IT’s Role in an Automated, Software-Driven Enterprise

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    It’s been said that in the near future the enterprise won’t need to worry about hardware – data productivity will be driven by software-defined architectures sitting atop dumb, commodity boxes.

    It’s also been said that before too long the enterprise won’t have to worry about architectures or middleware either – just push everything into the cloud and let someone else deal with service provisioning.

    And now we have knowledge workers accessing enterprise resources through their own preferred client devices, easing up on the requirement to supply everyone with a PC.

    So if these trends continue, what exactly will the enterprise be responsible for when all is said and done?

    Not much, other than making money through core business processes, according to Gartner’s David Cappuccio. Speaking at the company’s annual data center management summit in Las Vegas recently, Cappuccio said the best thing for the enterprise to do is forget about hardware, forget about software, forget about infrastructure in general and start thinking about achieving key tasks that help your business grow. By treating infrastructure as a toolkit, IT will be able to mix and match the resources needed to support business objectives, regardless of whether data resides in-house, on the cloud or a combination of both.

    This is, in fact, the strategy that many long-time hardware vendors are starting to adopt, primarily through initiatives like “composable infrastructure.” HP, for instance, is touting its new line of Synergy servers that rely on hardware-level APIs to carry workloads across enterprise infrastructure and that of key partners like Microsoft Azure. In this way, all the enterprise really needs to concern itself with is the API to create data ecosystems using everything from fabric-based networking to advanced virtual machine and container architectures, all of which can be reconfigured in seconds to accommodate rapidly shifting data needs.

    EMC is taking a similar tack with its new RackHD system, even though the papers for its merger with Dell haven’t even been drawn up yet. The platform features a centralized API that handles the increasingly complex connectivity between commodity hardware systems, says Silicon Angle’s Maria Deutscher. At the moment, the project covers various Dell and non-Dell x86 servers while integrating directly with EMC’s existing ViPR storage management stack. Networking is expected to be added in the near future, giving the enterprise the ability to manage end-to-end computing environments from a single API layer.

    One interesting side note in the shifting hardware landscape is the way in which traditional software vendors have gained in importance. A key example is Microsoft, which is on track to take command of the client side with products like the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, says IT analyst Motek Moyen. With Apple still struggling to make a compelling case for its iWork software suite, and Google’s Alphabet barely off the ground, Microsoft is pretty much unchecked in the enterprise. If anything, Redmond may encounter supply problems with its hardware because demand is so high.

    These kinds of market conditions can turn on a dime, however, and suddenly last year’s hot item is this year’s dinosaur (cough, RIM). But the overarching trend is clear: Enterprise IT needs to repurpose itself for a dynamic, commoditized infrastructure environment if it hopes to remain relevant to the business process.

    By navigating this transition successfully, however, it should provide even greater value to the front office than is possible with today’s rigid, inflexible infrastructures.

    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 and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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