IT’s Next Big Challenge: Service-Level Management

Arthur Cole
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Five Ways Service Management Combats M&A Hurdles

Cloud computing and modular infrastructure are working hand-in-hand to remove the hassles of physical infrastructure from the enterprise’s list of concerns.

If it all goes as planned, the loss of any one server, storage or networking component will cease to be the service-killing event that drives IT into a state of near-insanity. If a piece goes down, an automation system simply reroutes traffic to another module and a replacement device is swapped in at IT’s leisure, perhaps by a robotic arm.

But that does not mean IT is on easy street. Rather, responsibility for the smooth flow of data simply travels up the stack, to the application and service layers, to be precise. And exactly how the enterprise prepares for data management on that level will go a long way toward determining how well the bosses in the executive suite can fulfill their business models.

A key challenge will be coordinating application activity across public, private and hybrid infrastructure. Cloud providers like Google are helping in this regard with new message-oriented middleware, currently in beta, that allows apps to communicate across the Google Cloud Platform. The Google Cloud Pub/Sub (publish and subscribe) system removes the need to build service dependencies directly into applications, which eases the burden on developers and accommodates dynamic changes to the computing environment such as data inputs, formats and security policies. It also facilitates key management tasks like workload balancing, distributed caching and multi-system access.

Meanwhile, IBM is reworking its traditional data center middleware to incorporate greater cloud functionality with an eye toward coordinating data environments across multiple clouds and service architectures. As the company’s Don Boulia, vice president of cloud services, explained it to Silicon Angle recently, the idea is to bridge legacy infrastructure (systems of record) with advanced cloud platforms (systems of engagement). A key goal is to foster data portability between traditional infrastructure, the cloud and even advanced mobile architectures so that advanced capabilities can be applied to the wealth of information the enterprise has built up over the years. To bring this about, expect IBM to focus on middleware functions like run time management, messaging and integration, as well as performance monitoring and system management.

New container-based virtual solutions are also starting to hone in on the needs of dynamic data and application environments. Docker recently expanded its management portfolio with downloadable versions of its Machine, Swarm and Compose 1.1 orchestration tools which, along with partner providers like AWS, Google and Microsoft, are intended to provide 100 percent application portability across distributed ecosystems. The company is aiming at nothing less than the ability to support “dockerized” applications on any physical or virtual machine across multiple clouds and over a full lifecycle of test/dev and production platforms.


And Cisco and Microsoft are teaming up to integrate the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) into the Azure Cloud, a move that should provide SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services coordination across multiple clouds, says Light Reading’s Sarah Thomas. The two companies have been working on an integrated stack for over a year, leveraging ACI’s abstract policy management tools and the company’s Intercloud platform to foster an interoperable ecosystem covering in-house, cloud and even carrier infrastructure. For cloud providers like Microsoft, a key benefit of the arrangement is that it allows them to focus on services development and deployment rather than systems integration.

For many enterprises, just coordinating activity across the data center and one cloud is challenging enough. With knowledge workers now routinely provisioning their own clouds to house corporate data, keeping tabs on all applications, services and infrastructure will be downright impossible without a highly sophisticated management stack.

The first step in reining in the cloud is to provide the tools and services that employees require to fulfill their tasks, so they stop seeking them elsewhere. The next big push will be to integrate those services on a common platform so that individual productivity can be united to achieve organizational goals.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.

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