Cost-Optimized Infrastructure for Future Workloads

Part 2 of our 2-part series on Driving Efficiency through Infrastructure Optimization. Read Part 1 “Where to Find Cost Savings in Your Cloud or Data Center Environment

In the response to the current global crisis, short-term cost reductions have been prioritized by many  organizations looking to keep their businesses viable during the economic downturn.  Quite often they are looking to drive greater efficiency in their IT environments.

However, as organizations move from efficiency into recovery and beyond, the need to add new applications and workloads won’t disappear. It’s important for organizations to consider ways to optimize infrastructure to add new workloads while incurring minimal or no additional costs.

Why is this so important?  In the data center, 67% of organizations over-invest in data center storage while 33% have run out of capacity or experienced high utilization that impacted up-time (Source: Futurum Research). In the cloud, 60% of organizations have overspent their planned budgets at some point (Source: Rightscale).

Organizations that sustain efficiencies found in the short term will equip themselves to compete and thrive in recovery and beyond. This is where looking into the data center to find excess capacity and resources, tiering storage appropriately and choosing cloud over new servers all come into play.

Here are the steps you can take to optimize your infrastructure to add new workloads cost effectively by optimizing the on-premise data center and moving the right workloads into the cloud.

Optimizing Your On-Premise Data Center

As application workloads change, the optimal infrastructure setup to support them changes, too. When the time comes to add new applications to the IT environment, adding new hardware or spinning up new workloads in the cloud without a plan in place often results in unnecessary waste.

Instead, look for opportunities to optimize existing data center infrastructure to support new workloads without additional costs.

The following actions will help you understand your applications and ensure you have each running on the ideal compute and storage resources:

  • Take a comprehensive inventory: Use data collection tools to gather a holistic view of your existing on-premise environment, including devices and workloads. Capturing and analyzing current usage and performance data will uncover opportunities for greater efficiency. In turn, this data can inform your decisions about where to make changes based on accurate estimates of cost and business impact.
  • Consolidate the data center: Now is the time to assess the business value of owning multiple data center sites and whether there is an opportunity to consolidate these. Shutting down unnecessary sites and leveraging lower-cost cloud backup and disaster recovery could provide considerable infrastructure efficiency benefits.
  • Defer data center refresh costs: If you have hardware devices that have or are about to reach end-of-support (EOS) or end-of-life (EOL) and migrating to the cloud isn’t an option, a refresh may be unavoidable. Fortunately, many hardware providers have deferred some or all upfront costs until 2021 to help organizations through cash flow issues. It may also be worth considering other alternatives to an upfront capital expenditure, such as leasing or pay-per-usage options.

Migrating the Right Workloads to the Cloud

For many organizations, COVID-19 has put plans to migrate applications and workloads to the cloud on fast-forward. This has the potential to increase agility and cost efficiency by reducing technical debt and physical footprint associated with the traditional data center.

In fact, the Flexera State of the Cloud Report 2020 finds that more than half surveyed have seen increased cloud usage due to reliance on cloud-based applications since stay-at-home orders came into effect worldwide (Source: Flexera).

Reduced IT operations personnel, difficulties in accessing data center facilities and delays in hardware supply chains have all contributed to this shift.

Nonetheless, not every application or workload makes sense in the cloud. Furthermore, challenges in understanding application dependencies, assessing the feasibility of migration and predicting the costs to run a given workload on-premise versus in the cloud all get in the way.

The following steps will help you identify the best candidate workloads for cloud migration:

  • Assess suitability and identify migration risks: Analyze application, data and dependencies to determine the most suitable workloads for cloud migration and address potential performance and downtime risks.
  • Conduct total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) analysis: Equipped with insights into applications, you’ll be able to define the infrastructure requirements to run applications in the cloud at optimal performance and cost.
  • Compare the cost-benefit of running each workload in the cloud vs. on-premise: The next step is to estimate the cost and business impact of running a given workload on-prem or in the cloud.
  • Plan and migrate: From here, you can determine the appropriate migration strategy to move workloads into the cloud with minimal risk. With complete and accurate documentation, you can establish the best migration sequence and apply dependency controls to avoid downtime.

Taking steps to optimize infrastructure and minimize the cost of adding new application workloads to your environment is a big milestone on the road to recovery.

We offer the following solutions to assist organizations like yours to move ahead with infrastructure optimization in the data center and migrate the right workloads to the cloud.

  • Workload Assessment: Evaluate the technical feasibility and cost of migrating and running application workloads in the public cloud based on usage, performance and technical characteristics of existing workloads to identify application dependencies, total cost of ownership and cost management considerations.
  • Public Cloud Accelerator: Leverage an operating expense (OPEX) model to meet new workload needs by reducing the risk of deploying workloads to the cloud and mitigating cost overruns based on proven experience earned through hundreds of cloud engagements.

Our team of licensing and technology vendor experts are ready to help you find efficiencies wherever you are in your journey from response to recovery.

Looking for further insights to help  drive efficiency and optimize the infrastructure in your IT environment? 

Watch our webinar, “Cloud Cost Optimization: How to Avoid Overspend and Control Costs,” on-demand or connect with an expert.

Where to Find Savings in Your Cloud or Data Center Environment

Part 1 of our 2-part series on Driving Efficiency through Infrastructure Optimization. Read Part 2, “Cost-Optimized Infrastructure for Future Workloads.” 

For IT departments, the mandate to do more with less and get the most out of technology investments isn’t new. But today there’s much more pressure to find and seize immediate opportunities to cut costs.

In addition to rationalizing software and restructuring contracts, on-premise data center and public cloud infrastructure are two high impact areas for potential short-term savings.

There are some common challenges, however. In the cloud, lack of visibility and formal governance practices makes it harder to learn where and how to find savings. In the data center, the need to avoid new capital expenditures makes it necessary to free up existing capacity to support new projects.

In fact, cloud consuming organizations waste an average of 30% of their cloud spend due to redundant resources (Source: RightScale). At the same time, inactive data accounts for 50% of total storage capacity, taking up valuable space (Source: NetApp).

The best options for making short-term financial impact in the infrastructure environment are:

  • Reducing cloud costs by improving management and visibility
  • Freeing up data center compute and storage capacity to avoid future costs

Below, we go deeper into each of these cost saving opportunities.

Reducing Cloud Costs through Improved Management and Visibility

Without careful management, public cloud infrastructure costs can get out of control.

Because organizations can procure and consume public cloud resources much easier than their on-premise counterparts, losing track of workloads and associated spend is a common problem.

Redundant resources, the absence of adequate monitoring tools and lack of control over who initiates or decommissions workloads in the cloud all contribute to over-spend.

The Flexera State of the Cloud Report for 2020 found that 79% of those surveyed cited managing costs as a top cloud challenge, second only to security.  The report also found that enterprise companies overspent their cloud budgets by 23% on average in 2019.

To right-size public cloud infrastructure and drive cost efficiency, consider the following actions:

  • Find and remove overprovisioned or idle resources: Identifying and reviewing accounts with low I/O activity helps you determine which resources could be decommissioned with minimal impact to the business.
  • Implement and enforce formal cloud governance: A formal cloud governance policy helps you better understand the structure of cloud costs, establish accountability and control access and decision-making around cloud resources.
  • Adopt a cloud management platform: A cloud management platform helps enhance visibility into your public cloud environment to promote better forecasting for cloud budgets based on real-time usage. Further categorizing cloud instances by assigning metadata tags related to billing, environments, applicable compliance requirements and more allows IT teams to track usage and associated cost across cloud instances, even in a hybrid or multicloud environment. IT can then augment and automate tagging using cloud native tools for policy enforcement. Together, these ensure that utilization meets requirements while reducing financial risk.
  • Optimize cloud storage: As with on-premise infrastructure, automating the categorization and storage of active and inactive data into performance and capacity tiers in the cloud helps drive further efficiency.
  • Implement automated scaling: Putting automated scaling in place allows you to scale up resources when needed and scale down the rest of the time. This replaces the need to accommodate maximum utilization, which is often a needless expense.
  • Use reserved versus on-demand instances: The leading public cloud providers offer discounts to customers for reserving instances for anticipated future needs in advance rather than pay higher rates for on-demand usage.

Looking to learn more about managing in the cloud? Get the guide

Freeing Up Data Center Resources to Avoid Costs

Compared with adding new usage-based public cloud resources, the cost to continue operating an owned data center is often negligible. However, when capacity isn’t optimized for efficiency, the result is additional capital expenditures when the time comes to support new applications or projects.

For instance, many organizations over-provision data center hardware to avoid the problem of running short of capacity within their virtualized infrastructure. Meanwhile, inactive data stored on-premises takes up valuable storage resources that could be tapped for other initiatives.

To free up on-premise infrastructure and avoid unnecessary future spend, we recommend these steps:

  • Optimize virtual machine resources: Optimizing workload placements and right-sizing VM allocations addresses inefficiencies by addressing risk and capacity waste. This increases efficiency by reclaiming resources from over-sized Virtual Machines (VMs). At the same time, increasing VM density by rebalancing VMs helps to safely address workload requirements and avoid resource contention.
  • Optimize on-premise storage: While not a direct cost reduction, optimizing on-premise storage allows you to extend the life of existing storage and defer capital costs. Tiering storage to the cloud automates the categorization of active and inactive data. By moving inactive data to a lower-cost cloud storage provider, you can free up on-premise capacity for new projects and pay for additional storage at a lower monthly rate.

Next Steps to Finding Cost Savings in Your Environment

Finding short-term opportunities and immediate steps to reduce infrastructure spending may require the help of an experienced and specialized solutions provider like Softchoice.

We offer the following solutions to assist organizations like yours to find and take advantage of these savings opportunities.

  • Cloud Cost Assessment: Analyze your existing public cloud workloads to uncover immediate cost-savings opportunities and improve visibility into cloud cost drivers.
  • Data Center Technology Review: Pinpoint opportunities to optimize infrastructure with the goal of freeing up existing capacity to offset future capital expenses. The review targets server, storage, virtualization, hybrid cloud, backup and file systems.
  • Cloud Data Tiering Accelerator: Identify inactive data stored on-premise that could be moved to lower-cost public cloud storage to free up on-premises capacity.

Our team of licensing and technology vendor experts are ready to help you find efficiencies wherever you are in your journey from response to recovery.

Looking for help to find and address cost savings opportunities in your IT environment?

Connect with an Expert.

How to Scale Secure Remote Access with VDI in the Cloud

For organizations responding to the global health crisis, remote work is a direct and immediate requirement for business continuity.

In these last few weeks, IT departments have been striving toward this goal.

But for end users, lack of access to work applications may be impeding their return to full productivity after the shift to working from home full-time.

Deploying virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in the cloud provides organizations with the means to scale remote access capabilities and address a sudden spike in the number of remote workers.

Below, we’ll look at five main ways deploying VDI in the cloud provides you with a fast and secure way to succeed with remote work.

How VDI Helps Enable Remote Access

Because virtual desktops run on virtual machines in the cloud or on-premise data center environments and end users access these desktops through PC remoting technology, VDI makes it easier to provide access on-premise corporate and SaaS applications from anywhere on any device.

From a user perspective, performance is often as good as or better than on a local device, because the virtual desktop is adjacent to back-end resources, such as storage. Meanwhile, VDI technology optimizes network traffic to mimic the responsiveness a user might experience on a local desktop.

In addition, VDI makes day-to-day IT tasks like deploying and managing new desktops and supporting distributed workers much less labor-intensive. IT also maintains tight control over movement of data in and out of the business. Because this data isn’t stored on the local device, the risk of data loss if a device is lost or stolen is also much lower.

How VDI in the Cloud Can Help

Provisioning devices and remote access at scale can be complex and time-consuming in a physical data center – especially when IT departments may be required to operate with reduced staff. VDI in the cloud allows IT departments to streamline deployment and administration, improve security and offset the higher cost and complexity associated with on-premise lifecycle management.

Cost Efficiency

VDI in the cloud outsources the physical infrastructure components involved to a cloud service provider, exchanging an upfront CAPEX investment to a more controllable OPEX model. Here, IT departments also avoid the three-to-four-year deprecation cycle associated with on-premise infrastructure.

The result is a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) achieved at the outset of a cloud-hosted deployment, where an on-premise solution might yield a positive ROI after 18 to 24 months. Furthermore, IDC pegs the average cost per user of cloud hosted VDI at 55% lower than that of virtual desktops hosted on-premises [1].

This benefit becomes even more important as organizations look to cut costs in anticipation of economic uncertainty.

Scale Up or Down

In the cloud, the process of adding or removing virtual desktops and applications takes is simple and almost instant. This means an IT department could scale up a remote desktop environment to accommodate a dramatic spike, such as the current scenario, with minimal effort.

In some scenarios, deploying in the cloud also allows organizations to extend their existing on-premises infrastructure for additional scale while using a single pane of glass for management.

Ease of Deployment, Management & Support

Cloud hosted VDI also minimize the technical expertise required to deploy and administer virtual desktops. In fact, IDC estimates IT departments realize an average efficiency in staff time of 57% compared with VDI deployed in an on-premise data center [2].

Because desktops are delivered by a cloud service provider over a secure network and supported by a Service Level Agreement (SLA), end users can also expect higher availability than with physical PCs, which often require a desk-side visit when things go wrong.

By removing the need to maintain physical infrastructure or access devices directly for repair, cloud-hosted virtual desktops offset some of the inherent end-user support challenges in an all-remote scenario.

Improved Security

As with on-premise deployments, VDI in the cloud improves security by storing data with the cloud provider, rather than the individual device. However, organizations can also benefit from the cloud provider’s efforts to update and continuously improve their security measures, alleviating some of the need for in-house cybersecurity skills.

At the same time, by isolating the device OS from corporate applications and data, cloud hosted VDI prevents the spread of malware throughout the network. As malicious actors look to exploit the confusion around COVID-19 and remote work, this added protection is a key benefit.

Global Reach

All the leading cloud service providers operate in geographically dispersed locations, eliminating performance challenges around user proximity to the data center. As such, cloud-hosted desktops can be deployed and allow user access from anywhere. This advantage can be critical for organizations needing to support users working remotely far from the core office location.

Despite its advantages, deploying virtual desktops in the cloud may not be the best way forward in every scenario. For example, because VDI is limited by WAN performance and latency, performance varies depending on the user’s proximity to a cloud or on-premise data center.

In situations where end users are widely dispersed or live a great distance from a cloud provider data center, the resulting performance degradation could create a frustrating end-user experience.

Where to Go Next

Enabling employees to stay productive and secure while working from home full-time is a high priority for many IT departments responding to the challenges posed by the global pandemic.

Nonetheless, investments made now out of necessity today also have the potential to lay the groundwork for a more agile workforce in the future.

Whatever stage of crisis response and business continuity you find your organization in today, our team of experts is ready to help you enable your employees.

 

Watch our virtual workshop “Virtual Desktop Solutions to Enable Your Remote Workforce” on-demand.

Explore Softchoice Business Continuity and Rapid Response Services.

 

 

 

[1] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.

[2] “Assessing the Business Value of VDI in the Public Cloud,” IDC, March 2018.