I have to admit that I’m really excited to see what the IT department of 2025 will look like, particularly as today’s trends become tomorrow’s reality. Specifically, I’m intrigued to see tomorrow’s outcomes that will result from today’s tinkering with software-led infrastructure. History has already seen what can come when one area of IT – the server – is untethered from its hardware shackles and remade as a software instance. With such abstraction, entire servers can be more easily manipulated, particularly as the hypervisor becomes the “bare metal” of the data center.
Software led servers lead the way
The list of workload management opportunities that have arisen since the advent of the x86-based hypervisor include:
- Administrators can adjust virtual machine resource constraints with just a few mouse clicks.
- When coupled with operating system improvements over the past decade, resources can be added to running virtual machines at any time and without workload disruption.
- Entire workloads can be migrated to new hardware or to new data centers in just seconds, enabling all kinds of recovery opportunities.
- When coupled with other technologies that have risen as a part of the vast virtualization ecosystem, virtual workloads can, for example, be configured to take proactive steps in the event of a power outage or other events.
Storage and networking catching up
Today’s market is filled with vendors selling software-led everything. Storage and networking are two areas of the IT spectrum that are ready for the kinds of improvements that a software layer can bring to the picture. Wikibon has a number of resources to help readers learn about both software-led storage and software-led networking.
The key to the future is the software-led nature of emerging products. These products, and their software-based nature, will lend themselves to the kind of scripting that makes UNIX administrators today look like magicians. With a few lines of code, these enchanters seem to make the operating system bend to their well. However, the future goes way beyond scripting.
In the future, infrastructure will be:
- Application aware: Infrastructure will have sufficient insight into application needs to work around any network issues that may arise, will be able to automatically deploy the virtual machines needed to support the application, and will be able to create an appropriate storage environment for said application.
- Disaster-resistant: Today, organizations take great pains to ensure that applications and data centers can be recovered in the event of a disaster. Organizations strive to maintain as close to real-time as possible synchronization between various sites to keep RTO and RPO as low as possible. In the future, the infrastructure itself will be able to avoid disaster and maintain application availability without the need for IT staff to intervene.
- Business-friendly: The application-aware nature of tomorrow’s infrastructure, coupled with disaster resistance, will make the data center a much more business-focused service, particularly when coupled with hybrid cloud providers. The infrastructure will be able to adapt quickly to changes in demand using rules that ensure cost efficiency and availability.
In the meantime
The rise of the DevOps movement brings a programmatic mentality to IT operations. In essence, developers, QA staff, and IT operations staff work together to support applications, anticipating and reacting to application needs as they arise. It is a collaborative approach to application development and support. With the focus of all three groups, applications – even those developed today – should enjoy a great deal of “awareness” in the data center, even if that awareness just comes from the people and not the equipment. There is no reason that people can’t bake much of what was discussed earlier in this article into today’s applications, although it would still be nice if it was a bit more automatic. And, studies show that DevOps has a real impact on the business.
Action Item: Many of today’s efforts – Puppet Labs, System Center Orchestrator, VMware vCenter Orchestrator – help bridge the gap from legacy software and development methodologies to more mature arrangements that are able to provide some level of automation to the environment. As the infrastructure becomes more and more software-led, restrictive hardware components might be replaced with software constructs, enabling deeper automation and deeper application awareness. These are very much converging themes that will provide tomorrow’s CIO with a huge toolbox from which to operate. For today, I urge CIOs to consider workload automation technologies and to encourage more collaboration between the IT units that are focused on the application lifecycle. Begin to break down the silos and implement a collaborative culture inside IT.