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I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Gartner Data Center Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference in Las Vegas December 7th – 10th.  The sessions were very informative, providing insight into both high-level trends and tactical topics, including bimodal IT, cloud (both public and private) and converged/ hyperconverged infrastructure. I leveraged Twitter at the conference as a means of taking, and sharing, copious notes (@RobertNoel3). Here’s a look at the conference’s main themes:

Bimodal IT:

Bimodal IT is a topic that Gartner has been discussing at length in recent years. The concept of bimodal IT is that organizations need to behave in two modes simultaneously (mode1 and mode 2). According to Ray Paquet, Managing VP at Gartner, mode 1 is predictable where orders are taken from customers of IT and delivered upon.  This is the process of “keeping the lights on” and supporting legacy tools and processes. Mode 2 is exploratory where new tools and processes are considered hand-in-hand with customers of IT.  Mode 2 is all about moving fast and taking risks as a means to support the agility required for the next generation of IT. As a metaphor, Paquet described mode 1 as a Samurai, existing with high ceremony, within a hierarchy, always following the rules and using standard tools.  The Samurai is predictable, ultra-reliable, delivers on orders taken and is inflexible in its approach. Mode 2 is the Ninja. The Ninja acts under low ceremony, and outside of hierarchy. He is highly adaptable to context, resisting fixed rules and innovating, while failing and learning along the way.  The ninja achieves results through disruption. According to Paquet, mode 1 is required to maintain that which has established the current success of an organization. Mode 2, however, is needed to achieve the agility required for digital business transformation success.  DevOps was referenced as a mode 2 lean and agile approach.

Digital Business Transformation:

According to David Cappuccio, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, business and technology requirements are changing due to digital disruption. He made seven recommendations to organizations to help them begin to change their mindsets.

  • Think applications – with a focus on service and deployment
  • Think agility – where agility is needed
  • Think new services – not just old
  • Think bimodal (two speed IT) – matching IT to services
  • More carrot, less stick
  • Think big, but start small – and evolve
  • Become the service provider of outcomes, not just iron

While addressing the impact of digital transformation and the changes needed, Ray Paquet said, “Incumbency is more likely to be an anchor rather than a guarantee of success in digital transformation.” Ray made the point that the start-up community is where rapid and disruptive innovation is occurring and that enterprises should be evaluating these new vendors for potentially fit.

Ray outlined five key areas of change that must be led by CIOs.

  • Insight – data and analytics
  • People and organization – Bimodal insourced for flexibility
  • Technology – agile and built for speed
  • Architecture – ensuring innovation and differentiation
  • Funding and budgeting – more fluid and able to fund the unexpected

Cloud (Public and Private):

Digital business transformation is fundamentally changing what the business needs from its IT technologies and solutions. IT must now be consumed as an agile service to keep pace and avoid falling behind. Cloud technologies, both private and public, are tools that enable the business to move faster, be more responsive and save money.  Developing a comprehensive cloud strategy is fundamental to the future success of enterprises. According to Bob Gill, Research Director at Gartner, a cloud strategy must be comprised of the following four component:

  • Objectives: A general description of a desired state
  • Goals: A quantified, time bound description of one or more aspects of a desired state
  • Strategy: The path to the goal, described in simple terms
  • Initiatives: Projects or programs the enterprise undertakes in order to execute the strategy and achieve the goals.

Gill told the audience that Cloud Architects (Cloud Builders) are key to achieving a positive outcome for a cloud strategy. The Cloud Architect plays the central role in understanding the objectives of business leadership, enterprise architects, application architects, infrastructure architects and technology team leads. Cloud Architects are, in essence, tasked with taking David Capuccio’s advice on the seven recommendations to support digital transformation (see above section on Digital Business Transformation). Cloud Architects are less concerned with the individual IT components (switches, routers, storage arrays, servers, etc.) and more concerned with creating elastic systems to deliver on the needs of the business.  This can be accomplished through a DevOps approach to breaking down traditional silos. The foundation of DevOps agility is a combination of Cloud capabilities and Software Defined approaches.

Converged and Hyperconverged infrastructure:

As organizations look to create more agile data center environments and leverage private cloud deployments, converged and hyperconverged infrastructure solutions are increasingly important components. The increase in complexity and the growing number of moving parts within the data center has led many organizations to turn to vendors to provide converged infrastructure. I would define converged infrastructure (CI) as pre-configured and integrated racks of separate storage, compute and network technologies.  A more recent and rapidly growing trend is the adoption of hyperconverged solutions. I would define hyperconverged solutions as a software-centric architecture with storage and compute resources running on the same box supported by a single vendor. Hyperconverged systems scale horizontally by adding a new box into the rack, and through software, the storage and compute capacity of the system grows.

According to George Weiss, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, the hyperconvergence market is forecast to grow to a $5B industry by 2019. The audience was then polled and asked the following question: “What preferences do you have for a specific style of integrated system? (Select all that apply).”

  • Converged and integrated (e.g., block, engineered, SAN-based) – 11%
  • Hyperconverged appliances (e.g., single vendor scale-out, DAS) – 34%
  • Hyperconverged HW / SW choice (e.g., partners or channel integrated) – 17%
  • Both Converged and hyperconverged – 31%
  • None of these – plan to build and integrate our own – 7%

Based on these results, it appears that hyperconverged appliances are becoming the preferred form factor for new deployments and are in fact on the rapid growth trajectory that Weiss predicted.

This is just a brief overview of the content I heard and learned over the show’s four days. There was so much quality content that it’s impossible to share in a single blog. Over my next several posts, I will review and analyze more of the live polling results from the event. The data points provide valuable insight into the emerging trends, thought processes, opportunities and challenges data center IT professionals face today.

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