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Take my IT department please! By David Carey, CIO Canada Even though IT outsourcing has been around for eons, it seems, it sti...

Take my IT department please!
By David Carey, CIO Canada
Even though IT outsourcing has been around for eons, it seems, it still has a
Rodney Dangerfield air about it. It just dont get no respect, if you know what
I mean at least in some circles.
Unfortunately for providers, the industrys dirty laundry has had a very public
airing over the years. A large number of high-profile deals have gone south,
involving customers such as the Government of Canada, General Motors, JPMorgan
Chase, AT&T Wireless, and Dow Chemical, to name but a few. It doesnt take many
of these public floggings to get people thinking that outsourcing may not be
their cup of tea.
But spectacular flame-outs notwithstanding, there are plenty of organizations
willing to outsource. Over a third of respondents (36 percent) to our recently
conducted Salary Survey 2006 for IT Professionals indicated that their
organizations plan to outsource all or part of their IT operations in the
upcoming year. Thats a pretty healthy number, but it loses a little luster
when weighed against the 27 percent of respondents who indicated their
organizations would be backsourcing some IT functions in the same time frame.
Theres ample evidence to show that if done correctly, however, substantial
benefits can be derived from outsourcing deals. And whats more, they can leave
the CIO sitting in the catbird seat.
A case in point is the IT infrastructure deal between Canadian Pacific Railway
and the IBM company in Canada, inked in December, 2003. Its a biggie seven
years, C$200 million (US$174 million) and not only is it making a significant
contribution to CPRs bottom line, its also returning some impressive service
benefits. For Allen Borak, Vice President Business Information and Technology
Services, the deal has cleared his desk of a lot of operational headaches and
given him the luxury of spending more time on higher level activities. Theres
no doubt in his mind that the deal has been a good thing.
Still, as Yogi said, "It aint over till its over." And those backsourcing
statistics I mentioned earlier seem to bear that out. So maybe well check back
in three or four years to make the home-plate call on this one.

Storage utilization
By Jim Damoulakis, Computerworld (US online)
Is a storage environment at 70 percent utilization being better managed than
one where the utilization level is 30 percent? Careful, its a trick question.
What if I also added that the first environment was an old, line manufacturing
company with stagnant growth that is running on 8-year-old storage arrays and
that the second environment is a young biotechnology company growing at
triple-digit rates? Now the answer gets a good deal fuzzier. In fact, the
answer is that you cant really tell which is better managed.
A point-in-time utilization statistic by itself doesnt convey enough
information to paint a true picture. Storage capacity is dynamic, and in a
smaller environment, a new purchase is going to have a negative impact on that
point-in-time number. Even historic trending, while more useful, still may or
may not provide an accurate portrayal of an environment. Additional subjective
contextual data is required to render a judgment.
Improved utilization is an often stated goal, but I would suggest that it is
actually a byproduct of a well-run storage environment, not the end goal or
indicator. In the server world, virtualization has become a hot topic of late.
Low server utilization, often on the order of 15 percent to 20 percent, is a
factor often cited as a reason for moving to virtualization. In fact, the
utilization rate means that there is bandwidth available to enable the
consolidation efficiencies afforded by virtualization technologies. The true
end goals are improved manageability and flexibility, reduced costs through
consolidation, and improved levels of service through greater availability. Oh,
and by the way, the utilization rate is now higher.
Determining appropriate measurements and applying them correctly is a big
challenge in storage management. I have picked on utilization in this column as
well a previous one, but there are others. Cost per gigabyte is a key metric
that is just as likely to be miscalculated as it is to be misunderstood.
Terabytes per storage administrator is a mostly meaningless statistic often
employed to benchmark staffing levels.
But those are fodder for another day.

And you thought this problem was new
By Sharky, Computerworld (US online)
Its the early 1980s, and this pilot fish works as a mainframe systems
programmer for a big bank. "This was a time when disk storage was tight, and
IBM was having trouble delivering the stuff," fish says. "We had an emergency
need and ended up picking up a string of 3350s from the secondary market."
The disk units look like washing machines lined up in a row when fish arrives
on Sunday morning to help pull the cables, connect them up and restart the
But when he does, theres a surprise: He doesnt see the "unlabeled volume
placed off-line" messages he expects.
"This was the first time we had installed used equipment," says fish. "When I
brought up the first system and didnt see that message, I issued some display
commands. Lo and behold, the devices were online but had kinda weird volume
names. And sure enough, they had somebody elses data on them!"
Fish knows what to do: wipe the drives and start from scratch. But first he
pokes around a little to see if theres anything interesting on them.
One of the first data sets he finds is a disaster recovery plan. In fact, its
a DR plan for a competing bank including a staff list complete with phone
"Being the concerned IT citizen that I am, I looked up the home phone number of
the other banks manager of DP operations and gave him a call to let him know
what they had done.
"I told him that Id take care of wiping out their data this time and warned
that they probably ought to be a little more careful in the future.
"I dont imagine that I made his Sunday very happy but Ill bet that someone
else had a very bad Monday."

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