By Rob Price, Digital Infrastructure Director LUK&I, Logicalis
The pace of change in IT over the past few years has been truly staggering. Cloud based services, the rise of the Internet of Things, software defined technologies and the hugely concerning increase in cyber crime, to name but a few.
Of course, the pace of change in technology terms is itself driven by the need for businesses to digitise. Every single organisation now has a digital strategy. It may be the desire to drive new customer experiences, it may be the need to optimise the workforce and the workplace, or it may be the requirement to improve operational efficiency. Of course, in many cases it can and will be a combination of all three of these.
In every case, as customers digitise their businesses, the burden being placed on IT to provide a platform capable of supporting these requirements also increases.
From a networking perspective, after many years where the design, implementation and operation of networks remained largely unchanged, the past few years have seen a radical rethinking of networking in the shape of software defined technologies.
Logicalis have defined a blueprint for state of the art IT called the Intelligent Digital Framework (IDF). The IDF defines several attributes that a modern IT infrastructure must exhibit.
Firstly, Agility. The modern IT infrastructure needs to be agile to meet the demands being placed upon it by increasingly digitally driven business outcomes. In reality, legacy IT infrastructures lack flexibility. Most IT organisations spend the majority of their time, resources and budget on day to day operational tasks, leaving little or no time to drive true digital business outcomes. Software defined infrastructures, whilst unarguably complex in their design and deployment, will radically reduce operational complexity. Moves, Adds and Changes to the network, which would have previously required a carefully planned change control window (usually in the small hours of the morning on a weekend) will now be accomplished quickly with no risk via a few mouse clicks on a centralised controller platform.
When we combine this ease of operation with programmability via open APIs, we will be able to easily accomplish day to day operational tasks, add automation and orchestration capabilities, further reducing operational burdens, and quickly integrate multiple systems to provide a seamless, policy driven end to end digital platform. Today, multiple software defined domains exist. Technologies such as Cisco’s SDA, ACI and SD-WAN all operate in relative isolation from one another. In the future, we will see much greater integration between these domains in the shape of a multi-domain architecture. Imagine being able to go to a single controller platform, define a policy that you want to apply to the entire IT infrastructure (the campus, the branch, the datacentre, the cloud, remote / mobile users, etc.), and have that policy quickly and safely deployed wherever it is needed.
The second attribute of the IDF is Security. The proliferation of Cyber Crime over the past few years has been truly staggering. Rarely does a week go by without another high profile cyber attack being reported in the mainstream media. Every single IT professional understands the need for security, but such is the increase in cyber crime, that most business leaders understand the issue as well. In fact, cyber crime and cyber security is now a board level issue. There is not a CEO on the planet who isn’t worried about his or her company being the next one on the front page of a national newspaper because of a cyber security breach.
For a long time, security was “bolted on” to IT solutions. Today we take a very different approach to security with capabilities like macro and micro segmentation and technologies like StealthWatch built directly into the fabric of the network. It is our belief that every IT project should be treated as a security project. That is to say that security can no longer be considered as optional and must be built in “by design” to our IT infrastructures. You can learn more on the changing threat landscape in our latest eBook here.
The final element of the IDF is Observability. Reliance on digital technologies to drive business outcomes becomes critical, as it increases our ability to understand any, and all, issues that could adversely affect those desired results. Whether it be understanding issues within an application itself (potentially right down to individual lines of code), monitoring infrastructure resources (CPU, Memory, storage, etc.) and quickly adding or removing resources as required, or clearly visualising the full network path between a user and the application they are accessing, we need to deploy a set of tools that in essence, drive a single outcome. That outcome is optimal user experience.
So, how do we deliver an Agile, Secure and Observable digital platform to the customer. Here at Logicalis we implement a three-stage process:
In the align phase we work closely with our customer to understand their current requirements. We can deploy a wide variety of consultative, advisory and assessment services to help the customer to make the right decisions. A major factor in the align phase is to educate the customer on the art of the possible.
In the transform stage, we take all of the intelligence gathered in the align phase, and working with the customer, design and implement the best possible solution for them.
Finally, in the scale phase, we continue to work with the customer once the solution has been implemented. Through a comprehensive customer success program, we ensure that the customer fully adopts all of the technologies that that have purchased. It is a sad fact, that many IT projects realise only a fraction of the capabilities of the technology that has been implemented. Many features and capabilities that would increase the value of the solution are simply never turned on. Logicalis seeks to work closely with the customer to ensure that they realise the FULL potential of their investment. We all ensure that we help the customer to continuously iterate their IT environment, ensuring that it remains as fit for purpose throughout its lifecycle as it was on the day it was implemented.
As stated previously, most IT organisations spend most of their time, resources and budget “keeping the lights on” and “fighting fires”. This leaves them little or no time to drive innovation for their business. Because of this, IT is usually viewed within its own organisations as a cost centre and rarely, if ever, a value centre. It is no understatement to say that these technologies have the ability to remove many of the day to day operational burdens that IT departments are faced with, and this in turn allows IT to begin to drive digital innovation, and to start to be seen as a value centre.
Using this Intelligent Digital Framework, IT will be able to pivot away from the question of “how do we keep this running?”, to the question, “what can we do with this?”. When implementing a new IT project, IT will gather requirement from the business, enter into a procurement process, select a partner to work with and implement the solution. Crucially, the solution will have been built to meet the requirements captured in the early phases of the procurement process. If we can build enough of the above attributes into the solution, not only will it be able to support the requirements that were originally defined, but it will also be flexible enough to meet new requirements as they arise.
If you are interested to learn more, get in touch with Logicalis today to see how the Intelligent Digital Framework can help digitise your business and enable IT to become a value centre in your organisation.