Advances in consumer and business technology place new demands on hardware and infrastructure. This means that as enterprises express an interest in utilising an emerging form of technology, for example, big data or artificial intelligence (AI), it relies on a sustained digitalisation effort in order to have the sufficient foundations in place.
This can be difficult to explain to an excited board who are interested in the power of emerging technology and what this means for the future of the business. It can also be a frustrating conversation to have for IT teams, who would love to work with innovative technologies, but may have had a difficult time making the case and securing the budget for modernisation initiatives each financial year.
The truth is that the average enterprise has a long way to go before they can begin utilising and benefiting from emerging forms of technology. This is because it often places new strains on technology and presents new challenges for IT operations and infrastructure teams. Many businesses are still yet to fully embrace the cloud, which shows quite how much change is required before innovative, resource-intensive technologies can be considered.
Taking AI as an example, it requires a solid footing in areas such as cloud and virtualisation, advanced analytics, mobile and big data in order to effectively put an initiative in place. To accommodate such a solution, data of different types must be managed effectively from varying sources; your infrastructure must be able to scale effectively; and you need the power to process data quickly. This is often out of reach for average companies, but if it’s a direction your business is serious about, it’s time to start thinking about how you can prepare your infrastructure to support future applications utilising innovative technologies.
As a general concept, the software-defined data centre moves beyond virtualisation by providing similar types of features and benefits to virtualisation, but across the entire data centre. It’s not a new concept, but with software-defined products across storage, network and compute reaching maturity and real-world adoption, it’s moving into the consciousness of enterprises.
But why do we need to move beyond virtualisation? It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since this became the new normal for enterprise infrastructure. Well, enterprises have been utilising virtualisation through tools such as VMware VSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V to drastically improve the agility and performance of their infrastructure, yet the next wave of technology to enter the workplace presents new challenges. Virtualisation allowed enterprises to massively reduce their operating costs, improve resource utilisation and provision resources far faster, so by virtualising all aspects of the data centre, there’s the potential to make every infrastructure service as easy to manage and simple to provision as virtual machines.
In relation to emerging technologies, with a software-defined approach implemented, it becomes much easier to manage resource-intensive activity that some emerging technologies involve. With complete virtualisation allowing automation to take the lead, your cloud management platform is able to provide greater analysis because it now has the total scope of your cloud environment.
With virtualisation happening across the data centre, the amount of control that comes from your cloud management platform increases drastically, as it can be well integrated with the virtualisation layer, with all hardware completely abstracted from what happens above it. This allows everything beyond the hardware, including the application level, to be centrally managed and automated, boosting IT efficiency.
The software-defined data centre is good news for the hybrid cloud, which organisations opting for an element of private cloud infrastructure will be taking advantage of, or are likely to be thinking about. A software-defined data centre is geography agnostic because of the abstraction from hardware, which means logically-defined resources can span locations and data centres, with management across company owned and provider owned taking place through a single platform, providing greater cohesion.
Some organisations have more infrastructure modernisation to think about than others, but it’s certainly something that the majority will be thinking about. It’s easy for businesses running lots of physical servers and legacy technology to think about modernisation as simply getting into the cloud, but there needs to be a longer term strategy in mind if your business is looking to go big on innovative technologies.
Even though a software-defined data centre might feel a long way off, it’s better to be plotted in as a goal than thought about only once virtualisation has been implemented. As part of modernisation, your technology teams will be thinking about management tools and processes, which for example could be married up with software-defined goals because of the ubiquity of management in this environment. Also, while the virtualisation of workloads is taking place, it’s worth thinking ahead to a place where automation is happening at scale, as you can begin to look at which applications and services might suit automation and begin to prepare this as your environment is virtualised. This is a very broad area that requires discipline and a clear aim, which could well be informed by your businesses interest in innovative technologies, along with a multitude of other factors. If the themes in this post resonate with some of the projects or modernisation initiatives you’re considering, talk to us today to see how we can help, or check out the case study for our physical to virtual migration for JML for more detail around how we engage with our clients.