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Consolidating remote offices

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Key decisions
There are several factors IT teams should consider as they contemplate their remote/branch deployments:

Local vs. remote bias: An enterprise's attitude toward resource consolidation can make a big difference in the ROBO infrastructure. Accordingly, you should determine if your organization requires or desires a highly consolidated ROBO environment or a less-consolidated infrastructure. That determination will point the team toward local or remote delivery strategies and vendors. For example, a highly consolidation-centric firm will find it easy to justify investments in application acceleration and WAFS tools that remove local IT resources and drive consolidation. By contrast, a collaboration-centric organization may place higher emphasis on locally delivered technologies. It might assemble network optimization tools around its locally based server and storage platforms for collaboration purposes, leveraging local capacity controls and optimization. Knowing your company's position on local vs. remote delivery for each key technology is critical, as it will drive the entire deployment.

Integration requirements: A top concern of our respondents is the ability of a given ROBO technology to integrate with other products in the ROBO, especially network resources and end-to-end security. Some organizations will need a tightly integrated solution that ensures seamless security with their app, server and directory environments.

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Others may have very few integration requirements, with only a small number of apps spanning the ROBO infrastructure, making them more open to third-party, best-of-breed products. Understanding immediate integration needs and the potential integration points 24 months from now lets users identify products with the right level of integration support.

Business process alignment: What challenge is addressed by the ROBO initiative? Is it broad-based IT consolidation, data protection consolidation, regulatory compliance or disaster recovery? The answer will let the IT team focus its remote/branch energies in different areas. For example, a data protection consolidation/centralization/optimization effort will focus on backup and replication software selection, whereas a server consolidation effort will focus on application-acceleration offerings. The economic and management equations for these processes will look very different, especially in the early stages of deployment.

A one-size-fits-all consolidation approach won't satisfy every company's data consolidation and ROBO support needs. The good news is that our survey shows that storage managers can build the ROBO infrastructure they need by balancing consolidation with management controls and optimization approaches. By balancing these three concepts, storage teams can retain the flexibility to build the remote/branch infrastructure they need on their terms.

This was first published in June 2007

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