Application Performance & Cost: The Big Squeeze on IT

You have 60 UNIX servers from one vendor running a consumer facing application; the finest money could buy 4 years ago. They have performed adequately and the vendor has provided good support but now the bill is due as the vendor has been increasing the costs of support.   Upgrades are expensive forklift changes with no promise of reduced costs.  That’s the hard place.  The rock is that the increasing costs of keeping this consumer facing application going is leading marketing to impose a fee for use on the consumers.  Consumers are up in arms and setting up petitions on  The news channels are featuring this new fee as an example of the squeeze on consumers.

This is the big squeeze that many enterprises are finding themselves in.  How do I reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of an application while at the same time how can I provide the new services that consumers have come to expect to be free?  And if you don’t do it the competition will.

In fact from the ZDNet report on IT Budget priorities in 2012 this is the divide between IT budget winners and IT budget losers:

… these results paint a picture of a two-speed IT market in which some organizations are pushing ahead aggressively with transformative projects based on new technology or new delivery methods while others are bunkering down and looking inside for cost cutting opportunities. The danger for the latter group is they may find it increasingly hard to compete against leaner, more agile, more modern and more automated competitors.

You can get ahead in this game.  ‘New technology and new delivery methods’ are another way of saying that these budget winners are moving to servers based on low cost Intel Xeon Processors.  These processors are bringing the qualities you have found in the UNIX Processors into the low cost Intel Xeon family of high performance processors.

You’ll have to make sacrifices.  It will mean some work and those expensive servers will have to find a new home.  Maybe there is a ‘Rescue’ organization in your community that will take them off your hands and find them a new good home.

The hardest part will be going from sole source vendors to having a wide range of choices of vendors.   Gosh, you can choose from IBM, Dell, HP, Bull, Cisco, Oracle, SGI, SuperMicro, Lenovo just to name a few.  You also have a choice of rock solid enterprise operating systems from Linux and Linux variants such as Oracle, Red Hat, SUSE, to non-Linux operating systems such as  Windows, to Solaris.   Now you can be sure to get the lowest cost possible and you no longer are locked into one vendor.

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Now you have options but you need a plan to get there.  With this many servers hosting one application the effort can seem daunting.

Break the effort down.  What are the easy parts to migrate?  For instance, products that are COTS (Common Off The Shelf) software that have a version for UNIX and a version for Linux and there isn’t much extensive customizations involved can be low hanging fruit, so to speak.  Databases that can be migrated using a tool from the database vendor can be next.  For instance Oracle Streams for Oracle databases or Replication server for Sybase are examples of these tools.  In this manner a lot of the application can be easily converted.

So now the user facing layer has been changed.  The backend layer consisting of databases has been changed.  Now the middleware layer can be complex and include logic servers with lots of custom code or with a big ERP package the middleware can be all COTS software.   This middleware can be a big challenge.   But now you have experience in migration and can approach it as a veteran.

One word of caution here; I keep hearing stories of missing something while migrating from veterans of in this IT modernization effort.  Usually missed are the undocumented or poorly documented data feeds that were added in a hurry to or from some application.  You can try to avoid this by running a rehearsal migration before the production one and have the application tested as if in UAT or with a test harness.

What am I talking about here?  See my white paper on migration methodologies on our website

Let me end this with a story about how using the Intel Xeon Processor family significantly helped a University meet their data processing requirements.  The University of Colorado had to address their rapidly rising compute costs.  They decided to migrate their mission-critical IT environment from legacy UNIX servers running RISC processors to Intel® Xeon® processors. The results were staggering. Their data center footprint dropped to 1/20th (5%) its former size. Power consumption dropped to 1/10th (10%) of its pre-migration levels. And their ERP performance jumped by 400% to 600%. In Year 1 alone, they saved $600,000.   While your results may vary you can read the white paper on this achievement on the web site.

Do you find yourself caught in the squeeze I discuss here?  What are some of the steps you have taken?