CIO's Corner

Infrastructure is for all times

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Whereas ITers frequently take the infrastructure as their point of departure for a transition to the cloud, businesses generally start with the applications. The stereotypical view is that the IT function tends to consider applications almost as an afterthought, while business users, in turn, scarcely realize that they even need an infrastructure at all.

Even though it sometimes seems as if an entire world lies between them, infrastructure and applications – together with the platform – comprise one and the same, linked environment. The apparent field of tension between these worlds was the incentive for writing two blogs. In these blogs, I want to make it clear that one cannot exist without the other. First of all, I zoom in on the infrastructure, then on the software.

 

Hybrid cloud

As a system architect, I traditionally focus primarily on infrastructure solutions for our customers. The emphasis is on recommendations in the area of servers, storage, backup and availability solutions. In recent years, the hybrid cloud has increasingly become the focus of attention. Smaller companies, in particular, no longer set up an on-site infrastructure for their core applications, but have this infrastructure set this up at the site of one of their suppliers – for example the software supplier. Larger customers have a combination of on-site infrastructure and specific applications from the cloud, which are linked.

On the one hand, this means that we, as IBM, sell fewer systems in this domain. On the other hand, the providers are running larger and larger infrastructures. Even if all of us move to the cloud, an infrastructure is still required. On balance, the ‘quantity of infrastructure’ and the investments in this infrastructure do not decrease. On the contrary, the center of gravity merely shifts [to another type of consumer: the cloud suppliers].

 

“The interesting thing is that from my role I am positioned right in the gap between the purchasers of those cloud services and the suppliers.”

 

Same control

Among our customers, the most pressing question is how and where they will run their IT environment in the future: within their own infrastructure, entirely in the cloud or a using combination of the two. Operating completely from the cloud is difficult, because there are always specific data or applications over which customers want to maintain control. However, people primarily want to access generic applications and mobile apps from the cloud. And that raises questions in the domain of connectivity and security. After all, people want the same control in the outside world that they have in their own environment.

The most frequently selected option is thus a link between an on-site infrastructure and application landscape on the one hand, and a flexible and dynamic off-site application environment on the other that you modify based on need and the possibilities available in the market, and in which you can achieve fast adoption. Thus, the best of both worlds.

 

Trusted advisor

The interesting point is that, from my role, I operate precisely in the gap between the purchasers of cloud services and their suppliers. In particular, I try to convince suppliers that we must become genuine cloud service providers who offer customers a managed environment, over which the customer has complete control, for example via a portal.

I support the customers as a ‘trusted advisor’ as they move toward a hybrid environment. The emphasis here is less on the hardware side of the story than it was in the past. However, attention must still be devoted to cloud-based infrastructure or infrastructure that is linked to the cloud. [As a system architect, I can’t make the situation any better than that, though I can make it easier].

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IBM Systems Architect - Senior IT Specialist at IBM Netherlands

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