WAN optimisation helps justify IT investment

GFC makes IT managers more accountable, says Riverbed MD

It's the question IT managers hate to be asked: how can you prove return on investment (ROI)?

It’s no longer enough to build a business case claiming return on investment benefits — IT departments now have to prove ROI and demonstrate how it benefits the organisation.

And this was the key point behind Riverbed’s Gartner Symposium session from ANZ managing director, Steve Dixon. The session, Proving the effectiveness of your IT strategies as you optimise for the modern world, ran as series of three sketches which outlined the issues faced by IT departments as a result of the global financial crisis and increasingly complex IT initiatives.

“Ideally, we will get to a time and place where users can connect anytime, anywhere to anything and expect high levels of performance,” Dixon told Computerworld. “The way we are connecting to people is becoming more like a telephone network; you just expect it to work. And given that we are never going to overcome latency, optimisation is going to play an important part.”

Riverbed showcased its WAN Optimisation technology at the Symposium, including new products such as Riverbed Optimization System Version 6.0 (RiOS 6.0) and Steelhead Mobile 3.0. RiOS, the underlying application software that sits on all Riverbed platforms, now features optimisation for Citrix XenApp and Xen Desktop environments and also supports legacy Citrix Presentation Server farms. It also supports Mac clients, Oracle E-Business Suite 12 and web applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and SAP.

“As an industry, we are shocking for regurgitating the same ideas and giving it a new name,” Dixon said. “Interestingly, we are all talking virutalisation strategy. In the old days we’d call it thin client. Citrix is the most established player by a long shot. Our play is, 'you choose whatever technology you want, we’ll optimise it'."

Riverbed has about 450 customers in Australia plus large international companies which also use the products. Dixon said companies face a challenging conundrum when making major changes to their systems such as consolidating all their file servers.

“In IT, there are generally two camps when it comes to that kind of change — those who embrace it and those who fear for it. We looked at the manager’s role in removing that fear and creating stronger environments.”

The third part of the session enacted a CIO bumping into a board director and being asked: “What’s this WAN optimization thingie?”

Dixon said the key is being able to prove tangible business returns.

“Before the financial crisis, a lot of companies got away with putting forward projects and not having to see if the business case was being realised,” he said.

“Our new offering, a product called Cascade, allows you to look at all the applications across your network so you can see the response times you’re getting on all applications. IT managers receive lots of subjective feedback about performance but they need a much more quantatitive approach. It means they can be proactive and can plan for the future.”

Dixon said Cascade can show how IT enhancements justify the investment, and includes management by exception functionality and PCI-compliant reporting.

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