Customer Goals and Challenges (Read Part 1 here.)
As I’m running Mozy, an SMB company perhaps in some ways like yours, I’m continually looking for opportunities to increase revenue, control costs, and expand our services for customers. This can be a delicate balance. Frequently my management team and I feel like we have too much to do and not enough resources to do it. We need to be thoughtful about the projects where we choose to invest, and look for greater flexibility in how we deliver our solutions, both in our software development methodology and our infrastructure.
A company developing software services, Mozy is especially dependent upon IT infrastructure. Our systems not only provide the tools for our employees to be productive, but also the services that we’ve built our business on. In our environment, job number one is to keep things up and running.
Our customers expect our service to be available 24×7. We have contractual commitments for 99.5% uptime, and internally measure ourselves against a target of 99.9% uptime. That translates to about 43 minutes of downtime a month, which doesn’t leave much margin for error. One month all components of the system were working perfectly, but we missed our internal target when a cooling pipe came loose in one of our data centers. At the same time, we needed to be efficient as possible with our operations team.
To meet our service level agreements while maintaining efficiency, we’ve automated a battery of tests, deployed extensive monitoring, and created an architecture that accommodates hardware failure. When you store over 90PB data, drive failures are a fact of life. We’ve built redundancy into our storage system so that a customer’s data isn’t dependent on any single drive or rack of drives. Then when systems do have issues, we can respond quickly and minimize the effect on our service delivery.
Though less visible, our development environments are just as critical. A problem in our development or test environments means our talented engineering team can’t be developing new features or fixing bugs, and ultimately can mean less innovation delivered to our customers. For maximum flexibility we maintain multiple virtual test environments, so that we can properly support our three development sites spread across two continents.
While your business may not have the exact same requirements, I’ll bet the themes are familiar: high availability, delivering business value, and doing more with less. Perhaps you’ve also found that virtualization plays a key role by enabling flexible, responsive deployments, high availability and fault tolerance, and more efficient use of your IT dollars.
I travel a lot. Between my VMware responsibilities, visiting my distributed team, or meeting with partners or customers, I’m on the road every week. Yes, many of my meetings use video teleconferencing instead, but sometime you just need to be there. When traveling I carry a variety of devices, including a Windows laptop, Macbook Air or iPad (usually not all at the same time!), and an Android phone. I’ve taken to storing my data in the cloud for easy access across these devices, using an internally developed service currently in beta. The cloud, public or private, can give your organization the flexibility to meet the needs of today’s mobile workforce
It’s striking how much our working conditions have changed: distributed teams, rapidly changing business conditions, evolving technical requirements and an increasing number of mobile employees. These changing conditions in turn demand changes in our IT infrastructure to support them.
I’d like to hear what you’re experiencing. Where are your current systems serving you well, and where are you feeling the most urgency to make a change? What’s driving the need for that change? How do you see IT playing a role in reaching the strategic goals of your business? Given the time, what strategic projects would you want to focus on?
Follow my next post where I’ll talk about the traditional IT environment and how it may be holding you back.
~ Russ Stockdale