When the conversation turns to storage, and the discussion devolved into speeds and weeds, CIOs' eyes glaze over. That was one of the important conclusions of the March 23, 2010 Peer Incite. One CIO stated in a recent discussion with Wikibon, "Infrastructure is evil." Our guest, former CIO Omer Perra's response: "But it's a necessary evil."
In an era of convergence, practitioners cannot view storage in isolation. Storage needs and strategies must be integrated with the other elements of the data center -- processing power, the network, facilities -- and viewed as a total system. Only a holistic view can allow decisions about infrastructure to be credibly related to the value of information.
CIO's should continually press infrastructure heads to answer the question: What’s the best way to deliver value to the users? Speeds and feeds are nice, but the key question is: What does it do for the business? Increase revenue? Cut cost? Reduce risk? By how much? How long will it take to realize the benefits? Who absorbs the risk of moving forward, and can I share these risks with my vendors?
Infrastructure is as an integrated set of components that tie to application service levels and ultimately business value. Only when it is viewed in this way can decisions be made regarding the placement of function into application stacks versus infrastructure (e.g. disk arrays). A key message that came out of our research and Peer Incite call is to endeavor to make infrastructure decisions in the context of the value of information, how it is used, how widely, by whom, and how its value can be protected and enhanced.
While the the general direction of the so-called open systems industry to enable infrastructure-as-a-service (essentially making infrastructure invisible), the architecture lacks the ability to manage infrastructure at the application level. VMware specifically, and to a certain extent Hyper-V, have roadmaps in place to fill this gap, and the general direction is clear -- infrastructure services that enhance application availability, performance and simplicity will thrive in the next decade.
Action Item: CIOs need to push infrastructure heads to think about an integrated stack of services and tie infrastructure services (e.g. storage services) and application function together. For the time being, case-by-case judgments must be made about where to apply services-- within infrastructure or embedded in application stacks (e.g. Oracle and Microsoft). When choosing application-centric approaches, be aware that costs will go up at scale, so make sure you have a clear business value justification for the strategy.