The perfect storm? Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
The role of IT has always been to enable business success, yet it has become increasingly challenging to align IT with the business. Applications and users form the primary intersection between business and IT. Business today runs on applications (programs). The closest points of intersection between business and IT are applications and the users who depend on them to do their jobs, buy products, obtain support and the like.

“The more successful IT is in ensuring that all users have fast, secure, low-cost access to their applications from any location, the more likely they are to be viewed as an enabler by business executives rather than roadblocks to business strategies,” says Omar Yakar, CEO of Agile 360. “Unfortunately, most companies are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of opposing market forces separating users and applications by time, distance and organization — all of which increases the challenge of application delivery.”

Smart Business talked with Yakar about what businesses can do to address these challenges.

What is causing these shifts?

On the one side, globalization, mobility, offshoring and e-commerce are moving users farther away from headquarters. At the same time, trends such as data center consolidation, business continuity, security and regulatory pressures are making applications less accessible to users. As the velocity of change increases in the increasingly dynamic world, it is virtually impossible for IT to predict and mitigate all the variables that could impact an application’s success.

All of this is having a profoundly negative impact on the business utility of mission-critical applications at most companies. As the ‘noise’ between applications and users grows, application performance declines, security risk increases and costs go through the roof. Worse yet, IT’s ability to respond quickly to business requirements has never been under more pressure.

How should this change be addressed?

The approach that made IT successful in the past no longer solves today’s problems. The old cycle of deploying the fastest PCs, buying the fastest servers you can afford and keeping it all running efficiently with as many smart IT people as possible in each location has to end. The rate of business change is now much faster than our hard-coded infrastructures were designed to handle.

You can’t break this cycle simply by trying to reign in all the variables. Users feel locked down with increasing restrictions on their environment. And application projects are slowed down due to infrastructure limitations. What’s needed is a services-oriented mindset that enables you to loosely couple applications and users without limiting flexibility on either end.

How is this change implemented?

It starts by shifting attention away from technology-focused silos like networking, security and management systems and instead focusing on the business line of sight from applications in the data center to users — wherever they may be.

To change our way of thinking, we may also need to change our language. Most IT organizations still talk about deploying applications. When you ‘deploy’ something, it requires lots of effort, takes a long time and usually ends up costing more than you expected. The effort is so complex, rigid and slow that you often end up deploying things to people whether or not they really wanted them in the first place.

‘Delivery’ is a much more dynamic and flexible model. Cable TV providers, for example, deliver content to any user in any location, whenever it is requested. They don’t care what kind of home entertainment system you have or how often it changes. Delivery is fast, flexible, bidirectional, responsive and efficient.

How is this view different?

Instead of focusing on a technology silo (routers, servers, security), the focus is along the line of sight between applications and users, providing an infrastructure with the agility to deliver any application to any user in the best way possible, regardless of the change happening all around.

Instead of trying to control all the variables, IT shifts its focus to controlling the delivery network. This starts by controlling the initial delivery of applications at the point of origin using technologies like virtualization, optimization and streaming — all of which are designed to move each unique type of application traffic over the network in the most effective way possible. Next, you need to give users easy, secure access to applications while keeping application data protected. Third, you need to optimize all application traffic over long-distance networks. Finally, an application delivery strategy will monitor the experience from the perspective of the end-user.

Users are happy because they get the applications they want, fast and on demand. IT is happy because costs and security risks are reduced dramatically. And business is happy because IT is able to respond quickly to what the business needs.

OMAR YAKAR is CEO of Agile360 in Irvine. Reach him at (949) 253-4106 or omar.yakar@agile360.com.