Five future challenges of enterprise IT infrastructure

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This blog post is a collaboration by IBMers from around the world: Gica Livada (Luxembourg), Juergen Loeb (Germany), John Juenemann (United States), Vincent Netillard (France) and Saurabh Bhide (India).

Enterprise IT infrastructure services will need to take the lead in the transition to the hybrid and cloud era.

According to analysts like IDC and Gartner, the biggest change will be the automation of workload placement to reflect enterprise guidelines and compliance requirements.

This transformation will affect the technology that we use, but more importantly, it will affect the setup of enterprise information technology (IT).
To obtain the most value from this transformation, the lines of business and the IT department have to establish a new culture and operational model to optimize usage and manage costs. But how?

Virtualization
Before looking into the future, let’s remember the history. Virtualization was invented by IBM in the 1960’s and was confined to the mainframe universe for a long time. In 1999, a little startup called VMware released a product named VMware workstation for the PC world, followed by ESX in 2001, and everything changed.

Nowadays the buzz phrase is “virtualize everything”: computing, storage and networking. This virtualization will have the following effects:

  • Future hypervisors will be light and have a smaller footprint. This will allow you to, hypothetically, divide the hypervisor into 10,000 processes instead of 10 servers, bringing virtualization down to another level.
  • Future storage will combine the speed and performance of solid-state storage with the scale and price advantages of existing storage by using a software-defined storage infrastructure.
  • Future networking will involve software-defined networking (SDN), which has recently attracted attention (though a true picture of SDN has yet to emerge). The control of the network will be decoupled from the physical hardware and will instead be handled by a software application, called a controller.

Orchestration capabilities to drive automation and hybrid development
Within the next three to five years, we will see dramatic changes as we move from hardware-based solutions to software-based environments with SDN. SDN will enable the network as part of a virtualized server or software-defined data center (SDDC), and it will allow us to build a virtual environment on a single hardware system. This technology will also allow us to build hybrid models very easily and move workloads between delivery services.

This will require a new type of consulting, management and change to keep control on the systems where orchestration will be the key element of control. Enterprise IT infrastructure services have to get ahead of this discussion to help clients plan, implement and manage these types of environments. This will include the integration of workflows, approvals processes and reporting for measuring the value of IT for the business.

Mobile devices and decentralization
As the notebook computer paradigm fades away with the opening of enterprise data usage by mobile device applications, we must figure out how to address the multiplicity of ways that people can access company data resources.

Data center designs must adapt to the following new considerations:

  • More devices mean more clients requiring access, and moreover, more clients with tailored applications generating a volume of data that has never been handled before.
  • Increasing network capacities will lead to unprecedented capabilities to deport parts of storage and compute that is currently centralized in data centers.

One answer will be the decentralization of data center workloads to mobile devices, transforming the notion of enterprise infrastructure into a widespread network of resources. It will enable us to provide quite an infinite pool of CPU and storage, serving the ever-growing needs of our applications.

Public, private and hybrid clouds
Clients have spent the last 20 years debating mainframe and open, multi-tier architectures, battling solution simplification and availability. But now, enterprise architects are being challenged to include cloud.

The business driver for deciding what type (public, private or hybrid) of cloud to move to is IT cost. Public and hybrid clouds place customer data outside of the client’s data center to take advantage of the cheapest available compute power. Then the client’s most critical intellectual capital will continue to be protected within the private cloud or existing client back-end infrastructure.

The requirements for selecting the correct enterprise infrastructure cloud strategy are unique by client, as they will shape the client’s future.

Skills and resources
IT infrastructure components are getting smarter, but they are also getting more complex at the same time:

  • There is virtualization at all layers: servers, storage, network and more. This means that you need to have product experts on your team that are ready to tackle that one problem that could bring everything down.
  • The duration between two major product releases has been drastically reduced and so has the tolerance levels to support end-of-life products.

As we move forward, one important challenge all organizations are going to face in the infrastructure support area is skill deficit. How will you handle it?

There are several ways to deal with this issue:

  • Create robust training plans: In addition to your IT road map, you also need to have resource and training road maps. With your IT capital expenditure (CAPEX) investment, it is essential for you to invest in improving the skills of your talent.
  • Have strong process documentation: If you are short on skills or resources, documentation will come to your rescue. It is absolutely essential to keep your documentation updated as this can help you maintain a good mix of senior and junior resources on the team.
  • Get an expert: Get an expert on infrastructure managed services to help you. For example, integrated managed infrastructure services from IBM manages a plethora of IT infrastructure products and technologies and can help you maintain your IT road map without worrying about skill deficits.

The number of enterprise infrastructure challenges today is at an all-time high (check out this infographic to see how new technology adoption is pushing enterprise networks to the breaking point).

But IBM is here to help. It can be as simple as getting you an enterprise architecture consulting review, helping to create your documented enterprise architecture, assisting you in the migration of your first assets into a cloud or helping with the creation of your first internal private cloud.

To find out more, connect with us on Twitter or leave a comment below.

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