Consolidating remote offices


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Our exclusive survey confirms that protecting ROBO-generated data is a three-pronged undertaking: resource consolidation, management controls and optimization approaches.

No longer is the remote office/branch office (ROBO) the stepchild of enterprise IT; it's now a central part of many organizations' data storage initiatives. But cobbling together a strategy to protect data generated outside the main data center, and ensuring that remote workers can painlessly access data center-hosted apps, is much more difficult than many vendors are willing to admit. And we have the data to prove it.

Storage magazine and Taneja Group, a Hopkinton, MA-based market analyst firm, recently conducted a detailed survey of 254 IT professionals with responsibility for ROBO management and planning. Our research reveals that while 70% of respondents now view ROBO as central to business operations, there are still many areas of uncertainty and confusion. Specifically, the survey found that one of the most poorly defined concepts in the remote office today--and therefore the most misunderstood--is resource consolidation.

For most companies, resource consolidation for ROBOs has escaped detailed scrutiny. Over the past two years, storage managers have been bombarded with vendor pitches suggesting that devices and applications sitting at the edge of the enterprise are subpar and a drag on corporate efficiency. Vendors strongly advocate replacing such

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gear with cutting-edge gateway devices that deliver WAFS, WAN optimization and application acceleration.

In certain situations, consolidation brings considerable benefits. However, the reality is that there's a lot more to a successful ROBO strategy than the aggressive physical consolidation of resources. Our survey shows that, in many cases, such consolidation isn't possible nor is it currently desired by enterprises. According to the survey, 51% of organizations want to keep all or most of their IT resources deployed at the ROBO site and selectively engage in consolidation. Only 16% indicate a desire to remove most/all of their IT resources from the ROBO, while 33% would remove some IT resources (see "Deployment strategies").

Our survey confirms that storage managers are beginning to think about their ROBO IT strategy beyond just physical IT resource consolidation, giving equal weight to management controls and optimization approaches, regardless of where their ROBO technologies reside. This is because IT teams know that some of their business processes and infrastructures will preclude aggressive physical consolidation. Only when an IT team thinks about all three of these concepts together--resource consolidation, management controls and optimization approaches--can they feel confident about picking the appropriate approach for what stays at the edge of the enterprise, what goes to the main data center and how it should all be managed.

This was first published in June 2007

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