06 Oct Aligning Architecture and Priorities
Perhaps one of the most enduring meta-conversations about IT in past decades has been around how well IT serves the needs of the business. Often referred to as “IT/business alignment” this conversation generally used to indicate when IT failed to meet the needs of the business. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t have to be this conversation because IT would never be considered as off-track or “rogue.” Unfortunately, that is not reality. IT often struggles to maintain a focus on the business, a problem often exacerbated by the infrastructure solutions that have been adopted.
In fact, this whole idea of alignment is one that hyperconverged infrastructure has the potential to address head-on. No, it won’t fix every alignment problem in every organization, but it can begin the process.
The 2016 State of Hyperconverged Infrastructure
In 2016, we at ActualTech Media published a report entitled The 2016 State of Hyperconverged Infrastructure. In researching this report, we uncovered a pretty significant misalignment between IT priorities and the potential hyperconverged infrastructure benefits.
If you’d like to get an in-depth look at the results of this survey, the full report is available for free download at www.hyperconverged.org.
Data centers are among the costliest physical assets owned and operated by organizations. The cost is not just in the equipment that is deployed, but also in the sheer effort that it takes to manage that equipment, keep it running, and keep it maintained year after year. To make matters worse, many companies have deployed Band-Aid-like solutions to patch over problems introduced as the data center grows more complex or is challenged to meet emerging business needs.
Let’s start with the items considered priorities by respondents. In Figure 1, you will see that improving data protection, improving operational efficiency, and implementing VDI are the top three items on respondents’ radars. Remember, these responses do not consider the role of hyperconverged infrastructure; these are simply overall IT priorities.
Figure 1: Primary Driver for Interest in Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Now, let’s look at respondents’ primary driver for considering hyperconverged infrastructure, the results of which are shown in Figure 2. See if you can tell exactly where the results of each question diverge from one another. Notice anything interesting?
Improving operational efficiency is near the top of both lists, as we’ll discuss that later. What’s a bit more interesting is where we see divergence, particularly as it pertains to data protection. There is a vast gulf between the importance of data protection on the overall IT priorities list and what people look for in hyperconverged infrastructure.
Improving data backup and disaster recovery emerged as the single most important overall need for the IT organization from this research. In comparing key drivers for hyperconverged infrastructure against larger IT initiatives, it was surprising to see that data protection ranked seventh in the list despite the fact that it was identified as the highest IT priority to address. This may be due to the fact that enterprises are not equating modernizing the architecture with hyperconverged infrastructure with modernizing data protection; they continue to view hyperconverged solutions as simple conglomerations of servers and storage. Since, to many people, “hyperconverged” simply means exactly that, it may not be so far-fetched that they do not consider data protection a key part of the hyperconverged package. Many hyperconverged infrastructure solutions include backup, recovery, disaster recovery, and business continuity capabilities.
For those who have significant backup, recovery and disaster-recovery needs, they would do well to carefully study the hyperconverged infrastructure market and understand what’s possible in this realm. With the right solution, there are some impressive data protection capabilities available.
The virtual machine (VM) is the center of the universe when it comes to applications in most modern data centers. Most new workloads are deployed in VMs. However, consider the state of centralized policy in the data center. For data centers that have equipment from a wide variety of vendors, or that have a lot of “point solutions” (such as WAN accelerators and replication tools), there could be a number of touch points when it comes to policies.
These various touch points don’t always align very well with one another, particularly when there are different vendors in the mix. For example, while it may be possible to define some policies at the hypervisor layer, it’s often difficult to apply storage policies that have any awareness of VM boundaries. There are myriad other devices in the data center that can suffer from the same problem.
Since the VM is the center of the data center universe, why not implement a system that focuses directly on these constructs? Hyperconverged infrastructure solutions provide this opportunity to varying degrees, depending on vendor. Rather than go to three different places to define storage, backup, and replication policies, some hyperconverged infrastructure systems enable these policies to be attached to the VM.
Policy application is just one aspect of operational efficiency. There are many more, including:
- Shielding complexity from the administrator — Even IT pros shouldn’t be subjected to complexity in the infrastructure when it can be avoided. Hyperconverged infrastructure helps make this happen. Availability mechanisms, such as RAID configurations and management, are often hidden from view and are simply a part of the environment.
- Use-case improvements — Ensuring that new applications and use cases, such as ROBO and VDI deployments can be supported without adding complexity and introducing inefficiency into operations, is critically important to help IT maintain alignment with business needs. When deploying these kinds of applications introduced inefficiency, IT and business alignment will suffer.
- Overall alignment enhancement — As has been mentioned, efficiency and simplicity can help IT better achieve alignment with the business.
You will have noticed that cost reduction is also very high on the list for survey respondents. We believe that cost reduction and operational efficiency go hand in hand with one another for many people. However, we also understand that hyperconvergence has the potential to dramatically improve how the IT budget is constructed.
Alignment is about more than just technology. It’s also about people and hyperconvergence can and will have some impact on you. Don’t let hyperconvergence worry you with regard to what it means for your job.