Today’s IT leaders are at a crossroads. Behind them, there’s a long legacy of hardware and software deployment decisions that have served the business well for years. But new business requirements and application development methods have begun to test the status quo, and as they seek to modernize, they will face several difficult decisions. IT leaders can either commit to the cloud, go all in with on-premises infrastructure or evaluate something entirely new.
One such new approach, composable infrastructure, offers the best of both cloud-based and on-premises infrastructure, while delivering on the promise of flexibility, scalability, and efficiency gains. Composable infrastructure also brings cloud and data center resources together under a common management framework that unleashes the power of the hybrid cloud. For IT leaders, this new technology represents a drastic shift in philosophy and a walk into the great unknown.
THE CLOUD HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING
For many years the operational model of most data centers has remained static, a relatively straightforward game of balancing the demand of applications by adding “more.” More servers, more CPU, more storage, more networks. Purchasing new hardware is part of an acquisition cycle based on projected utilization rates for existing and future applications. System components are purchased and provisioned as needed by networking staff, manually as time allows, and generally within the constraints of a fixed procurement cycle.
Unfortunately for IT leaders, under this model, development has been moving at speeds faster than infrastructure, and an infrastructure bottleneck has become all too familiar. Until cloud, that is. Cloud changed the way organizations think about development cycles simply by providing a highly flexible platform in which to work. With the cloud, companies can provision on the fly and pay for only what they need, when they need it.
The cloud has also proven that it is not always the best place to keep data. This is due to the many factors that cloud platforms sometimes do not address adequately, items such as governance, security, cost-effectiveness and an inability to virtualize IT assets. Perhaps that is why IT decision makers say they still expect over half of workloads—particularly those that involve business-critical or sensitive data—will remain in the premises-based data center well into the future.
“The CFO’s organization is likely to be an important partner and advocate…it is important for IT and finance leaders to fully understand one another, to “speak the same language,” so they can come to a determination as to which investments are best for the business”
THE EMERGENCE OF HYBRID CLOUD AND HYBRID IT
The cloud is a great solution, but companies still need to be able to secure and control their data environment. On-premises infrastructure can be managed tightly, but its lack of flexibility is becoming a hindrance to a business’ ability to stay nimble. Thus, we begin to see the shift to a modern, hybrid cloud environment: which amounts to a mix of public cloud, private cloud and on-premesis infrastructure that provides an opportunity to scale and grow with ease, all while maintaining control from a centralized location.
With hybrid cloud, public cloud and private infrastructure operate independently yet work in tandem—over encrypted connections—using technology that allows for the portability of both applications and data alike. This helps companies manage sensitive data in their private cloud, with the ability to run applications on the public cloud. This keeps data under lock and key, but also makes it available to those users who need it. Think of it as the speed and flexibility of the public cloud that lives under the watchful eye and best practices of the IT department.
To better illustrate, some examples of viable hybrid cloud scenarios may include:
- A primary application runs on a private cloud in a private, on-premises data center but supplemental components of the application such as web forms run on AWS.
- A private cloud application works with an external data feed that lives in the public cloud, so the data is entirely cloud based, but the software engine is not.
- The concept of “bursting” in which private cloud applications are pushed to the public cloud when traffic spikes.
The hybrid cloud offers the best of both worlds. It offers the flexibility provided by self- provisioning on-demand capabilities of the cloud while retaining full control and management of data and applications when desired. But the major challenge facing large enterprises with existing legacy applications and traditional IT infrastructure is that the infrastructure is not built for the delivery of “cloud-like” services, and these organizations are often heavily siloed, further standing in the way of delivering at the speed of what users have now come to expect, the speed of the cloud.
COMPOSABLE IS THE FUTURE OF THE DATA CENTER
Composable infrastructure solutions currently entering the market are making infrastructure provisioning easy, automated, and centralized, while facilitating the move to a more fluid process. With this technology, the future of the modernized data center is about to take on a new look.
- Speed and agility will be the new norm
- Technology constraints will be a distant memory
- Operational procedures will be re-written to become more flexible
- Infrastructure will be fully software defined
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) will become a reality
- The data center will become a highly automated and orchestrated environment
- Infrastructure will be designed for, and defined by, DevOps
- Hardware changes and upgrades will happen in near real-time
- Hybrid IT will become a strategic driver for business efficiency and alignment
Composable infrastructure is the most robust data center technology available, and it is specifically designed to take the hybrid IT model to new heights. At its most basic level, composable infrastructure is simply a modularized infrastructure – as resources are needed, they can be added (or removed) and managed from a centralized administration console. But composable is anything but basic, because these fluid resources can be made readily available to development teams in the form of a universal API.
PLANNING FOR COMPOSABLE: KEY CONSIDERATIONS
With all the benefits and opportunities composable infrastructure offers, IT leaders will likely want to start planning for it soon. Before getting started with composable or any data center modernization effort, there are multiple factors to keep in mind. The list below details a few of the most important considerations.
Take responsibility. IT organizations that once focused primarily on asset management must now begin to take on the responsibility for achieving strategic business goals. This means a fundamental shift in IT as a supportive resource to a more collaborative, strategic model. If IT is not actively engaged with business outcomes, the model may fail.
Choose the right platform. Infrastructure options abound, it is important to choose the platform that aligns with your organization’s long-term goals. As it stands, composable infrastructure is the market-ready alternative that promotes the speed and efficiency required by DevOps environments, and products are being developed by any number of major players. But they are all distinct in their approach to implementation, their market readiness, and their applicability to unique business requirements.
Think about the future. Be prepared to take advantage of composable infrastructure by focusing on the coming wave of IT dynamics:
- Continuous IT service delivery
- Infrastructure flexibility
- Workloads that align with business demand (and are not constrained by hardware)
- An increase in IT’s business value
- Automation that provides simplified infrastructure management
- Streamlined deployments that add flexibility to your data center
- Consolidation of data centers and simplified infrastructure at branch offices (ROBO)
Finally, with multiple vendors each approaching the notion of hybrid cloud differently, be extremely focused on looking at standardization measures and standard methodologies and compatibility, and understand how the infrastructure integrates into your current environment. Look for common connectivity protocols and universal APIs, standardized policy adherence and global management tools whenever possible. While composable technology is designed to be vendor agnostic, it will take some time for manufacturers to begin producing modules of compute, fabric and storage that are truly universal.