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When Slaying Legacy IT Costs, The Data Center Is A Good Place To Start

Is your IT department a center of innovation? Or is it a cost center or, worse, a money pit that requires a growing budget just to keep the lights on and the hard drives spinning?

The answer may hinge on whether you've cracked the 80-20 conundrum of IT spending--that around 80% of the typical IT budget is spent on management, operations, and maintenance, and only 20% goes to new technology and innovation. For companies serious about improving that ratio, one of the first places to look is the data center.

The business need is obvious. When $8 out of every $10 goes to routine, day-to-day operations, it's easy to understand why many businesses view IT as a support service and not an innovation engine. IT managers who aren't actively working to change their spending patterns shouldn't be surprised when they're not invited to C-level strategy sessions and instead are relegated to the kiddie table.

The tactics to change that 80-20 ratio in the data center are well known: inventory, standardize, consolidate, virtualize, automate, and enforce measurement-driven best practices. But they're hard to accomplish, and there haven't been many good technology tools to help--until now. Most of the major systems management vendors, including BMC Software, CA, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Opsware, offer products that reduce the drudge work that consumes a lot of IT staff time and much of the IT budget.

Many of these management systems have tools that automatically inventory IT assets and map them to critical applications and business processes. Change or configuration management databases, for example, track each server and PC and their applications, configurations, access rights, and other key characteristics. If a problem occurs, say with a software update or security patch, the database can be used to roll back a server or PC to an earlier and stable configuration. Once a company settles on a standard configuration for servers and PCs, these databases also can be used to quickly set up and configure dozens of computers, saving the IT staff from doing it manually.

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