IT’s Role in the Self-Service Enterprise

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    Rethinking Application Performance in the Digital Business Era

    In the very near future, data infrastructure and architecture will need to be provisioned, tested, populated and integrated into the surrounding environment at a moment’s notice. And as the business office comes to realize the power this brings to their work processes, demand for this level of functionality will skyrocket.

    This puts IT in a difficult position. As pressure builds to cut budgets, fewer technicians will be on hand to implement these resources. Sure, automation will take care of much of the basic patching and defining, but IT will still need to be on hand to oversee the deployment and usage of data resources. Or will it?

    Increasingly, the interfaces needed to manage data infrastructure and architecture are becoming more user-friendly. The aim is to put the power of digital resources into the hands of business users with text and graphics they can understand so they can quickly and easily do for themselves what currently takes a team of technicians to do.

    A case in point is the Corso architecture management platform, designed to leverage SaaS and other cloud-based tools to plan, build and analyze data assets and their relationship to strategic business objectives. A key component is the user interface, which features intuitive navigation, improved list view and search capabilities and broad collaborative toolsets to engage multiple stakeholders in the provisioning and management process. In this way, says CEO Martin Owen, the enterprise will be able to draw greater value from available data, and at a faster pace.

    To push this functionality across the data environment will still take a bit of work, however. PwC’s Jack Topdjian, Dirk Klemm, and Carl Drisko have identified a number of key steps to put Enterprise Architecture (EA) into the hands of business managers. For one, you’ll need to organize around new business teams featuring cross-functional capabilities and a strategic outlook. As well, infrastructure must be streamlined and silos must be destroyed, which will be no easy task when trying to avoid disruption of existing processes. And ultimately, a new corporate culture needs to emerge in which failure is not punished but success can be quickly scaled up to production environments.

    The self-service mandate is also likely to take root in Big Data, IoT and other heavy workflow functions, simply because the business cycle cannot wait for IT to accommodate everyone’s needs in turn. This is why new as-a-Service models are starting to emerge for many of these advanced architectures. The Altiscale Insight Cloud is one such entity. It is designed to take the complexity out of emerging data science platforms like Hadoop and Spark, giving ordinary business managers the ability to conduct queries, run analytics and create dynamic visualizations in ways that make sense to them. The platform can be linked to Tableau, Excel and other common business platforms, allowing processes to avoid the bottleneck of an overworked and understaffed IT department.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft is building similar functionality on its Azure Cloud with third-party platform developers like Datameer. The company announced recently that the Datameer Cloud Analytics-as-a-Service system is now available on Azure HDInsight, providing a fully managed architecture to integrate, analyze and operationalize data from virtually any source. The service can be set up in a matter of hours, providing self-service control of end-to-end workflows and immediate analysis through Microsoft’s Hadoop distribution – all without upfront hardware, technical staffing and admin costs. The platform also sits on a closed virtual network offering encryption, data masking, compliance and other services.

    All of this may be a little unsettling for IT techs. If they are not the ones managing data infrastructure and architecture, then what good are they? The truth, however, is that IT’s value to the enterprise will be greater than ever under a self-service regime, provided it can acquire the necessary skillsets for this new working environment.

    There will always be a need for a technical voice in any development project, primarily to offer guidance on the most efficient, effective means of supporting the business objective. And since those objectives usually revolve around either making money or lowering costs, IT now has the ability to become a full contributor to the core business model, not just another cost center that supports those who are doing the high-value work.

    And if handled properly, greater self-service will result in business units coming to IT for guidance and expertise, rather than demands and complaints.

    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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