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Outsourcing: Soon to Be the New Normal?

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IT outsourcing has been a facet of the modern enterprise for some time, but it seems that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg so far.

According to a recent study by Vanson Bourne on behalf of Savvis, competitive pressures and tight budgets will push nearly 70 percent of IT infrastructure onto an outsourced model by 2017, more than double what it is today. The movement is happening through a number of channels, the researchers say, including greater adoption of hybrid cloud architectures, as well as increased reliance on colocation and managed services. And while nearly half of survey respondents cited cost as a prime driver, significant pluralities also mentioned improved service and reliability, as well as better scalability and flexibility, from outside resources.

Normally, I would look askance at a study on the increasing popularity of outsourcing from on outsourcing firm like Savvis, but in this case I think they may be on to something. We can quibble over the 70 percent figure, but it seems clear that with third-party infrastructure already a common facet in medium and large organizations, reliance will only increase as internal cloud architectures make it easier to burst loads onto public resources. This is undoubtedly a prime driver in the recent spate of server provider acquisitions by large multinationals, capped off this week by NTT’s purchase of both Virtela and Raging Wire.

Indeed, it seems that the approach to outsourcing has shifted from “Should I or shouldn’t I?” to finding the best way to maximize external infrastructure. According to EOH Cloud Services Director Richard Vester, issues with implementation, integration and overall service provisioning are not nearly as complicated as they were a few years ago. They key is in finding a solid cloud management platform that can accommodate both legacy infrastructure and the needs of the newly distributed architecture. Few organizations are going all-in on the public cloud, so it is important not to draw artificial distinctions between O&O and third-party resources. A full-time, full-infrastructure management and monitoring solution is the best way to assess which sets of resources are appropriate for all enterprise data requirements.

It’s also important to understand that simply pushing legacy infrastructure onto outside infrastructure doesn’t solve your problems; it just extends them to a wider footprint. As Dynamic Strategies Joe Infante told Forbes recently, the move to ITaaS or any other outsourcing model needs to be accompanied by a broader vision that incorporates strategy, management, new competitive opportunities and a range of other factors. It’s the difference between utilizing outsourced infrastructure reactively to confront issues of the past and present, or proactively to drive data activity into the future.

IT has always been subject to the herd mentality when it comes to new technologies or new ways of viewing data infrastructure and architectures. Virtualization, the cloud, SDN and outsourcing are all playing an active role in this grand tradition.

But that does not mean outsourcing is the answer to everything. And in that light, it is refreshing to see the conversation shift from the merits of outside vs. inside infrastructure to ways in which external resources can be most properly utilized for the betterment of the enterprise.

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