Managing Through a Meltdown

The word “restructuring” can give any IT leader insomnia. But what if you’re the CIO of a major, multinational financial services corporation? What if your enterprise had recently declared Chapter 11 and was being dismantled and reorganized across multiple global locations, functional areas and requirements? And what if that restructuring came in the wake of the biggest banking crisis since the Great Depression?

These aren’t hypothetical questions: This is exactly the scenario that Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LBHI) faced in 2008. Under the leadership of James Johnson, senior vice president of global infrastructure, the company needed to address a long list of complex and interrelated requirements for redesigning its IT infrastructure.

Heading the list was the need to build and manage a data center that met the requirements of a fast-moving, zero-latency trading business without incurring any capital expenditures on the project.


Ready to Turn on a Dime

Most IT organizations don’t face this kind of perfect storm of change every day. But every IT executive knows that rapid, critical business changes can force a quick reaction from the IT organization, often with little warning.

Increasingly, IT has to be ready to turn on a dime, but the infrastructure in place to support business operations one moment might be considered ill-suited for the organization that’s in place after the change. Although no one can foolproof IT design for the future, you can prepare yourself and your organization for unforeseen changes by adopting the following best practices.


1. Think outside the cloud.

When it comes to designing infrastructure solutions that address big business-change events, many vendors seem to think that just saying the word “cloud” is enough. Although cloud-based technologies offer tremendous promise in terms of scalability, flexibility, speed-to-deployment and cost-effectiveness, those clouds have to be tethered to the earth in order to have a measurable impact on the business.

In the case of LBHI, the company needed to “rent” technology infrastructure rather than buy its own equipment because of a very simple, but very restrictive, constraint: Since it was in Chapter 11, the firm couldn’t expend capital on infrastructure.

Therefore, the team had to get creative in order to design a data center environment that met a long list of requirements without counting as capex. Specifically, the company had to do the following:

• Install separate and flexible data center environments.

• Configure high-performance servers and storage.

• Design and install network IP telephony, as well as audiovisual and wireless systems.

• Design and deploy workstation builds.

• Migrate and implement business applications.

• Create and support policies, procedures, applications and end users through an ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) IT service desk.

• Establish a proactive 24/365 network operations center.

• Conduct inventory and track IT assets.