Could Your IT Infrastructure Benefit from Some Spring Cleaning?

    April 25, 2016

    By Scott Adams

    There’s no time time like spring to clean out the cobwebs, and an infrastructure audit ensures that you see cost-savings year-round.

    Time to get out the brooms and dustpans: it’s spring cleaning season, which means that IT professionals are rolling up their sleeves, clearing out the grime and dust, and hauling away the trash.

    Of course, cost-effective IT management requires regularly looking under the hood to weed out pain points and inefficiencies. Some IT maintenance, however, should be more rigorous than others. The IT deep clean — or audit — helps IT professionals to identify persistent and unseen cost centers, as well steer their infrastructure towards greater flexibility.

    And even tech’s most agile players have room to tidy up.

    Clearing Out the Back End

    Popular social media application Buffer recently announced that they’ve been up to some spring cleaning of their own. To meet the rising IT needs of their expanding services, Buffer wanted to remove any excess weight by clearing out unnecessary storage capacity, optimizing their data storage, and uncovering latent cost-efficiencies. How did their internal audit fare?

    Buffer has a savvy tech team — web-savviness being their primary selling point — and they uncovered some significant opportunities for cost saving. However, they were still missing critical pieces of information that could tangibly bolster cost-efficiency in the long-term.

    On the plus side, they realized that they could eliminate redundancies in their data storage (and had been paying for excess capacity for months), found more efficient cloud instances to run their Elasticsearch services, and cleared out “zombie” instances — or low-use instances that aren’t worth their operating costs. So far, they’re saving more than a combined $100k per year. Good on them.

    However, they note that they could save significantly by reserving a high-usage AWS cloud instance for a few years, but have not yet been able to predict their future capacity with enough confidence to comfortably do so. Similarly, they realized that their action-oriented IT team had instituted processes and checklists in certain areas which, in hindsight, had limited development. In short, their team has incredible, forward-thinking intuition, but lacks valuable insight grounded in data and analysis.

    It’s Hard to Know What You Don’t Know

    Audits like these can be extremely revealing, and businesses often have significant room to eliminate unnecessary spending and revitalize their core processes. The Buffer audit was limited to just its cloud services, but other diagnostic tests can generate insight into the whole sweep of IT processing — compounding any benefits gained from any single area.

    For instance, even though Buffer located inefficiencies, they had trouble projecting their long-term capacity needs. This requires an understanding of the (rather complex) sum of all parts. But by using comprehensive diagnostic software, such as TeamQuest’s Monitor tool, companies can determine ways in which interrelated systems can be cost-optimized, removed, or updated — all for maximum benefit to the infrastructure.

    This is exactly what one telco provider did to root out inefficiency and improve its service quality. After spending weeks dealing with a bottleneck on its Oracle database server, the company purchased TeamQuest monitoring software on a recommendation from one of its largest clients. Almost immediately, they were able to identify the source of the problem (not enough I/O paths to disk) and restore normal service, a task that Buffer was only able accomplish half of — and one that TeamQuest goes well beyond.

    Rather than just checking under the hood once a year, a proper infrastructure maintenance strategy involves constant and continual diagnostics through automated predictive analytics. While your average IT software might act as mop, working well enough when you have the time to use it, TeamQuest is like a Roomba that keeps your floors squeaky clean without any oversight. Clients are able to summarize data from tens of thousands of servers into a single report sheet, so you can get to work on fixing issues immediately, often solving them before they happen.

    The reality is that many IT infrastructures unknowingly repeat bad practices through the years, and a comprehensive audit is the only way to reliable identify and eliminate them. However, “comprehensive” means more than just getting your hands dirty. Companies need to make use of data-backed, analytic tools to deliver real value — and sweep out the dust bunnies from the deepest crevices of your infrastructure).

    (Main image credit: Jordon R. Beesley/Wikimedia)