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Introducing new technology can squeeze more value out of existing assets.

Virtualisation software, for example, can be used to make servers work harder. For security and stability reasons it is common practice for IT departments to run a single application on each server, although many applications use only a fraction of the server’s capacity.

Virtualisation software exploits this unused capacity by enabling one physical server to support 20 or more “virtual servers”, each running its own operating system and application.

“We found we were using between 5 and 15 per cent of the resources of most of our servers, because their power far outstripped what we were asking them to do,” says Dave Thornley, service support manager at Sheffield Hallam University in the north of England.

Using virtualisation software from California-based VMware, the university now runs 40 virtual servers on just two physical servers. “We have increased utilisation of the servers we have and are not buying new ones we otherwise have had to,” says Mr Thornley.

The introduction of inexpensive appliances such as packet shapers and network optimisers can make an enormous difference to performance.

Wide Area Networks (Wans) linking corporate offices usually account for a large proportion of IT budgets, but can be slow and congested because of unwanted traffic such as streamed music or games.

Upgrading links is an expensive solution and frequently provides only temporary relief before unwanted applications gobble up the new capacity.

A packet shaper chokes off unwanted traffic and reserves suitable portions of the Wan for vital applications to guarantee their performance. It does this by identifying network traffic and enforcing rules – such as restricting streamed music to no more than 5 per cent of traffic – set up by the administrator.

Network optimisers can help organisations which store their business documents centrally and provide access to them from branch offices over unacceptably slow Wan links.

“We found staff would avoid looking at information if it was held at another site because it took too long to access,” says Aaron Whetherhold, IT manager for Pennsylvania engineering group Architectural Testing.

By implementing optimising appliances from New Jersey based Tacit Networks, which compress data and store copies of recently-used files locally, Mr Whetherhold has cut access time for a typical document over the Wan from 90 seconds to a little as three seconds. The devices cost about £4,000 each.

“It had crossed our minds to increase network capacity to try to speed things up, but we would have paid much more,” he says.

All IT assets become obsolete eventually. But in many cases a small outlay can delay that time significantly.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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