I just finished Words of Radiance, book two of The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson (and now have to wait for book three). In this series, the main characters all have an oath to which they adhere and to which they must commit themselves in order to be part of this special group. The oath goes like this:
“Life before Death. Strength before Weakness. Journey before Destination.”
One part of this oath, “Journey before Destination,” made me think about some of the challenges IT organizations face in today's world. While those of us who work in the industry to provide IT solutions care a lot about the destination, the solutions are not always there for the journey!
Today, I talk to lots of customers about the concept of software-defined infrastructure (SDI). SDI really is the destination. It’s where organizations can get to a hybrid cloud and then control workloads through an end-to-end orchestration layer that allows you (the customer) to institute and enforce policies for your application workloads.
What a great idea! When I ran IT infrastructure in the past, this is exactly where I wanted to be, from an infrastructure perspective. To think I’d have the ability to manage and optimize my resources in a way that requires fewer people to control and manage. And that I could enforce and comply with the controls we had in place while utilizing all my resources to their optimal level. This is the dream of most IT infrastructure folks.
So where is SDI today, really?
Ultimately, we need to think about where we are on that journey toward SDI. Most organizations today, to some degree, could complete these steps, as the tools exist.
- Virtualized resources with compute, storage, and networking (all in different levels of maturity): check
- Created pools of resources with various products available to do this: check
- Provided some level of telemetry (information, from the hardware to the software, on health and performance of the platform): check
- Automated and orchestrated the use of these resources to ensure policies and workload management: check
- Managed service levels through IT service management software: check
Sounds like it’s all in place, right? Well, kind of. The challenge here is that we either need to totally accept a vertical solution with one or two add-ons, or we need to assemble it ourselves. On both fronts, some integration is necessary and granted, many vertical solutions are not yet complete. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some good ones out there; rather, that some glue is necessary to make it all work.
The truth is that while the destination matters, it’s important to think about the journey to create a winning strategy for SDI. Innovation is necessary and plays a huge role in that strategy looking forward, and also in our efforts to “create the glue.” Yet IT budget allocations are still heavily weighted toward maintenance efforts. Forrester reported in a 2013 survey of IT leaders in more than 3,700 companies that respondents estimated that they spend an average of 72 percent on “keep-the-lights-on” functions to support ongoing maintenance, while only 28 percent of the money went toward new projects.1 This is still consistent with many of the organizations that I talk to in IT.
Ultimately, the SDI journey is really where the rubber meets the road. And for most enterprises day to day, the journey is still underway. So where is your organization on that journey?