Jun 25, 2020

Powering IT strategy beyond COVID-19

Ivo Körner
4 min
IT infrastructure
Ivo Körner, vice president, IBM Systems Europe, on how the right IT infrastructure can fuel business success beyond the current COVID-19 climate...

As a leader in the tech industry, making the right IT infrastructure choice will impact long term business success. These are the five things Ivo recommends evaluating, especially in the current context: 

Critical role of cash flow in ensuring operational continuity

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has introduced unprecedented levels of uncertainty into the business environment. Customers are pausing deals, suppliers are unable to fulfil orders, and business plans developed just months ago are now irrelevant. 

In response, organisations are prioritizing cash flow so they have the business agility needed to respond to the current crisis, as well as any other challenges that might occur as social distancing is relaxed. 

IT administrators needs to ask themselves if their infrastructure is optimized to help them do this. For example, does it support the acceleration of ROI from critical projects? Are you able to draw value from your data, at both maximum speed and availability?

Beyond these practical considerations, organisations should have a frank conversation with their IT partners about their situation. Most are reconfiguring their offering in response to the current business environment. What’s more, some are offering attractive deals designed to help businesses obtain the functionality they need while maintaining their liquidity.

Reducing cost in order to focus on main business priorities

Just as operational agility allows you to ramp up capacity in response to opportunity during good times, flexible IT infrastructure is similarly beneficial when dealing with business disruption. Enterprises able to lock-down non-essential activities during a crisis, and free up their IT team and resources to focus on business-critical workloads, like Enterprise Resource Planning or Customer Relationship Management. A bank for example, could do this to focus more on digital banking services. 

The way you build and manage the IT estate can also help. Pay-As-You-Go software contracts allow organisations to ramp capacity and associated costs up and down as and when required. Further, shifting to Open Source software for critical workloads will significantly reduce licensing costs.

Building this kind of flexibility into your IT infrastructure makes sense at the best of times, but it is a game changer in the current climate. By prioritizing and consolidating business-critical workloads, businesses ensure they continue to function effectively, while simultaneously cutting costs and improving cash flow.

Immediately respond to fluctuating client demand

Does your IT infrastructure enable internal process digitalization, allowing you to free up resources, as well as focus on your client priorities? Can you efficiently run processes remotely, and at maximum efficiency? 

In uncertain times client needs can be hard to predict. This kind of functionality can be the difference between supporting your customers when they most need it, and losing them to a competitor.

IT process optimization helps manage the workloads associated with basic client demands, like data retrieval or analytics. But in times like these, it’s the ability to scale allocation of IT resources, both up and down, that makes the difference between unhappy and satisfied clients.

Always prioritize data and IT systems protection

From an infrastructure perspective, beyond the liquidity challenge, maintaining security is perhaps the most important priority for IT administrators right now. 

For many organisations today, your data is your business, so protecting it is of the utmost importance. A safe, viable IT environment is critical to business continuity in normal times. But in the midst of a pandemic it is even more vital, supporting new ways of working, as well as the need for increased capacity agility to address the challenges we are all encountering. 

With so many staff working remotely, some for the first time, businesses are being exposed to new threats. Online collaboration tools may be great for keeping employees connected, but they represent a false economy if their use compromises data integrity or overall security posture. Moreover, its been reported that the coronavirus has led to a surge in phishing scams. 

Deploying a “defense in depth” approach goes a long way to limiting exposure to risk. Implementing multiple layers of cybersecurity defense means that even if one is compromised, there are still others in place to thwart an attack. 

Quickly adjust your IT infrastructure to new ways of working

Meeting growing client demands is one thing, but IT teams are also working hard to enable remote access for staff. Trying to achieve both as quickly and efficiently as possible inevitably puts staff and infrastructure under intense pressure. 

That’s why having a true partnership with your IT provider is so important at times like this. IT vendor success is directly tied to that of its customers, so they should be going above and beyond to help them weather the storm and prepare for the return to normality. This means offering things like more flexible terms, training support and trial access to new tools.

If your partner is not supporting you in this way, it might be time to review the relationship.   

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Jun 18, 2021

GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud

3 min
VMware has been walking GfK along its path through digital transformation to the cloud for over a decade.

GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.  

In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade. 

“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.

Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.

By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.

One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.

“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.

Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs. 

“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.

The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment. 

The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.

One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.

“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.

“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client. 

“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”

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