Distributed computing infrastructure has experienced evolutionary changes over the past two decades
Large, clunky server and storage systems have evolved into streamlined, highly efficient systems. Administrators have shifted how they consume resources, too. Historically, resource utilization was inefficient at best. Today, software automates the process to effectively manage resources — even the relationship between applications and the underlying hardware has changed. Today, abstractions between hardware and applications provide the ability for IT organizations to shift resources, as needed, to ever-changing application requirements.
In addition to the way resources were used, the physical number of things to manage skyrocketed. The number of servers and storage subsystems, network devices and amount of data have all seen a significant increase. And in the coming years, we can expect to see this trend continue to grow exponentially. In sum, a lot has changed… and continues to do so at a dizzying pace.
Understand the source of the complexity
In order to understand the problem, we need to break down the complexity into components. The underlying infrastructure, architecture and management solutions have all evolved. Yet, the amount of change is so staggering it creates its own complexity. In addition to managing more things, and more complex things, IT organizations are being asked to increase the rate in which they deliver services.
Breaking down the complexity falls into one of four key categories:
- Infrastructure: Infrastructure includes the server, storage and network hardware components. It also covers the architecture that governs how each of the components are configured.
- Software: The software that runs and manages the infrastructure is broken down into two sub-components: 1) The software that manages the physical hardware and 2) The overarching management software used to provide insights and guidance to manage the underlying infrastructure.
- Service Delivery Method: In the past, most organizations used a single, monolithic service delivery method to leverage infrastructure resources. Today, organizations rely on a number of different methods to manage infrastructure resources that include virtualized, converged, hyperconverged, composable, private cloud and public cloud. And unlike in the past, organizations today use a combination of different methods of infrastructure delivery to support the varied application requirements.
- Demand Shifts: IT organizations need to increase the speed and flexibility to the services they provide. Customer requirements are constantly changing and so are the underlying infrastructure requirements. These changes are forcing IT organizations to rethink their approach to infrastructure requirements in favor of more flexible options.
Each of these four categories provide a degree of complexity on their own. The challenge is that IT organizations are faced with all four categories all at once. With this combination, one can see how the complexity grows exponentially.
Simplifying the complexity
So, how do you cope with the dizzying array of constantly changing underpinnings? The first step is to simplify the environment. Beyond just the four categories outlined above, IT organizational and cultural shifts need to change. Streamlining the environment takes planning, time and effort.
Look for solutions and approaches that further simplify the environment. At the same time, consider how these changes impact your processes and organizational structure. Not all of the changes will be based in technology. As the demands of your customers change, so will your organization and processes. Look for opportunities to address technical debt and remove old or un-needed processes. These two steps alone go a long way toward simplification.
The importance of automation
Part of simplification includes the introduction of automation. In the past, organizations faced the fact that they had to do everything themselves. This was partly due to a lack of mature and sophisticated solutions along with the ability to add more people to resolve issues.
Today, that approach simply is no longer feasible. Humans cannot keep up with the rate of change. Solutions are far more mature and sophisticated than those of the past. Automation addresses these issues in a number of different ways:
- Increasing the speed of responsiveness
- Increasing accuracy by removing human error
- Taking the human out of simple, mundane processes.
The level of sophistication and automation built into today’s management tools address much of the complexity outlined above. Tools are now able to manage the entire infrastructure spectrum in a meaningful way. Management tool automation is a key factor to consider for any enterprise looking to transform the way they leverage infrastructure.
Designing your strategy
It is important to understand that IT strategy plays a direct role in the decisions about infrastructure and management tools. As enterprises continue down the path of digital transformation, it is critical that they consider ways to support changing customer demands at speed. Part of this strategy will most likely include a flexible set of solutions to meet the changing demands. Ideally, the strategy considers solutions with a sophisticated management and automation component that covers the entire portfolio.
These more sophisticated approaches allow IT organizations to do things not previously possible. Ultimately, this is where today’s IT organization strives to be.
This article is sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), one of several companies working to solve the complexity challenge of hybrid cloud. HPE recently announced HPE OneSphere, an as-a-service multi-cloud platform that simplifies management of multi-cloud environments and on-premises infrastructure. Through a unified view, IT can compose hybrid clouds capable of supporting both traditional and cloud-native applications.
For more information on simplifying a hybrid cloud environment, read the 451 Research report: Seeking Digital Transformation? Eight Essentials for Hybrid IT. To learn more about HPE’s approach to developing and managing hybrid cloud, check out the HPE OneSphere website.
About Tim M. Crawford
Tim M. Crawford is a CIO and Strategic Advisor at AVOA. With almost 30 years in IT, Tim is well versed in how IT can serve as a strategic weapon for businesses. Much of his work centers around the differences between traditional and transformational CIOs and the IT organizations they lead. Tim works with other CIOs and executive teams to transform their business through the use of technology. Tim also serves as a member of a number of private CIO groups including the Wall Street Journal’s exclusive CIO Network.