many enterprise IT decision-makers are still shying away from cloud platforms because they think the ROI won’t be substantial enough to cover the total cost of ownership. This thinking becomes even more engrained for companies that already own an on-premises system that seemingly meet their needs. This argument, though rooted around a valid consideration, is surprising in light of how many organizations have transitioned to cloud environments as a way to save money.

A variable that many businesses don’t consider is that cloud providers frequently offer automatic updates, ensuring systems stay ahead of security vulnerabilities and are always up-to-date with the latest features. Licensing agreements for on-premises software often does not come with the same guarantee, creating frequent, unplanned costs. If a software vendor runs into problems or a product is discontinued, a company can waste thousands of dollars in licensing for a system that will never be updated or receive service again. If the same scenario were to take place with a cloud system, an organization could simply cancel your subscription and find a new product.