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Aging IT systems fuel demand for cloud storage

Aging IT systems fuel demand for cloud storage

by Allen Preger, Newforma co-founder, chief product officer 

No. 1 in a series

A recent conversation with a board member at a mid-sized engineering firm typified a trend I’m seeing in the design and construction industry. This conversation was with a multi-national firm in London, but I’m seeing this trend no matter the size of the company, or whether it’s an architecture, engineering, or construction business, and in every region of the globe.

“We’re desperate to roll out Newforma, along with Revit and some enterprise software,” the exec told me, “but our hands are tied until we revamp our aging IT infrastructure.”

I asked whether his infrastructure was really that deficient.

“We deferred a lot of critical upgrades after the recession hit in 2008,” he told me. “For years now, our IT team has been barely holding things together to the point now that our network is essentially limping along. On top of this, we’re now facing three significant industry trends that require more horsepower”:

  1. The move to BIM involves considerably larger datasets;
  2. More collaborative project delivery demands the sharing of data between widely dispersed teams, which is exposing bandwidth bottlenecks;
  3. IT infrastructures need to more easily scale to meet ever-growing demand.

He said their pre-2008, on-premise IT infrastructure simply can’t cope.

He said the upgrade is consuming most of his IT team’s time, in addition to a considerable amount of the company board’s time reviewing and approving budget allocations for new infrastructure.

As mentioned above, I have seen this quite a lot of late. Many of his industry peers are in the same boat.

Send in the clouds

To meet demands for more storage and greater collaboration, a new product segment known generically as cloud-enabled storage has emerged. Providers have hip new company and product names such as NasuniPanzura, and StorSimple. Each of these technologies extends the benefits of a local LAN into the cloud, where storage is inherently scalable.

How cloud-enabled storage works

  • Cloud storage software operates on the principle that an authoritative “gold” copy of every corporate file is stored in the cloud on hosts such as Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) or Microsoft Azure;
  • caching appliance in each office supplements, or even replaces, the local file servers;
  • These appliances store frequently accessed files and synchronize changes back to the cloud, where changes are disseminated to caching appliances in other locations.

Info is always nearby, always backed up

Without digging any further into technical details, the result is LAN-like performance across a wide area network, even when working with BIM or other graphics files that these days can top the scales at 300MB+.

This means that geographically dispersed project teams can collaborate more or less in real time on work-in-progress design and construction datasets.

In addition to ready scalability, storage in the cloud removes the need to procure and install additional hardware. Plus it’s a simplified solution for disaster recovery!

Next time

In my next blog post, I’ll describe how Newforma’s behind-the-firewall product makes sure cloud storage does not become another silo of information.

HINT: Our project information management software indexes enterprise cloud-stored information to make it fully searchable and integrated into mission critical Newforma project information management processes, such as those to manage documents, send transmittals, and report from the field.

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