Orchestration and Automation: The Enterprise's Best Kept Secret

Orchestration and Automation: The Enterprise's Best Kept Secret

At a time when IT operations are consuming as much as 70 percent of the IT budget it is clear organizations of all sizes need to change the way they stand up, provision and orchestrate IT services.

Trey Layton is Chief Technology Officer for the Converged Platforms Division of EMC.

One of the biggest challenges the typical IT organization faces today is that the systems they have in place are not agile enough to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of the business. It may take a few minutes to provision a virtual machine. But it can take the average IT organization several weeks to provision all the storage and networking services associated with that virtual machine. As a result, the business winds up pushing more application workloads on to public clouds, which are more agile but become more costly over the long term. To address those issues forward-looking organizations are increasingly embracing converged and hyperconverged infrastructure platforms to build agile private clouds.

There are basically two ways to go about bringing the level of IT automation and orchestration required to create an agile private cloud. IT organizations can add an overlay of software or they can acquire converged and hyperconverged platforms that have embedded that capability within the underlying infrastructure. Adding a layer of software on top of an existing IT environment to achieve that goal is problematic on several levels. IT automation frameworks such as Puppet and Chef require programming skills that the vast majority of IT operations teams don’t have. So to make use of these IT automation frameworks, an IT organization needs to teach their IT operations teams how to either code, or conversely, divert developer resources to managing IT infrastructure. Given application development backlogs inside most organizations these days allocating developer resources to manage IT infrastructure is not the most efficient use of a limited IT resource.

A far more practical approach to IT automation and orchestration can be found by embedding these capabilities in converged and hyperconverged infrastructure. Rather than requiring IT organizations to deploy and manage a separate overlay, modern infrastructure platforms provide all the capabilities an IT organization needs to manage the underlying software-defined infrastructure using declarative commands.

The IT organization simply defines a set of policies using templates. Those templates are then used to automatically provision all the infrastructure resources required by any given application workload. The end result is a much more agile IT organization capable of dynamically responding to any and all new application requirements.

Once that automation capability is in place the IT organization gains the ability to holistically orchestrate sets of infrastructure services that function as a cloud; right down to being able to define what infrastructure resources can be made available to a specific application. In the truest sense of a cloud IT organizations can even allow developers to self-service their own IT infrastructure requirements within a set of well-defined guidelines defined by the IT organization. That not only reduces DevOps friction inside the organization, it by definition creates the documented IT policies and procedures needed to operate in any highly-regulated environment.

While integrated DevOps is a noble goal an IT organization should not have to be turned upside down to achieve it. IT automation overlays were created to compensate for the limitations of existing legacy IT infrastructure. Modern IT infrastructure provides access to a control plane through which compute, storage and networking resources can be managed as a common pool of software-defined resources.

At this juncture it’s obvious in the age of the cloud legacy IT infrastructure architectures are not sustainable. Not only do they cost more to own, they make the internal IT organization operationally inefficient. At a time when IT operations are consuming as much as 70 percent of the IT budget it is clear organizations of all sizes need to change the way they stand up, provision and orchestrate IT services. That’s fundamentally going to be much easier to achieve using converged IT infrastructure platforms that were designed from the ground up with that very goal in mind.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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