Getting From Here To There Is The Next Technology Frontier

It’s no secret that the IT industry is changing at a pace that seems to accelerate with every passing year.  At VMworld 2013, Carl Eschenbach, COO of VMware, gave the keynote address and discussed what the future of how IT should be operated.  He focused on three main points:

  • Ensuring that virtualization extends to all of IT.
  • Replacing the current IT management paradigm with a future based on automation.
  • Ubiquity of the hybrid cloud.

Today, though, there is a significant delta that needs to be closed by many organizations before this aggregated future state can be achieved.  However, based on my own experience and observation, it appears as if customers are on board with these needs and are headed in the right direction.  In this article, I will discuss some of my direct experience.

A little background

When I’m not writing, I do a lot of consulting that encompasses both IT strategy and IT logistics and do everything from advise CEOs and CIOs on where they need to go to designing and implementing tools such as vSphere and System Center.  I’m often asked why I do both consulting and writing and the answer is simple: One informs the other.  I love writing and sharing ideas with people and consulting helps to keep me grounded and focused on what’s happening in the here and now in order to be able to provide actionable advice on how to get to tomorrow.

I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing out in the real world.  I’ve done more System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Operations Manager (SCOM) work in the past year than ever before.  I’m receiving regular requests for assistance with Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) for identity management and self-service password reset purposes.  And, my clients are pushing their virtual environments further than ever before and, believe it or not, some are using Hyper-V as their hypervisor of choice and are happy with it.

SCCM = Desktop management

It seems like SCCM used to be a medium to larger organizational tool due to the complexity of deploying the product end to end, but Microsoft has significantly simplified the tool in recent years to make it much more accessible to smaller organizations.  Further, Microsoft used to provide System Center Essentials (SCE) as a solution to the SMB, a product that has been discontinued.  SCE provided organizations with a subset of SCCM functionality, but since the discontinuation of SCE, Microsoft has started moving customers to SCCM and they’ve been adopting it.

Obviously, there are far more such tools than just SCCM on the market, including Dell’s KACE tool, Symantec’s Altiris, and Kaceya.

But, the tool itself doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that organizations are getting on board with ways to automate what can be tedious manual processes.  There is a realization that the tools are there for organizations to leverage to simplify the desktop minefield.  There have been far too many organizations that use manual processes – such as walking around installing software – for which there is no true value add to the organization.  Desktop management tools provide companies with a way to reduce the effort and cost of managing the desktop environment, thus freeing up valuable IT resources r other tasks.

FIM = Identity management

Besides managing printers, one of the most boring tasks in IT is account management.  As organizations continue to look outside the organization for services to meet niche needs, the issue of managing at the identity level – rather than at the individual account level – increases in importance for a number of reasons.  First, the more accounts a user has, the more likely it is that the user will take shortcuts with passwords, which increases an organizations exposure.  Second, every time a new service is added, there are a host of new processes to deal with as those accounts are considered as a part of an overall identity lifecycle.

Identity management undertakings are about more than just IT and are a sign that an organization is moving into a mode that calls for more automation of organization-wide business processes.  That’s one of the things that I like about identity management; it’s an organization-wide effort that requires deep interaction between IT and HR and is a visible project that has outcomes that most people can grasp.  By doing this well, it helps to demonstrate to the organization that IT can do more than just what people consider normal IT tasks.

In addition, some identity management tools include a self-service password reset component that further enables the business and automates what can be another onerous IT workload.  I know very few people that really enjoy constantly resetting user passwords.  And, forgotten passwords are a time and money sink for both IT and for the employee that is unable to get his work done while he waits for a password to be reset.

VDI = Ubiquitous computing

To say that virtualization is spreading to encompass more workloads would be an understatement.  Even the VDI realm is growing as new options hit the market and simplify what can be a difficult state to achieve.  VDI projects have been notorious for their challenges.  However, this increasing expansion of virtualization isn’t just at the desktop.  Organizations are virtualizing even their largest workloads in order to achieve the many benefits of virtualization, a trend that will continue to expand.

Hybrid cloud

When it comes to cloud-based services, perhaps the biggest area I see action is in the backup, recovery, and disaster recovery space.  In addition, I do see organizations consuming pure cloud services such as Office 365 and Google Apps.  I am seeing a demand for hosted applications that integrate tightly into on-premises systems, but I hesitate to call what I’m seeing hybrid cloud, although it may morph into such a service at a later time.

What to do

Eschenbach has it right in his three main points, although the hybrid cloud seems like it will be slower on the uptake than is being seen with the expansion of virtualization into new areas and the desire to automate some IT operations.  For organizations that have yet to seriously embark on virtualization expansion and automation efforts, the time is now to start considering options on this front.  Getting from a current state to the one described by Eschenbach is going to become increasingly important as time goes on.