If you had to say something nice about the shadow IT trend, it’s that good intentions are at the root of it. Which is cold comfort if those well-intentioned efforts compromise your security or scalability by making end-runs around existing IT protocols.
Shifting from the traditional model of IT delivery to software-defined data centers (SDDCs) has emerged as the best method for eliminating shadow IT. SDDC, the underpinning of private cloud, offers great agility and responsiveness for IT organizations fending off the incursions into shadow IT that a company’s workforce makes when IT service delivery through proper channels is too slow or cumbersome a process.
And here’s the thing about incorporating a private cloud into your IT infrastructure: There’s no need to rip and replace the legacy architecture your company has invested heavily in over years of budget cycles.
Gartner, in its industry-standard IT Glossary, coined the term Bimodal IT to describe this process of addressing the need for exploratory, non-linear, cloud-based IT (Mode 2) while not abandoning the traditional, sequential systems (Mode 1) upon which your business already relies.
In Bimodal IT, your legacy infrastructure is augmented with an SDDC-based private cloud. This model, IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS), integrates the cloud-first speed and scalability that allows your company to be more responsive and, as a result, eliminates the user impatience that is the primary motivation for adopting shadow IT.
Successful deployment of SDDC depends on the infrastructure supporting it. The key concept in this is “integrated systems” – converged and hyper-converged infrastructure choices that package the main components of the data center – server, storage, network – in a single, factory-assembled unit engineered to deliver the agility and scalability that SDDC promises.
Integrated systems come in a variety of sizes and configurations, purpose-built for a variety of deployment scenarios. The range of options tends to be bookended by the following:
- Hyper-converged infrastructure appliances. Compact, affordable, and easy-to-deploy private-cloud-in-a-box offerings designed to deliver quantifiable units of SDDC capacity to provide core data-center functionality or cloud-based support for specific workloads like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or DevOps environments.
- Enterprise-grade converged infrastructure offerings. Highly customizable infrastructure solutions designed to handle the gamut of data center workloads (inclusive of the most mission-critical, complex applications) deployed by companies with thousands of workers spread out over multiple geographies.
In between, you’ll find hybrid solutions that combine the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of the hyper-converged infrastructure appliance with the robust scalability and customizability of the enterprise-grade converged infrastructure option.
If your company is looking at integrated systems to support the transition to private cloud, you should consider the following criteria:
- First, find an IT infrastructure solutions provider that offers a broad family of reliable IT solutions that address both legacy systems focused on security and accuracy, as well as nonlinear, cloud-based systems. You’ll be able to migrate some workloads to the cloud now while assuring your investments won’t be in vain when you are ready to expand your cloud capacity in the future.
- Next, make sure the provider offers solutions with the agility to scale capacity up and down quickly as business needs demand. A high degree of automation will give you the responsiveness needed to stave off shadow IT.
- Finally, the integrated systems must be both simple and flexible. Because you will be working across platforms, the solutions you choose will need to allow for easy migration of workloads among those platforms. This requires robust management and orchestration capabilities to ensure the solution is responsive to your changing demands.
We won’t judge if you just raised an eyebrow at this list and said, “Gosh, is that all?” There’s no question that moving from your existing data center architecture to a cloud model supported by integrated infrastructure can be a daunting prospect. However, it’s a process that we have gone through ourselves at both Hitachi Data Systems and VMware. Foremost among the wisdom we have garnered along the way is the importance of adopting an IT infrastructure solution that offers centralized management, orchestration, and automation tools for both legacy and cloud-based platforms. Planning a bimodal approach now with an integrated systems solution engineered to address the full range of Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 workloads through a single management interface gives you the flexibility to right-size your cloud transition at the outset and grow in a predictable manner.
Your converged or hyper-converged infrastructure choice is made easier by a bimodal approach because you can determine the precise compute, storage, and networking capacities needed to serve your core business requirements today, knowing you’ll have the flexibility to address changing requirements tomorrow. This also can lead to consolidation of more disjointed legacy platforms over time, which makes it easier to scale up capacity and increase operational efficiency for enterprise workloads.
Fans of an incremental approach to private cloud will like the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) appliance. HCI appliances are built with commodity x86 hardware in a compact form factor, and the compute, networking, and storage resources are pooled in a software-centric design. These HCI appliances are fast and easy to implement, and they give your IT administrator the flexibility to scale those capacities quickly and precisely to meet new demand, simply by stacking them like building blocks in your existing data center.
We think this incremental approach is beautiful. The first time you watch your company quickly and easily scale up or down to achieve optimal capacity, within budget, and without overprovisioning, you’ll see the beauty, too.
Whether you are ready for a full-scale enterprise data center solution, looking to stand up satellite data centers in regional offices where you don’t have a large IT presence on site, hoping to provision a DevOps team with agile IT services, or needing to improve your workforce’s productivity through applications like VDI, the right cloud model, supported by the right family of integrated IT systems, will put you on the path to conquering Bimodal IT.
There is no doubt that, at some point, IT services delivery will be entirely based in the cloud. But Bimodal IT is reality for the foreseeable future, and the enterprise IT organization that selects infrastructure solutions that can service both modes is the one that will remain relevant and effective.
Skip Bacon is Vice President, Products – Storage and Availability at VMware, and Bob Madaio is Senior Director, Infrastructure Platforms Marketing, at Hitachi Data Systems. Their two companies collaborated on the Unified Compute Platform for vSphere family of Bimodal IT solutions. More information is available here.
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