Data infrastructure has always been the rock that supported higher-level functions that in turn drove productivity and successful business outcomes.
That role has not changed in the age of virtual distributed architectures, but the way in which the enterprise approaches the design and provisioning of infrastructure has. Gone are the days of one-style-fits-all infrastructure and the only remaining question is how much storage, how many servers and what level of networking is required. These days, we have a plethora of infrastructure and architecture options to choose from, and the enterprise is capitalizing on the ability to craft specialty environments to suit individual tasks.
Atlantic.Net’s Marty Puranik named the rise of specialty infrastructure as one of the top developments in the cloud for the coming year as organizations look for more than simple commodity hardware and general-purpose software. Instead, optimized solutions for Hadoop, Docker, Ceph and other leading applications are on the rise, offering not only the advanced capabilities needed for Big Data, collaboration and the like, but also the ability to provision and integrate disparate elements into a working environment in short order. It’s the difference between buying a cake and gathering all the ingredients and baking it in your own oven.
This kind of structural flexibility will be of tremendous help when the enterprise confronts Big Data in earnest, says Reltio CEO Manish Sood. As he explains it to the Enterprise Project, simply building a large pool of storage to feed various analytics platforms will saddle the enterprise with a slow and costly solution. But by aligning infrastructure with select management platforms and a robust set of governance and data handling policies, you can establish an insightful Big Data stack capable of identifying key relationships in the data coming from multiple sources and then turn it into actionable information in a more timely fashion.
Infrastructure can also be tailored to emerging communications and collaboration challenges, according to NetScout’s Michael Segal. Many organizations are already adopting Communications and Collaboration Infrastructure (CCI) as a means to integrate disparate business teams, even temporarily, in order to streamline workflows, foster a broader exchange of ideas and enhance individuals’ focus on common goals. CCI brings together diverse elements like IP telephony, email, voice and videoconferencing, as well as instant messaging and application/data sharing, so most efforts to date involve setting long-term goals and establishing a roadmap. But ultimately, it should go a long way toward streamlining the flow of information across disparate groups and reducing the overlap and over-provisioning that hampers collaborative efforts at the moment.
And since more of the data load is gravitating toward the cloud, many providers are working diligently to craft working environments that address specific needs, thus enabling the enterprise to pick and choose from a variety of options for any given workload. Service broker immixGroup, which specializes in business-government interactivity, recently added no less than 10 new mobility and infrastructure vendors to its line-up, each focusing on a unique use case. Adcom Technologies, for one, provides integration between enterprise networks and telecom infrastructure, while Coho Data takes care of high-performance, web-scale storage. The goal is to package services and other tools according to what they can achieve, rather than what kind of technology they employ.
The rise of specialized infrastructure is at heart a function of the cloud. As the enterprise moves ever deeper into virtualized, distributed architectures, crafting a top-to-bottom environment tailored to the task at hand becomes easier and more affordable. This is essentially the enterprise entering the modern age by demanding finished products rather than the raw materials to cobble together their own solutions.
Rather than acquiring a tool for every task, we’ll soon be buying an infrastructure to accomplish every goal.
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.