An IT leader had to forecast a business’s infrastructure needs for the following year. He said to himself, “The business managers tell me that sales growth will be about 20% next year. Therefore, IT infrastructure will need to grow by the same amount.” It’s an easy approach, and there is some degree of logic to it. There is, however, a problem. It’s likely to be wrong.
So why is it that so many IT leaders gravitate towards this sketchy forecasting approach?
There is often not a one-on-one relationship between IT infrastructure needs and sales or employee growth. If the IT environment does not need to grow as fast as sales, the company will over invest in servers, storage and more, unnecessarily squandering hard earned profits.
So why is it that so many IT leaders gravitate towards this sketchy forecasting approach? Many mid and small-sized companies do not have anyone, a capacity planner or systems architect, collecting and using historical data to make fact-based decisions about future IT infrastructure needs. Because the IT managers and directors of these businesses are in the dark about how business growth metrics impact IT infrastructure needs, they have no choice but to go with gut feelings and guesstimates.
Four Steps to Improving IT Infrastructure Forecasts
Below are four steps to improve your IT infrastructure forecasts to help you maximize performance and return on technology investments.
Monitor IT Infrastructure Nonstop
To make best use of resources and ensure performance, you need to use server and storage monitoring software to check capacity, usage and performance 24/7/365.
Your approach should be similar to that of security companies whose cameras capture everything that happens in an environment no matter what time of day. The recorded video not only helps them solve a crime but also assists in determining security weaknesses and needs for the future. Infrastructure monitoring should do the same.
Understand Today’s Issues
When operations slow down, you don’t want to guess what happened. You want to know. Is it a CPU issue brought on by insufficient hardware? Do you have a memory leak? Or perhaps it’s a network or I/O problem. If you determine there are weaknesses in any area, you can forecast for technology to overcome these issues.
Identify Trends and Performance Drivers
Using server and storage monitoring software to collect data on performance allows you to look at historical trends, and better understand the impact of your organization’s growth and other events. Go back one or two years to identify trends and demand peaks. Using this information, you can project your capacity and performance needs ahead one or more years.
As you look at the data, you will likely discover that the variables driving performance are complex. For example, while storage capacity and performance are related, performance may deteriorate before you are out of capacity.
As you look at the data, you will likely discover that the variables driving performance are complex. For example, while storage capacity and performance are related, performance my deteriorate before you are out of capacity.
To understand this, think about a van that has room for seven passengers. In the first year, the van takes two passengers, each weighing 150 pounds, to work every day. The vehicle travels easily at 65 miles per hour. In the next year, a third passenger joins who weighs 300 pounds. He only takes up one seat, but to take him over the mountain requires as much horsepower as was needed for the first two passengers. Thus, he has an outsized effect on the van’s performance. Now the van can no longer move as fast. Despite the available capacity, performance has declined due to the additional workload.
Back to the world of technology. Let’s say you have a hard drive with one terabyte (TB) of storage that can handle 10,000 I/O operations a second. It’s filling up at a rate of 100 gigabytes (GB) a year. You might assume that it will be nine years before your hard drive is close to filling up. However, when it reaches 50 percent capacity, 500 GB, you may discover the workload is so high that you have exhausted its capabilities.
That means that you cannot look at storage capacity in isolation. To forecast accurately, you also need to see how storage correlates with performance.
Assess Business Variables
Once you know what drives your IT server and storage performance and where you are today, ask business leaders about changes they foresee that could impact technology needs. For instance, there may be new projects, campaigns or acquisitions on the horizon. Once you understand the business plans, you can correlate them with historical trends to forecast their impact on future technology needs.
For instance, if your company intends to acquire a $500 million company, and has made a billion-dollar acquisition in the past, you might assume that the new business’s impact on IT infrastructure will be about half the size of the previous addition. If you had to bump up technology requirements by 10 percent last time, you’ll probably need a 5 percent increase this time.
Alternatively, if your company plans to discontinue a product, you need to look at all the IT infrastructure assets that support it and recognize you can eliminate them (or use them for some other expansion) when the product is discontinued. To do this type of analysis, you’ll need to be able to tag assets associated with a product in your monitoring software. Tagging enables you to separate assets out and forecast individual parts of your infrastructure. Galileo’s Tag Manager makes it easy to accomplish this in just a few minutes.
A robust IT infrastructure forecast starts with monitoring your environment around the clock. Keeping data enables you to understand today’s performance issues, and to forecast for technology that will help you to address them. Also, it allows you to analyze historical data and determine relationships between business trends and IT infrastructure performance. Once you find out future business plans and growth projections, you can put together an informed IT infrastructure plan that maximizes performance and your return on technology investments.