Software-Defined Infrastructure Increases Agility

By Mike Vizard Print this article Print
Software-Defined Infrastructure

An SDI framework enables an IT organization to respond faster to the evolving needs of the business, while fundamentally changing the way IT is managed.

Software-Defined Infrastructure Makes IT More Responsive

The challenge those internal IT organizations face is how to make the IT infrastructure resources they control more responsive to the business. To achieve that goal many of them are essentially re-architecting their IT environments from the ground up to create an SDDC over an extended period of time.

For example, after years of investing in multiple platforms, Molina Healthcare is now making use of converged infrastructure from VCE, a unit of EMC, to simplify its overall IT environment. Ben Gordon, vice president of enterprise infrastructure services for Molina Healthcare, describes that converged infrastructure investment as the first step in a longer-term effort to embrace SDI.

"SDI sounds great, but nothing in IT is ever that straightforward or easy," says Gordon. "To get to SDI, you need to simplify your infrastructure first. We look at it as reducing our technical debt."

Once that goal is achieved, Gordon says, Molina Healthcare will start to focus more on cross-training the IT staff to further maximize efficiencies as part of a two- to three-year SDI effort. "You're still going to need specialized skills," he says. "But you want to have an IT staff that has a broader view of the technology you use."

In the meantime, according to Gordon, Molina Healthcare is squarely focused on reducing the amount of physical space it consumes by, for example, switching over to converged and hyperconverged systems from the VCE unit of EMC.

Unfortunately, SDDCs are far from being a unified whole. There are three core infrastructure segments that usually don't move in lock step with one another. While virtual machines have been widely deployed on servers, virtualization at the storage and networking level is just now coming into its own.

An SDDC requires that all the compute, storage and networking resources be virtualized in a way that makes it easy for application workloads to dynamically invoke them. Given the nature of the IT silos that manage all those IT infrastructure environments, the rate at which each of these areas is becoming software-defined is significantly different.

For example, the first software-defined foray for Northern Arizona University comes in the form of a storage system from Nexenta. As part of an overall effort to centralize the management of IT across its campuses, Christopher Coffey, research administrator for NAU's high-performance computing, says that, in general, SDI will be approached in phases of that overall effort.

"We'll focus on one thing at a time," he says. "Then we will look to see what can be done next."

Regardless of how any IT organization finds its way to software-defined infrastructure, the one thing that's clear is that making this shift is much more of a journey than an event. SDI changes almost every aspect of how IT gets managed in a way that fundamentally changes the culture of the IT organization.

The challenge facing IT leaders today is figuring out how to prepare their organization for changes that are now all but inevitable.

This article was originally published on 2016-08-11
Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has more than 25 years of experience covering IT issues in a career that includes serving as director of Strategic Content and editorial director for Ziff Davis Enterprise. He has written for eWEEK, Baseline, Channel Insider and CIO Insight, as well as other industry publications and websites.

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