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N°33  |  January   2009
Executive opinion

Even during the economic crisis, IT carries on
Interview with Jean-Pierre Barbéris, General Manager, Bull France


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Despite the difficult economic situation, which is affecting businesses and public sector bodies to various degrees, they will continue to invest in their information systems. In some cases their priorities will change, in others they will stay the same; but Bull will provide the consistent and holistic response to all of them that you would expect from a reliable partner.

Even if all industry sectors are touched by the current crisis, its consequences are not the same for everyone. For some, like the automotive industry, it has resulted in an extremely abrupt slowdown and grim prospects for the future. For others, such as financial services and energy, it has coincided with a period of profound transformation. And in some sectors, such as telecoms, which are sustained by repeated patterns of consumption, the impact is proving less dramatic. Finally, the public sector, defense, social services and healthcare are continuing to make the necessary investments to improve their productivity and the services they deliver.

Nevertheless, no matter how far it is exposed to the crisis, every organization must ask itself questions about its IT investments, and already we are seeing some clear trends emerging for the coming year.

Key priority: strengthening and ‘greening’ existing IT resources
Faced with shrinking budgets, the first priority is to focus on what you already have: there is no point in getting rid of something that works, better to concentrate on strengthening it, consolidating it, optimizing it and making sure it lasts. Consolidation and virtualization technologies will enable organizations to fully exploit their systems, while at the same time delivering welcome savings in energy costs. For Bull, this means being able to give its customers (particularly those using GCOS and Unix systems) all the support and the skills needed to make the most of their infrastructures. In order to respond to this need to make systems last longer, in particular, IT decision-makers will expect more from their maintenance services, which will evolve towards being more proactive and providing more consulting and integration elements.

2009, a pivotal year for outsourcing
The desire to ensure that existing systems evolve gradually over time and to rationalize costs – especially in terms of resources – will naturally lead organizations to turn increasingly to external suppliers. Given that a difficult economic climate is conducive to a more impartial examination of new solutions, 2009 will undoubtedly be a pivotal year for outsourcing. This will in effect enable existing systems to be brought up to date slowly and gradually, investments to be spread out and risks to be shared with suppliers. Any outsourcing initiative includes a technical and often a social aspect: Bull’s customers benefit from its ability to take both into account, for example through an initial phase of ‘insourcing’. Bull’s approach to outsourcing is to offer a truly tailored service, with pricing and ways of working not set in stone in a standard contract, but closely adapted to each customer’s individual situation and business needs. This approach is possible because Bull continually invests in its state-of-the-art Data Centers and its ability to cross-fertilize its skills. By combining different Services, Bull is well placed to develop specific approaches for different organizations, such as, for example, outsourcing for High-Performance Computing (HPC) solutions.

HPC and Open Source: the emergence of ‘new order’ technologies
High-Performance Computing is illustrative of an important trend in the months to come. It is often in troubled times that many established positions are challenged, and that is why – when it comes to strengthening existing systems – certain businesses will be turning to ‘new order’ technologies, capable of delivering rapid return on their investments and representing a real competitive differentiator. This is what is happening with HPC, which speeds up innovation while at the same time reducing R&D costs, and with software factories or forges and Open Source, which enable reliable and well-controlled software development and faster projects, without the problems of the ‘tunnel effect’, in order to reduce time-to-market. To help its customers rapidly take full advantage of these new technologies, Bull will continue to invest in these areas, most notably in systems integration and project support services.

Storage and IT security are not affected by the crisis
Finally, there are some fundamental trends which are not touched by the crisis: with the development of on-line exchanges, the amount of data being generated will continue to grow and there will always be the need for vigilance on the IT security front. As a result, storage and security have an important place in Bull’s range of offerings. What’s more, the two aspects are often closely linked. Naturally this is the case when it comes to large-scale systems, where data protection and availability are key concerns; but it also applies to smaller systems, such as personal computing devices. In this area, Bull has introduced a major innovation with globull™, its fully encrypted digital ‘strong box’, which enables a radical new approach to mobile computing.

Bull, a trusted partner
So, despite the economic crisis, public and private sector organizations alike can look forward to some significant IT projects in 2009. However, everyone has to target their investment as carefully as possible in the light of budget restrictions. IT Departments, like all other corporate functions, will be monitoring their spending with concern for better control and guidance (something that Business Intelligence solutions should make much easier). However, the cost should not be the only criteria. In effect, IT suppliers themselves will also be facing the crisis, and the quality of the services they supply could suffer. Long-term vision, the seriousness of their commitment, the extent of their skills and their flexibility will be the main things to take into account when it comes to choosing between them. To get the right kinds of guarantees from a partner capable of designing and implementing an operational solution, decision-makers will be giving priority to projects over simply buying new hardware, for example. Against this backdrop, Bull can draw on the strength conferred by its significant installed customer base and the critical mass of its business activities, which should enable it to maintain high-level resources in all areas, so it can continue to successfully deliver complex, business-critical projects.

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