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N°29  |  September   2008
Executive opinion

Making IT infrastructure appear invisible
By Edgar Snoijink, General Manager, Bull Infrastructure Services and Support


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At a time when their strategic priorities are to deliver projects that support business growth and to more closely align business and IT strategies and plans, CIOs have to ensure that their underlying IT infrastructures ensure the continuous availability of data throughout its lifecycle. Therefore, they are looking for service providers that can help them to master their IT infrastructures, and make them virtually invisible to end users, allowing IT Departments to focus on their core priorities.

With its high levels of technological expertise in open environments and partnerships with the main IT industry players, Bull has developed a comprehensive range of infrastructure services offerings as part of its maintenance and support business. These range from assessment of existing operations and design of end-to-end solutions, through to operational support, including implementation, remote monitoring, proactive maintenance and support.

These offerings are designed to help CIOs tackle three main operational issues:

  • Managing growing amounts of data, while keeping Data Center costs under control, optimizing performance, and minimizing environmental impact   
  • Guaranteeing continuous availability of mission-critical applications, honoring Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with end-users, and meeting their business needs
  • Adapting rapidly to changes, both within the enterprise, and the environment in which it operates.

Innovative services from Bull
IT Energy audit
The 'IT Energy Audit' is aimed at assessing IT energy efficiency holistically, and developing an end-to-end plan to reduce energy bills, while maintaining service quality and guaranteeing SLAs. This involves evaluating energy efficiency by comparing total energy consumption for the Data Centre with that of the IT hardware on its own. For some years now, the overall Power Usage Efficiency ratio for IT establishments has been around 3.0: with total energy consumption for the Data Center divided almost equally between cooling, power-supply infrastructures, and the IT hardware itself. We think that it is perfectly feasible to achieve a ratio of 2.0, or even 1.6 for highly optimized solutions.

From preventive to proactive support
Nowadays, computers are so much more powerful and reliable, which explains the inherent decrease in the maintenance business. That’s obviously good news for our customers, but the fact that their systems are less likely to break down doesn’t necessarily mean that they no longer need help installing and operating them, or ensuring that they remain up to date... Quite the opposite. The more that IT plays a central role in an organization’s business activities, the less that its customers, partners and internal users will put up with an application not being available. These days, a technical failure automatically means an interruption to the business; and it’s easy to count the cost of that. So even though it is essential to be ready to deal with any kind of incident and to solve the problem as quickly as possible, it’s even better to avoid it happening in the first place; this is the objective of HA999 service.
The HA999 contract available as part of Bull’s GlobalCare range of services guarantees 99.90% availability, representing a cumulative system down-time of just eight hours 42 minutes a year in a 24x7 production cycle. Where requirements are for higher than 99.90 % availability, customized contracts are also available for our customers.

The benefits of a real partnership
Let’s take the example of a fast-growing business. One of its mission-critical applications is getting slower and slower, simply because it’s being used more and more. Once the delay passes a certain point, it becomes noticeable to the user or customer, who perceives it as a malfunction even though the infrastructure is in perfect working order. Taking our approach, we would have anticipated the increased loading and enhanced the system in line with the growth of the business. So the main concern these days is not so much whether a particular IT installation is working or not, but rather whether it is up to the job of carrying out the tasks it was designed for, delivering satisfactory levels of performance, availability, scalability and security. That’s why we aim to be a veritable partner in this area, helping organizations to establish the essential dialogue between technology and the business. When the need arises, which tool should we use to meet that need? When we come across a new innovation, what kinds of opportunities does it offer us? 

Customized solutions
Any market segment, no matter what size it may be and what issues it faces, every business or public sector organization who wants help to implement or run its IT infrastructure can call on us. First, we assess its needs. For example, when it comes to storage, not all data has to be archived for the same length of time, with the same level of protection or ease of access. Economically and technically, it is worth fully evaluating the risks early on in the process, to define the most appropriate solution. So performance and other indicators are fixed from the start, and we are contractually committed to meet them. To achieve this, we have defined a number of global offerings, particularly around high availability and storage that can be adapted to each individual situation. This is what we have done in the Netherlands, for example, with Wehkamp – a leader in home shopping retailing – which has adopted our HA999 high-availability solution for its Web infrastructure. We are now monitoring and adapting this in line with the growth of this channel of business, which already accounts for over 50% of the customer’s activities. What’s more, we are further developing these offerings along with other Bull divisions, to anticipate organizations’ changing needs. At the moment, we are focusing on saving energy – something that’s becoming a real cause for concern.

A dedicated, local team of experts
We have a staff of some 1,200 people. These teams are all highly qualified in their particular areas of expertise, with specialists in hardware and software, and people with extensive experience on the ground. All of them have really signed up to our philosophy: to never consider technology in isolation from business need. We also have our two support centers in France, located in Massy (Paris region) and Grenoble, as well as a third in Phoenix/Arizona, in the USA, which means we can offer 24x7 monitoring. Finally, we have put in place a totally customer-focused organization, with a single point of contact for each client and performance indicators that we are constantly striving to improve. Because even though our business is really starting to grow, the real measure of success for Bull Infrastructure Services and Support is customer satisfaction.

Towards an invisible IT infrastructure
Organizations are increasing looking to ensure that they only carry out the activities delivering the greatest added value within the organization itself: their core business. As a result, many are retaining control of the functional aspects of their IT, but outsourcing the management of their infrastructures to service suppliers such as Bull because, in a certain way, IT is becoming a little like water or electricity: it’s absolutely essential; we expect to have it ‘on tap’, very simply; but behind the plug or the tap there are extremely complex infrastructures that are much better provided by specialists. So we take responsibility for servers, networks, storage... and our role is to ensure that these are, to all intents and purposes, invisible for our customers.

So if you are looking for the highest level of performance for your infrastructure, and optimum cost, Bull Infrastructure Services and Support has the services, tools, and people to meet your objectives.

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