January 21, 2015 | Written by: Martin Wolfe
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One of the things I’ve learned from my work at IBM is that many clients need a hybrid model for information technology (IT). The ability for clients to modernize their existing infrastructure, migrate key data and credentials, establish secure connectivity and use their existing policies and practices is vitally important.
While it’s quite popular to think that clients can just simply and quickly move all their applications and data to the cloud, the truth is that this is often not immediately practical. A transition is needed. The core IT group must change roles from overseeing operations to acting as a service broker for the rest of their enterprise and customers. They need to transition their core capabilities from an operations-focused approach to one in which their infrastructure utilizes patterns and automated optimization, and can use a combination of different providers in a single capability.
Software-defined environments (SDEs) can help enable an enterprise’s core IT group to transition to this service broker model. Since we know, based on over 30 years of IT transformation experience, that it’s not just the technology but also the governance, policies and practices which need to be incorporated, SDEs go beyond the already-common industry terms of software-defined infrastructure and software-defined data centers.
Let’s take a look at how IBM defines the term:
A software-defined environment (SDE) optimizes the entire computing infrastructure—compute, storage and network resources—so that it can adapt to the type of work required. In today’s environment, resources are assigned manually to workloads; that happens automatically in a SDE. In a SDE, workloads are dynamically assigned to IT resources based on application characteristics, best-available resources, and service level policies to deliver continuous, dynamic optimization and reconfiguration to address infrastructure issues. Underlying all of this are policy-based compliance checks and updates, in a centrally managed environment.
An SDE approach can provide many of the capabilities needed to convert an existing IT infrastructure into an automated and self-optimizing set of core functionalities, and it’s also one of the core components of hybrid IT and hybrid cloud deployment. You won’t be able to fully utilize the hybrid model unless you have the ability to re-configure your IT capabilities as workloads change, as you move them between cloud environments and establish secure (hybrid) connectivity between your cloud providers. It’s not enough to depend on a single technology platform; workloads regularly use different operating systems and require connectivity between legacy systems (systems of record), mobile and software as a service (SaaS) applications (systems of engagement). SDEs can provide this functionality at the core infrastructure layers.
What is the motivation to get started on this path, and what is a good place to start?
We call these motivations, challenges or starting points “SDE entry points.” Identifying the most important SDE entry points is just the first step in specifying how a client will use SDE to solve one or more of their key challenges. These entry points are part of a larger set of activities and are the foundation for defining adoption roadmaps that provide a customized set of steps a client can follow to implement SDE capabilities.
A poll was conducted of hundreds of IBM technical experts who work directly with the largest clients and combined that with our product expertise and managed services specialists. From that poll, the 47 most common starting points were identified, categorized and subcategorized. The following are the top five most common experiences:
• Enterprises are looking for an easily “pluggable,” comprehensive and extensible application programming interface (API) architecture for easy integration with existing infrastructure systems.
• Organizations are looking for a common platform allowing them to support the needs of multiple departments, agencies and lines of business and can automatically help in optimizing the infrastructure investments.
• Traditional network system costs are rising in proportion to total system costs and enterprises are looking for ways to make more intelligent investments on network infrastructure.
• Significant manual effort is needed to integrate network, storage and compute infrastructure since they are not typically designed in an integrated and aligned architecture and model.
• Sharing of infrastructure between multiple requesters is difficult, while maintaining their security and privacy requirements. The use of multitenancy at infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) layers seems to result in over-allocation of resources.
Your experiences may be different from those on this list, of course, and I’d like to hear about them. Please leave a comment below to start the conversation. And look out for another post from me in the future, where I’ll review the key maturity levels that are fundamental to adopting an SDE model.