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The IT Paradox – It’s Not Child’s Play

Mara McMahon

There may be more than one IT paradox, but the one I most frequently hear about is this: IT must maximize ROI on infrastructure spend and satisfy users (with increased productivity, response time, security, etc.).

Most of the IT professionals with whom I speak experience a fine balancing act between these two items, which often conflict with one another.  On the one hand, maximizing the return on investment of an asset means getting as much use as possible from that asset. Picture a hotel that is almost completely full.  Noisy neighbors, lines at check-in, longer room service wait, etc. I think you get the idea.

Now think about providing the very best user experience possible – at a minimum, no bottlenecks, total reliability, the same great response every time, no waiting, and guaranteed data security and privacy.  With these requirements in mind, picture that same hotel again. Chances are that the hotel is almost empty – certainly less than 50% full and most likely somewhere around 30% to 40% of capacity to guarantee great experience – no lines, no noise, quick, delicious food.

In talking to partners, service providers, and customers all around the world about these two business requirements, I visualize a seesaw. The relationship between the two goals is a trade-off – when one goal is achieved, it is at the cost of the other. Significant effort is spent in trying to keep an even balance. However, that effort puts artificial limits on the level of the goal that can be achieved.

This oppositional relationship needs to be broken to make it possible to create unlimited high marks for both return on investment and user experience. The successful methodology I have seen used includes three areas of focus.

1. A service strategy based on standard tiers.

How these tiers are represented to “customers,” external or internal, depends on the depth of the relationship with the customer. If the relationship is not a human interaction (website), then three levels of services are best, with a clear use case describing each tier.

With person-to-person exchanges, the conversation begins with the three use-case-based tiers, with the ability to present other standard tiers based on feedback and reaction. Example: Tier 2, brochure or static data; tier 1, database; and tier 0, analytics. The customer feedback is probably something between brochure and database – like “database lite” – and a standard tier between 2 and 1 is offered.

Why not just start with a whole bunch of tiers?  Because of choice overload, or what in behavioral economics is called overchoice – the result of too many available options. Overchoice has been correlated with unhappiness (Schwartz, 2004), decision fatigue, taking the default option, deferring decision making — and even avoiding making a decision altogether; that is, not buying a product (Iyengar & Lepper, 2000).

Why three tiers?  IQ Doodle offers a clear explanation: “The human mind actually enjoys thinking in patterns. In fact, we naturally look for and create patterns every day, in everything we do. An example of this idea is within our language where adjectives are often grouped together in threes in order to emphasize an idea.

“The Rule of Three” is relevant because the number three is the lowest figure that can be used to form patterns in our mind. This is important, because the first instance of something occurring, always comes down to chance; the second instance is considered a coincidence; while the third instance is perceived as a pattern.

Proponents of the Rule of Three state that things are more engaging, satisfying and more effectively presented when using this rule. In fact, it is said that an audience is more likely to consume and absorb any type of information presented to them when it is grouped into threes.”

2. Consider using data analysis to create tiers.

NetApp and a growing group of our partners present a workshop that defines data requirements regardless of where the data is – on the enterprise premises, in a colocation, cloud, or hosting facility, or on a hyperscaler platform. In many cases there is no charge associated with the analysis, which can then be translated into the standard service-levels tiers as discussed in point 1.

3. Use technology with workload protection capability.

Chances are that any one box or technology won’t be able to do everything, so it’s crucial to have a portfolio of interoperable technology. The primary technologies necessary to be able to unravel the IT paradox are:

  • Granular performance control. The ability to guarantee a minimum level of performance, set a ceiling of performance, and enable burst as well. This is what keeps the user experience consistently reliable.
  • Zero-impact performance changes. These changes can happen on the fly without any impact on any workload. If workload parameters change, whether expected or unforeseen, the response time must be instantaneous and without user impact.
  • Scale out. The ability to support multiple  workload types is key, which means that scaling out is mandatory; only scaling up sets artificial limits.
  • Data fabric. The ability to move from any location to any other in response to business requirements.
  • Asset liquidity. The ability to quickly and easily move assets from one deployment platform to another without professional services, certification fees, outage windows, or the necessity to rebalance or optimize resources when they are added or removed.

Of course, the following table-stakes capabilities also need to be present:

  • Complete automation. From power up to power off and every function in between needs to be programable.
  • High availability. The ability to maintain at all times the level of uptime and data reliability required by the business, whether the infrastructure is being scaled up or down, in or out, moved to redistribute resources, and/or upgraded or downgraded.
  • Data efficiency. The ability to use deduplication, compression, and thin provisioning without suffering any performance degradation

The IT paradox is forcing IT organizations around the world to walk a very fine line in order to achieve the highest levels of both ROI and user satisfaction;  the result is a limited level of achievement. With the three areas of focus outlined in this blog post, you can turn your IT paradox seesaw into a pogo stick that can help you achieve any level of achievement desired.

NetApp is committed to supporting our customers throughout in the entire journey of considering and owning NetApp technology.  NetApp invests in customers success such as resolving the IT Paradox by providing the Fueled by NetApp (FBNA) program.  FBNA provides consulting resources (free of charge) to assist customers in achieving the business outcomes they desire/mandate such as maximizing return on investment and increasing user satisfaction simultaneously.

Reach out to or your account team to have NetApp invest in helping you achieve your desired business outcomes.

Mara McMahon

Mara McMahon is the Head of Partner and Service Provider Go-to-Market at NetApp delivered through the Fueled by NetApp program. She is a service provider expert in GTM activities with a maniacal focus on maximizing return on investment from infrastructure assets. Mara serves as a business consultant to partners and service providers across the globe through the Fueled by NetApp program which is a free service designed to ensure the desired business outcomes resulting from NetApp technology purchase are achieved. Mara has been working at NetApp (formerly SolidFire) for over five years and prior to SolidFire/NetApp, spent a number of years in product marketing and product management at a variety of service providers around the world including Cable & Wireless, SAVVIS, Verizon and Tata Communications. She has over 20 years’ experience working in executive, Product Management and Product Marketing roles. Mara has a BS from Wittenberg University and an MBA in marketing from The Kogod School of Business, American University. Mara looks forward to working with you in maximizing your ROI.

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