Avocent headquarters in Huntsville, Al
As budgets tighten, companies are looking for ways to do more with less. They are cutting heads and spending, and as a result they have fewer people to get the job done. In this environment we should be thankful that technology exists to boost productivity while cutting costs.
I have talked about IP communications solutions in the past, such as video and other collaboration tools. Today I would like to talk about data center management solutions, which can help companies increase productivity, adhere to compliance issues and maintain security in an environment where headcounts are shrinking at a greater rate than workloads.
Avocent management team -- Ed Blankenship CFO, Kay Kienast CMO and Dan Tice, CIO
One company focused on this space is Huntsville, AL-based Avocent, a company worth, as of this writing, about $800 million. I spent a good deal of time with the executive management team at the company as I learned more about where they think the market is going and why they believe they are positioned especially well for an economic downturn.
Avocent data center (sorry -- this is the best an iPhone camera can do in a data center )
According to company CMO Kay Kienast, now is the time for companies to buy Avocent's solutions. She points to reasons cited above and adds that with Avocent's products you can set policies that allow PCs to be turned off at predetermined times, schedule patches and upgrades, and even have systems wake up for Remote Desktop sessions.
The company also has data center solutions, which allow you to understand data center usage - enabling analysis and effective management.
The company points to the fact that it is still difficult to hire IT talent, and that with these solutions you can have your tech people located anywhere. In fact Avocent uses its own solutions to manage its Singapore data center right from Huntsville, AL.
As part of the data center management process, some customers have found things they didn't know existed - unused servers in closets, for example. By managing your data center more effectively you are able to cut out the dead wood more easily and utilize resources more effectively. As in any industry, you need to be able to measure it to manage it.
Avocent LANDesk Asset Lifecycle Manager inventories and tracks complex asset relationships to ensure assets are used efficiently
In addition, by using a data center management solution you are able to more accurately measure which applications are being utilized - an effective bit of info to have when negotiating license agreements with software vendors.
As challenging as it is to determine who is using what software, when you throw virtualization into the mix, it becomes even more difficult and the need to automate the process grows in lockstep with your utilization of virtualization.
In our candid discussions about the economic environment I mentioned that some companies seem paralyzed and that this is keeping them on the spending sidelines. To this Kienast responded, "Even if you are paralyzed you have to find ways to produce. These solutions allow you to do this." She continued, "Scaling with people doesn't make sense."
She added that, if revenue does not grow, you still have to make profit, which means cutting cost.
To this, Dan Tice, CIO, added that you need to take constant inventory for vulnerability assessment and that you can't hire enough people to keep up with the changing inventory [of hardware and software]. You need automated patching and the LANDesk Management Suite he added. I should mention that Tice is a user of the company's solutions and acts as a real-world case study for customers and the press.
Avocent DSView 3 Management Software and intelligent power distribution units enable measurement of energy consumption, capacity and cost per device, per rack, per data center or company-wide.
He concluded by saying that companies need solutions like this to deal with compliance - allowing them to know who did what and when.
I asked about the future and was told we can expect products this summer that will allow full analysis of every device on the network, including software versions.
In addition we can expect data modeling resources to be added, allowing you to decide where you should place new assets and devices.
The company supplied me with a range of whitepapers and analyst write-ups discussing ROI and the benefits of Integrated Systems Management (ISM).
One of the stats that would jump out at anyone is an IDC-cited payback period of less than five months and an ROI of 656%. The numbers seem impossible, and, even if you discount them by half, you are doing very well. And this doesn't take into account the potential for reduced security breaches after deploying such automated solutions.
There seem to be limitless reasons to go with ISM solutions, and I have been trying to come up with potential problems to keep this piece fair and balanced. One thought that comes to mind is an overreliance on software could be a problem if the software has a bug which isn't caught. Or perhaps some of the versions of your products won't work perfectly well with Avocent's solutions.
But really, these are generic problems any software can have but are always worth pointing out.
There are few technologies like ISM which pay for themselves quickly and seem like a no-brainer - especially in a tough economy. Medium to large organizations would be crazy not to explore ways to better automate their data centers in order to boost productivity, compliance levels and security while reducing cost.