Doing more with less, doing more with what you have or reducing cost have been the mantra for the past several years now.

Does that mean as a trend, they are being adopted as the new way of doing business, or simply a cycle or temporary situation?

Reality is that many if not most IT organizations are and will remain under pressure to stretch their budgets further for the immediate future. Over the past year or two some organizations saw increases in their budgets however also increased demand while others saw budgets fixed or reduced while having to support growth. On the other hand, there is no such thing as an information recession with more data being generated, moved, processed, stored and retained for longer periods of time.

Industry trend: No such thing as a data recession

Something has to give as shown in the following figure which is that on one curve there is continued demand and growth, while another curve shows need to reduce costs while another reflects the importance of maintaining or enhancing service level objectives (SLOs) and quality of service (QoS).

Enable growth while removing complexity and cost without compromising service levels

One way to reduce costs is to inhibit growth while another is to support growth by sacrificing QoS including performance, response time or availability as a result of over consolidation, excessive utilization or instability as a result of stretching resources to far. Where innovation comes into play is finding and fixing problems vs. moving or masking them or treating symptoms vs. the real issue and challenge. Innovation also comes into play by identifying both near term tactical as well as longer term strategic means of taking complexity and cost out of service delivery and the resources needed to support them. For example determining the different resources and processes involved in delivering an email box of a given size and reliability. Another being supporting a virtual machine (VM) with a given performance and capacity capability. Yet another scenario is a file share or home directory of a specific size and availability. By streamlining work flows, leveraging automation and other tools to enforce policies as well as adopting new best practices complexity and thereby costs can be reduced. The net rest is a lower cost to provide a given service to a specific level which when multiplied out over many users or instances, results in cost savings however also productivity gains.

The above is all good and well for longer term strategic and where you want to go or get to, however what can be done right now today?

Here are a few tips to do more with what you have while supporting growth demands

If you have service level agreements (SLAs) and SLOs as part of your service category, review with your users as to what they need vs. what they would like to have. What you may find is that your users want or expect a given level of service, yet would be happy and ok with moving to a cloud service that had lower SLO and SLA expectations if lower cost. The previous scenario would be an indicator that you users want and thus you give them a higher level of service, yet their requirements are actually lower than what is expected. On the other hand if you do not have SLOs and SLAs aligned with cost for the services then set them up and review customer or client expectations, needs vs. wants on a regular basis. You might find out that you can stretch your budget by delivering a lower (or higher) class of services to meet different users requirements than what was assumed to be the case. In the case of supporting a better class of service, if you can use an SSD enabled solution to reduce latency or wait times and boost productivity, more transactions or page views or revenue per hour, that could prompt a client to request that capability to meet their business needs.

Reduce your data footprint impact in order to support growth using the ABCDs of data footprint reduction (DFR), that is Archive (email, file, database), Backup modernization, Compression and consolidation, Data management and dedupe, storage tiering among other techniques.

Storage, server virtualization and optimization using capacity consolidation where practical and IO consolidation to fast storage and SSD where possible. Also review storage configuration including RAID and allocation to identity if any relatively easy changes can improve performance, availability, capacity and energy impact.

Investigate available upgrades and enhancements to your existing hardware, software and services that can be applied to provide breathing room within current budgets while evaluating new technologies.

Find and fix problems vs. chasing false positives that provide near term relief only to have the real issue reappear. Maximize your budgets by identifying where people time and other resources are being spent due to processes, work flows, technology configuration complexity or bottlenecks and address those.

Enhance and leverage existing management measurements to gain more insight along with implementing new metrics for End to End (E2E) situational awareness of your environment which will enable effective decision making. For example you may be told to move some function to the cloud as it will be cheaper, yet if you do not have metrics to indicate one way or the other, how can that be an informed decision? If you have metrics that show your cost for the same service being moved to a cloud or managed service provider as well as QoS, SLO, SLA, RTO, RPO and other TLAs, then you can make informed decisions. That decision may still be to move functions to a cloud or other service even if in fact it is more expensive compared to what you can provide it for in order that your resources can be directed to supporting other important internal functions.

Look for ways to reduce cost of a service delivered as opposed to simply cutting costs. They sound like one and the same, however if you have metrics and measurements providing situational awareness to know what the cost of a service is, you can also then look at how to streamline those services, remove complexity, reduce workflow, leverage automation there by removing cost. The goal is the same, however how you go about removing cost can have an impact on your return on innovation not to mention customer satisfaction.

Also be an informed shopper, have a forecast or plan on what you will need and when, along with what you must have (core requirements) vs. what you would like to have or want. When looking at options, balance what is needed and then if you can get what you want or would like for little or no extra cost if they add value or enable other initiatives. Part of being an informed shopper is having support of the business to be able to procure what you want or need which means aligning technology resources and their cost to delivery of business functions and services.

What you need vs. what you want
In a recent interview with the associated press (AP) the reporter wanted to know my comments about spending vs. saving during economic tough times (you can read the story here). Basically my comments were to spend within your means by identifying what you need vs. what you want, what is required to keep the business running or improve productivity and remove cost as opposed to acquiring nice to have things that can wait. Sure I would like to have a new 85 to 120″ 3D monitor for my workstation that could double as a TV, however I do not need or require it.

On the other hand, I recently upgraded an existing workstation adding a Hybrid Hard Disk Drive (HHDD) and some additional memory, about a $200USD investment that is already paying for itself via increased productivity. That is instead of enjoying a cup of dunkin donut coffee while waiting for some tasks to complete on that system, Im able to get more done in a given amount of time boosting productivity.

For IT environments this means looking at expenditures to determine what is needed or required to keep things running while supporting near term strategic and tactical initiatives or pet projects.

For vendors and vars, if things have not been a challenge yet, now they will need to refine their messages to show more value, return on innovation (ROI) in terms of how to help their customers or prospects stretch resources (budgets, people, skill sets, products, services, licenses, power and cooling, floor space) further to support growth, while removing costs without compromising on service delivery. This also means a shift in thinking of short term or tactical cost cutting to longer term strategic approaches of reducing costs to deliver a service or resources.

Related links pertaining to stretching your resources, doing more with what you have, increasing productivity and maximizing your budget to support growth without compromising on customer service.

Saving Money with Green IT: Time To Invest In Information Factories
Storage Efficiency and Optimization – The Other Green
Shifting from energy avoidance to energy efficiency
Saving Money with Green Data Storage Technology 
Green IT Confusion Continues, Opportunities Missed!
Storage Efficiency and Optimization – The Other Green
PUE, Are you Managing Power, Energy or Productivity?
Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking
Is There a Data and I/O Activity Recession?
More Data Footprint Reduction (DFR) Material

What is your take?

Are you and your company going into a spending freeze mode, or are you still spending, however placing or having constraints put on discretionary spending?

How are you stretching your IT budget to go further?