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IT Trends 2018: Programmable infrastructure everywhere



By Gary Middleton | Group Networking Senior Practice Director DCN, Dimension Data and David Delisi: Director, Global Alliances Sales at Dell EMC

The evolution of IT infrastructures is an exciting and complex subject, as it redefines the strategies that support an organisation’s digital aspirations.

This is most apparent in the use of software-defined models, where strengths lie in both their flexibility and scalability, and how the sum of the software-defined parts can work together to deliver infrastructure that can flex at the variable speeds required by business.

IT infrastructures have evolved considerably since their inception, but the next step opens the doors to new levels of operational flexibility, which cater to business needs better than ever before.

Additionally, business itself has changed – in pace, complexity, rate of change and growth – while evolving employee requirements and digital workplaces aren’t what they used to be. With so many facets of business changing so quickly, we can’t expect organisations to face these new challenges with an outdated infrastructure. Today’s infrastructure needs to be more agile, with the flexibility to be adapted and programmed on demand, as needed.

We’re in the middle of an evolution where we’ll see a shift towards infrastructure developers and infrastructure software architects providing business with the infrastructure they really need when they need it, rather than a static one they build up front and is inefficiently used. This is one of the findings of Dimension Data’s Digital Infrastructure 2018 IT Trends.

From data centres to data services

Global data centre space continues to grow and on-premise data centres remain critical for many organisations. In an increasingly hybrid world these data centre facilities and infrastructures are required to become smarter. Over the next few years it will be necessary for the vast majority of data centres to become software-defined in order to provide the capability to rapidly adjust to the peaks and troughs of business demand, and – with the right approach – maintain levels of security and compliance required by regulatory bodies.

Many businesses are now considering network, security and broader infrastructure requirements during the application and service development phase to ensure their infrastructure and operational models support, and can adequately provide service to, their changing application environment. This is done through the adoption of DevOps models, and much closer engagement between development and operational teams.

Organisations that need to stay up-to-date and retain control over how their infrastructure supports business objectives often seek a build-it-yourself (BIY) solution that can be used ‘straight out of the box’, to establish their vertical and horizontal stacks for compute, storage and networking.

True scalability with composable infrastructure

Your applications know how, when, and what your business requires at any point in time, so building infrastructure with applications in mind is critical for success. A move towards composable and programmable infrastructure is a bold step in enabling applications, and thereby business requirements, to customise data centres, networks – including wide area networks – and cloud platforms to provide the capabilities they need. The end result is that your infrastructure becomes entirely programmable, and businesses can run applications across multiple on-premise and cloud destinations, while having it all work in concert to deliver outcomes.

This would mean that the network and security services which enable you to move and protect your company’s data can be set up to provide on-demand connectivity and security.

Traditionally, companies had to build their infrastructure to support peak periods. This meant that the rest of the time, their infrastructure wasn’t working at capacity, and was accumulating costs.

In the future, the lines will blur between on-premise, cloud, and the individual elements that constitute IT infrastructure, creating a fluid and seamless end-to-end infrastructure platform, that provides companies with the flexibility they need for a competitive edge.

Cloud to hybrid solutions

Cloud has been viewed as a solution for many of the IT challenges organisation’s face today. However, the costs involved in cloud solutions can accumulate quickly. Clients may think they’ve drastically reduced their IT, data, and network costs, without realising that a poorly designed infrastructure will negate the promises of public cloud. However, by merging the benefits of the public and private cloud models into a hybrid solution, and by conducting data centre infrastructure modernisation, there are more cost effective options available than most organisations realise.

Flexibility is key, in terms of resource availability, securing applications and data, and collating a variety of platforms. This means that companies should think more broadly than cloud-first or cloud-only strategies.

Stepping into software-defined

Software-defined infrastructure can be deployed tactically to improve an area of the infrastructure or solve a specific problem, but in order to fully reap the benefits, organisations should first consider how infrastructure plays a role in their digital transformation. This can be overwhelming given the pace of change and evolving skill requirements and organisations can start to recognise and identify areas they may need help with.

Many companies already have existing infrastructure investments which can’t easily be written off, but sometimes the benefits derived from an infrastructure refresh are compelling enough for it to be considered. Organisations need to weigh up costs and benefits of each project and work towards a fully digital business, but it’s likely this would involve incremental changes rather than a complete revamp. A robust and scalable infrastructure is a good first step towards a truly agile business platform.

Due to the level of complexity involved – as well as the skills needed  to develop, program and maintain these next-gen solutions – 86% of companies with a digital transformation strategies have chosen to partner with industry experts.

Imagine being able to assemble the perfect IT infrastructure, optimise the ratio of compute cores, memory, accelerated storage, and networking. Even better, picture that infrastructure with an abstracted and software-based management and orchestration layer. This layer would instruct the infrastructure to aggregate the right resources at the right place, at the right time, and return the disaggregated assets when completed for the next job. This is the start of true consumption-based IT services.

While we may not have reached this point yet, it will become a reality within the next two years.

Making software-defined a reality

 Digital transformation isn’t just about IT infrastructure – it’s about customer experience, data analytics, and the ability to adapt to a constantly-shifting digital landscape. Companies must consider digital transformation as a cohesive strategy, which can unlock both operational and financial transformation. Software-defined solutions require the right strategy around different technologies, avoiding lock-in across clouds, focusing on open-standards, and making sure what you’re building today will be applicable tomorrow. Cloud and hybrid infrastructure is more about being a business enabler than a technology.

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