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When executing an effective digital transformation strategy, management is tasked with placing the right workload into the most appropriate IT environment. This represents a shift from buying parts for self-assembly to composing services through self-serve consumption and pay-per-use models. Quite often this transition also leads to the adoption of software defined environments across the enterprise infrastructure.
Software defined infrastructures do, however, bring with them some very unique challenges. Many of the most prevalent issues are centered around the relatively immature state of the technology itself. The most significant aspect of this challenge is the lack of industry standards for device control. Control software must know the status of all network devices and trunks, no matter what vendor equipment is being used. While OpenFlow stands today as the de facto software defined networking standard, it is a unidirectional forwarding-table update protocol that cannot be used to determine device status. It also doesn’t allow for the programming of port or trunk interfaces. A second critical issue is the lack of business process or enterprise IT policy definition capabilities. This shortfall often leads to resource over provisioning caused by automation rules that deploy “just in case” instead of “just in time”.
When taken together, the two latter problems heighten the risk of vendor lock-in. This issue was highlighted last year by Major General Sarah Zabel, Vice Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. This military organization deals with 2,400 trouble calls, 2,000 tickets, 22,000 changes, and 36 cybersecurity incidents every day. Its global network interfaces with owned and managed networks from other military departments and services providers. When addressing the Open Networking User Group, Major General Zabel stated that the agency suffered from vendor lock-in and too many devices.
“We need an area where vendors accept the fact we need a path away from their solution…We need less dependence on hardware and to be able to work with more software."
Another important but widely ignored challenge is the need to build organizational buy-in, a problem that is often accompanied by business process changes. According to Neal Secher, managing director and head of network architecture at BNY Mellon, "You need to partner with your business and show them the value. There's a snowball [effect] that will add value and allow you to add more automation. You need to prove through evidence that it works and won't hurt the business."
Understanding how to select, configure and operate within this new paradigm requires new technology, new technical skillsets and new management techniques. This trifecta of change cannot be easily assimilated within most large organizations. This is why IBM IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) can often provide critical advice, assistance and technology.
ITaaS is an approach for defining and consuming digital services through a hybrid cloud infrastructure. This approach has often shown itself as the most cost effective path toward workload optimization. When used as part of a holistic strategy, hybrid cloud infrastructures can deliver multiple levels of value by:
- Delivering programmable, virtualized and application-centric networking capability;
- Managing the corporate mobile infrastructure and Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) initiatives;
- Modernizing and optimizing the IT security program for identity, application, data, network, and endpoint security in a way that manages risk and achieves compliance; and
- Enabling a shift of executive focus from infrastructure maintenance towards the creation of innovative products and services.
Hybrid cloud environment alone, however, aren’t able to maximize the value of digital transformation. To do that you may also need to consider cloud brokerage capability. This tool can be used to plan, procure, govern and manage all IT services across all cloud models. To avoid vendor lock-in, this service can also be exercised across multiple IT service providers.
Software defined infrastructures can deliver infrastructure optimization and enhanced IT services at a reduced cost. Organizations that opt to take advantage of this new operational model should, however, seriously consider taking the ITaaS route.
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