After 20-plus years as an IT practitioner, I see a rapid pace of change in our infrastructure operations that presents more challenges and opportunities than I ever saw in the past. As the director of our Customer-1 program-which serves as a first adopter of NetApp products and services in our production environment-I’m amazed at what we can do today that we couldn’t do in the past. I’ve seen an upsurge in new technologies that I wouldn’t have dreamed of even five years ago.
Long gone are the days when we solved a problem by throwing bodies at the issue. We pre-provisioned our hardware in anticipation of future demands. We installed two physical pieces of hardware per application to support redundancy and failover in our large data centers. That’s an expensive cost model to sustain. The new model requires us to mentally change the way we operate. We need to use automation and change processes to speed service delivery. We are moving from reactive to proactive mode and eliminating the red tape. Here are some other trends that I see in today’s infrastructure environment:
Virtualization saves the day. Remember the days of dedicated hosts and the 1:1 environments that took up multiple racks and gobbled up lots of power? Those days are no more. We now have the ability to deploy hundreds of hosts within a single rack, consuming less power while offering more flexibility. Tools and technologies, along with simple form factors that have doubled the compute power, allow us to become creative.
With this creativity comes cost savings: lower power requirements, less cabling, fewer network connections, and a much smaller footprint to manage. We use software like OnCommand® Insight (OCI) and ONTAP® to manage more devices with fewer people. In the next 18 to 24 months, we anticipate that our hardware footprint will shrink by more than 50% because of virtualization, the cloud, and our adoption of flash over spinning disk for storage. The era of huge Tier-4 data centers with enough power to light up a small city is going away.
Cloudy skies are in the forecast. There’s no doubt that the cloud has forced us to look at infrastructure in an entirely new way. Certain business scenarios require a private cloud environment, while others make public cloud offerings more desirable. By offering a flexible hybrid solution we don’t paint ourselves or our customers into a corner. With OpenStack technologies and a cloud management platform, the sky’s the limit. For those environments, the pay-as-you-go or utility model is much more cost efficient than capital investment.
NetApp Private Storage (NPS) for Cloud and the Data Fabric allow us to pivot in and out of the cloud, or between clouds, while retaining control of our data and not getting locked into one vendor. NPS provides a single, standard software platform to accommodate changing compute demands and the capability to manage information regardless if it’s on premises or off. Moving forward, application development will need to think hybrid cloud rather than investing in hardware with redundant resources. They will need to configure their processes using Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) methodologies that will operationalize and scale as demand grows.
Open source creates new opportunities. Open source has entered the mainstream. It is stable enough to use in a large IT environment. It puts the control back into the hands of engineers and architects. We can customize the code internally to our needs and provide internal support, bypassing expensive maintenance agreements. Open source offers faster procurement and implementation cycles. We can save big dollars avoiding licensing fees. Open source also opens the door to a new level of standardization that allows us to refocus our priorities. Moving from proprietary to modular, open source solutions will be a big battle because of the costs associated with exiting proprietary vendor relationships. Our challenge will be to demonstrate that the long-term savings are worth it.
Security remains a top priority. As we continue to grow in the public cloud and hybrid model, security is our No.1 threat. How do we monitor our network when it’s partly on premises in our private cloud and partly off-site in the public cloud? While the ecosystem is becoming simplified, monitoring and keeping the bad guys out is not. Cyber-defense will be one of the next big challenges of IT. Cyber solutions increasingly include cloud-based solutions which continue to improve at a rapid pace. Staying vigilant is key.
IT is about solving real business problems. Customer-1 is the first adopter of NetApp products. But, like any IT shop, we only install products with a real business case. ONTAP and OCI have added tremendous value in improving the efficiency and stability of our production environment. I’d like to add AltaVault® and StorageGRID®, NetApp’s data backup and protection solutions, to the list. We will reduce our operating expenses and support costs by moving from tape backup to the cloud for data archiving. These products are part of our portfolio because they solve a real business problem, are easily integrated, and fall in line with our product roadmap.
We are facing change at an unprecedented level with our infrastructure environment. Customer-1 has the opportunity to be at the forefront in providing a stable infrastructure foundation that supports a hybrid cloud strategy where we manage and control our data. Open source, virtualization, and NetApp technologies are all contributing to our success on this journey where the end goal of delivering excellent IT service will help our business grow and prosper.
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