The IT Ice Age

Just like in the Noel Coward song, there are bad times just around the corner, according to Forrester Research. The company, which had previously forecast IT spending to grow by 4.6 per cent this year, has downgraded that forecast to 2.8 per cent. That’s another way of saying “recession.”

It looks like belt-tightening (or at least planning to do so) is in order, and that got me wondering what you’re going to cut and what you’re going to change.

Certainly new projects will suffer. I talked to a CIO recently who has an IT budget of around US$15 million. He told me that every year he gets 15 or 20 requests from lines of business to develop new systems and he asked me how many projects I thought they took on.

“Five or six,” I replied (aiming low, just in case).

“One” he replied. One! Just one project! And that was in good times!

Yes folks, if the big freeze materializes, we’ll see capital expenditures, hiring and development freeze and the current IT skills shortage reverse into a glut no one can capitalize upon.

So, if saving money becomes a really big drive, what will your IT department do? I’m guessing part of the answer will be to maximize the use of existing resources.

I had a fascinating conversation with a company that offers a really cool take on using what you’ve got: RevStor with its SANware system.

SANware creates a distributed storage-area network (SAN) using the spare capacity of your company’s PCs to back up data. It provides 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption of all data, multiple copies of all files (with duplicate files removed in the process), versioning, distributed administration, and it does all of that without disrupting normal PC operation. It typically uses less than one per cent processor utilization and 8MB of RAM.

Users can restore their own files or administrators can do it for them remotely. Administrators can also log on to any node and monitor and control system performance and configuration.

Given that the average modern (less then four-year-old) corporate PC has a disk capacity of around 60GB, of which no more than 20GB is being used (even with Vista and Office installed), an organization with 100 PCs will have roughly 4TB of storage going to waste. Consider the cost of adding 1TB of redundant backup to a network compared with what RevStor will charge you for the same capacity: $2,500.

I think RevStor is on to something, but here’s the problem: IT managers will likely have a deep distrust of a distributed solution in which data assets are involved. It goes against the entire philosophy that underpins most IT shops: Centralized control of critical infrastructure.

But if we’re heading into an IT Ice Age perhaps it’s time to start rethinking which information and functional architectures are suitable, and RevStor is just one example, albeit a particularly interesting one, of how lateral thinking might redefine what we do and save money in the process.

So, would RevStor work for you? And what are you going to do when the Big Freeze comes?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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