Software-Led Infrastructure Brings Revolution in IT Infrastructure

With the evolving software-led infrastructure (SLI), IT is on the verge of a revolution as great as that driven by the Internet in the last two decades, writes Wikibon CTO David Floyer in his latest Alert, “Defining Software-led Infrastructure”.  Floyer, who has worked in the leading edge areas, including server and network virtualization and sold-state persistent storage, that are now coalescing into the basis for SLI, presents a comprehensive vision of the data center of the future in which:

  • The data center will allocate resources dynamically to meet rapidly changing business demands;
  • Today’s technological silos will be broken down, with all devices managed from a single point-of-control to synchronize tasks across multiple IT environments;
  • IT operations will be highly automated, allowing companies to decrease the labor costs of IT, which in many companies amount to 60% of the total IT budget;
  • Process change will become as important as new technology adoption as IT works closely with LOBs to encapsulate SLA requires at the application level;
  • Applications will be delivered as services within a catalog of IT resources directly available to the IT budget holder.

Of course the vision of a services-driven data center is not new in itself. What makes SLI different, he writes, is:

  • Pervasive virtualization and encapsulation,
  • Software Defined Networking (SDN),
  • Unified metadata about system, application, and data,
  • Distributed high-performance persistent storage, and,
  • Increasingly intelligent data management capabilities.

SLI will form the underpinning for application portability and functionality, data placement, and automation within and between data centers to optimize for:

  • Speed, performance, or time-to-market,
  • Availability and/or business continuity,
  • Efficiency and cost reduction, and,
  • Business and IT productivity.

This is obviously disruptive, and Floyer warns that CIOs and CTOs need to get on board if their companies are to be competitive in the next decade. Today most of the base technologies are still in various stages of evolution, and the entire SLI environment is not yet nearly ready for prime time. But this is the time to prepare for this eventual transition. Floyer provides several recommendations to guide CIOs over the next several years, so that their organizations can be ready to capitalize on SLI:

  • Choose vendors that open up all their hardware to standard APIs to ensure that the technology can be reused as part of an SLI architecture.
  • Rethink both price- and public-cloud investments based on cost comparisons and the ability to share metadata, and insist on internal ownership of that metadata.
  • Align the SLI migration strategy with the Big Data strategy and revisit this to maintain that relationship as the technologies and markets evolve to make SLI a key enabler of Big Data projects rather than a replacement.
  • Work with ISVs that have adopted SLI architectures as part of their future roadmap.

CIOs and CTOs should move quickly to assess their existing IT strategy so that it focuses on the business impact of SLI, particularly as it relates to new projects and applications. “Cost savings from commodity hardware and a reduction in manual tasks by administrators will be an important element of the business case. However, it is the ability to build new applications and access data in real-time that will lead to significant business value delivery.”

This alert is the first in a series of Wikibon research pieces focused on the implications and opportunities of this dramatic evolution. Like all Wikibon research, it is available without charge on the Wikibon Web site. IT professionals are invited to register for free membership in the Wikibon community, which allows them to post comments on and make corrections to research and post their own questions, tips, Professional Alerts, and white papers. It also allows them to participate in the frequent Wikibon Peer Incite meetings and receive the Peer Incite newsletter.