Information technology (IT) systems are the glue that holds modern enterprises together. They power internal systems, are often critical market differentiators, and need to deliver ever-improving functionality for customers, employees, and partners. At the same time, system complexity and speed of change have escalated: deployments routinely span multiple on-premise and cloud locations, an array of software technologies are used, and the teams behind these systems can vary greatly in their skills. The increased focus on digital transformation highlights the business advantages of change, but often does not address how to deliver real value with the new technologies.
These pressures lead to a fundamental tension between the reliability and productivity of the environment. On one hand, systems need to be kept functioning, secure, and predictable in their operation. Developers and operations teams need to be able to evolve the systems rapidly to deliver new functional benefits to users so the whole organization benefits from progress.
This core tension between reliability and productivity impacts many choices, but it becomes particularly problematic given today’s pressure for rapid change and improvement. IT teams find themselves continually having to balance short and long-term change in application delivery and development. For example, trading the use of existing systems and infrastructure to develop new functionality versus redesigning development and delivery capabilities. The long-term aim is to keep adding value with the company-wide application environment, while improving agile development and delivery.
Managing these pressures is relevant since IT systems have become highly distributed across datacenter locations and public clouds — hybrid cloud IT is a reality for most organizations. In addition, a myriad of new development technologies in cloud-native and other areas open up huge new opportunities to make development teams more productive.
IT systems can be thought of as the central nervous system of an organization, carrying information, coordinating actions, and executing many of the tasks that enable the organization to function. The size, density, and complexity of this system of applications has increased for most organizations in recent years.
Red Hat was no different. By 2016, Red Hat operated nearly 1,000 unique, independent applications and services that served various parts of the business. These applications were run by different teams, on different technology stacks, and across a number of redundant datacenter locations. The objectives for the team was a three-part challenge:
- Match the speed and adaptability demands of digital business.
- Improve the availability, resiliency, and security of digital systems.
- Continue to reduce operating costs.
The project begins
To get started, Red Hat IT engaged the Red Hat Open Innovation Labs team for the thorough analysis routinely done for Red Hat customers. Red Hat’s Open Innovation Labs program provides immersive residency programs to help organizations solve real business challenges with a combination of technology and process changes. The result for Red Hat IT was comprehensive insight into the choices they faced and options to address some of the most pressing issues.
The resulting program included changes — some immediate and some gradual — across a broad range of areas in Red Hat’s IT processes:
- A shift from a multiple-location, on-premise failover infrastructure to a hybrid cloud infrastructure, including first one, then two public cloud zones from different providers.
- A move to a container-based, cloud-native deployment and application development mode, with containers as the primary unit of deployment.
- Significant shifts in software development technologies and methodologies to allow a wide variety of programming languages to be used according to the needs of each application.
- Significant cost savings from containers and the ability to move from a parent-child failover setup to failover between three active sites for greater reliability and faster updates.
- Upgrades to a range of applications and the increased adoption of application programming interfaces (APIs) and agile integration are a way to connect these applications.
Observable, measurable outcomes By early 2019, the program had exceeded its original transformation goals. The journey is not over, and the team continues to evolve Red Hat’s IT environment as new challenges and opportunities arise. But the team’s strategy allowed them to create a flexible and reliable application environment for the company. They saw a 55% lower footprint per application, improved security, and multisite hybrid cloud deployment with zero downtime. Automation of pipeline delivery gave them a 40% faster feature delivery time- to-market.
Creating and evolving an effective hybrid cloud application environment
We use the term application environment to refer to an organization’s set of capabilities for application delivery and development. This broad view is deliberate and it underlies the holistic nature of the modern IT challenge. Specifically, legacy and new applications need to work together, new technology needs to add value without disrupting reliability, and IT systems are found in ever more locations.
An organization’s application environment undergoes constant change as new applications are deployed, tools and processes are updated, and applications generate data and transactions. Ultimately, the production applications that the environment supports are what add value to organizations employees, partners, and users.
Design and implement a cloud-native IT strategy
Cloud-native application development, a methodology for developing, deploying and operating applications, can help maintain reliable systems and meet increasing user expectations across multiple infrastructures.
But how do organizations get started? How do teams design and implement a strategy that’s specific to their current situations and needs?
This e-book presents enterprise architects and IT leaders with a step-by-step guide for how to tackle modern IT strategy. This guide includes research, case studies, and a discussion of 3 industry trends:
- The importance of IT systems to modern organizational success
- Hybrid cloud
- Cloud-native application technologies