Is hyper-converged infrastructure the right solution for your business?
By Jaco Erasmus, Dell Enterprise Division Manager at Drive Control Corporation
The trend toward technology convergence has accelerated in the past few years, to the point where infrastructure is now available with all hardware and software integrated into a single solution. Supported by software-defined services, this new ‘hyper converged’ infrastructure delivers a software-centric architecture where all networks, storage and computing power can be deployed and managed through a single software layer. Hardware essentially becomes a commodity supporting a host of software-based services and solutions.
This offers a number of benefits, including faster provisioning time, improved agility and flexibility and simplified deployment. However, despite these benefits, converting to a hyper-converged infrastructure can be a costly exercise. It is therefore advisable to engage with an expert consultancy before any projects begin, to determine the most cost effective approach to maximise return on investment.
One of the biggest challenges currently faced by IT is the need to deliver essential business applications and services quickly, with a reduced total cost of ownership. However, the cost and complexity of traditional infrastructure such as data centres does not support this goal, and legacy infrastructure hinders flexibility. Cloud-based systems offer a solution to this dilemma, however for many businesses a public cloud offering is far from ideal, and private cloud solutions can prove to be too complex. Hyper converged infrastructure offers these organisations a different solution, providing next-generation data centre infrastructure with the agility and economic benefits of the cloud combined with the security and reliability of an on-premise solution.
Essentially, hyper converged infrastructure brings together compute and storage capability into a single server unit, that can be deployed in scale-out clusters. Not only does this significantly reduce complexity and physical space required, it also offers a highly scalable architecture that is able to grow with a business to meet changing market needs.
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Generally speaking, the biggest benefit of a hyper converged infrastructure is the ability to centrally manage all of the components of IT, which dramatically simplifies scaling and provisioning. However, there are several important considerations that must be taken into account before migrating to this type of solution.
Firstly, the entire infrastructure needs to be virtualised to leverage hyper convergence. If an organisation is unable to achieve this, or even virtualise the basics, then this approach will not be suitable. In addition, certain legacy applications do not run well in a virtualised environment and thus will not be able to be included in a hyper converged infrastructure. If these applications are core to the business, this is problematic. Secondly, the cost implications can be significant. As hyper converged infrastructure is essentially appliance-based, it is typically necessary to do a complete ‘rip and replace’ of all legacy hardware. The underlying hardware and software on top of this must also be compatible with this turnkey solution.
Engaging with an expert consultancy service in this regard can be highly beneficial. A consultant will be able to examine your existing infrastructure to identify what is running, and also to understand what it is the business is trying to achieve with a converged infrastructure. This will then determine what existing architecture and hardware can be re-utilised, and what needs to be replaced. This method is a far more balanced approach to simply replacing everything, and will help to determine the most cost effective means to ensure maximum return on investment.
In addition, a consultant will be able to determine whether your business will fully benefit from the advantages of hyper converged infrastructure, by leveraging scale out capabilities and extra management layers. Ultimately, not all businesses will find hyper convergence to be a cost effective solution, however for the large enterprise with the need for scale out architecture and simplified management, it can deliver significant advantage. An expert consultant will help to ensure your business obtains the optimal solution to meet your needs now and into the future.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”