It doesn’t make sense for each application owner or business unit to buy their own choice of IT hardware or infrastructure*. Just like they can’t rent their own building. While there are benefits of an expanded end-user BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategy for both them and the IT department, there are too many economies of scale and business risk requirements to let people continue to build these ‘vertical silos’ in the Data Centre. As a result IT departments have evolved to have Infrastructure (Storage, Network, Server) and Application teams to support end users. Specialists in their areas whose job it is to buy the right IT for the organisation as a whole. The problem is that those specialist infrastructure teams can become fiercely independent with their own choices of vendor, partners and architectures. This internal competition leads to individually managed ‘horizontal silos’ of control, which frustrates the application owners, in many cases causing them to go back to buying their own infrastructure, from the public cloud with associated risks or over-priced and inflexible ‘engineered systems’.
This problem has grown over recent years as new applications, speed, virtualisation, data growth, Software-Defined infrastructure and innovative new Cloud service options become ever more important to CIO’s and people running their applications. And so the IT industry is increasingly focused on helping customers struggling to deal with management of their horizontal silos of infrastructure in a way that is optimised for applications – old and new, in the corporate data centre and the Cloud.
The optimum infrastructure: application-centric, cloud integrated
Applications should be able to provision the services their end-users need, when they want them, based on service-levels and policies defined by the IT architecture team. Who then spend their time managing the infrastructure as efficiently as in-humanly possible. To do this, there has to be better integration between your choice of hardware and software vendors. And a profound shift to software platforms controlling the data centre infrastructure. No longer can an isolated specialist team simply buy an appliance (or even a Cloud service), throw it in your data centre and hope for the best. Might be a short term fix, but longer term it will cause way more problems in today’s more complex world.
IT vendors like NetApp need to continue to invest heavily in this area to allow customers to better Control (innovative device management and monitoring), Automate (perform repetitive workflow tasks in software) and Analyse (service management, monitoring and reporting) their infrastructure. But also, and maybe more importantly, in integrations with an eco-system of partners to allow them to manage and control our storage platform innovations from their application-centric and cloud orchestration platforms. Yesterday saw some major announcements from industry heavyweights Cisco and Fujitsu supporting this trend. Naturally both are long-term strategic partners for NetApp.
At Fujitsu Forum 2013 in Munich (where I find myself this week, along with an impressive 9,999 others) Fujitsu announced their Cloud Integration Platform to allow multi-vendor, hybrid clouds to be securely controlled from a single management portal. They also announced the general availability of FlexFrame Orchestrator for SAP (another major partner for NetApp). This allows organisations to manage their entire SAP environments from a single integrated software platform, including both traditional and HANA in-memory applications. You can add it to your existing infrastructure or buy it as part of an integrated appliance from Fujitsu. More than 300 clients of Fujitsu are running SAP HANA already.
Cisco on changing the world
And late yesterday Cisco launched their Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) strategy at a major event in New York. They announced new products including the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller to automate network provisioning, Application Network profiles (seemingly based on learning from Service Profiles in UCS), Nexus 9000 switches (from their Insieme team ‘spin-in’) and Application Centric Infrastructure Security which integrates physical and virtual security into the ACI framework. Our CTO Jay Kidd was there – read his thoughts on ACI here.
Although this application and cloud integrated management trend cannot be defined by any single new product from any one vendor, it certainly feels like it is a core focus for a lot of people in IT at the moment. To win in this new world, companies will need to have global scale, unique software innovation, and openly partner to develop the choices of integration needed to meet increasing customer demands for speed, differentiation and control.
*there will always be exceptions for Big Data, High-Performance Computing and the like, but should eventually be way less than 10% of most organisations IT (and real estate, I guess) spend.