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IT Infrastructure and Trends
By Sameer Purao, CIO, Austin Industries
The IT infrastructure in organizations today is an outgrowth of over 50 years of evolution in computing platforms from mainframe & minicomputers to cloud & mobile computing.
Less than 10% of companies report that their IT infrastructure is fully prepared to meet the demands of cloud, mobile, social and analytics.”
If the IT infrastructure is ignored, it creates significant bottlenecks for business operations and hinders business growth affecting the market share or competitive advantage. It is CIO’s responsibility to keep the IT infrastructure aligned to the growing needs of the organization & the industry.
Infrastructure planning is a top down approach. It starts from the vision of how technology can strategically influence the growth of the organization in the next 3-5 yrs. The CXOs of the organization should focus on building a strategic vision leveraging disruptive technology. This vision drives the IT strategy which positions the organization to adopt technology for accelerated growth. Infrastructure is a critical component of IT strategy to ensure compatibility to newer gadgets and most importantly scalability to futuristic wave of technology. Organization must focus on developing a robust IT strategy with a 3-4 year roadmap. The strategy should also define the business critical applications, DR requirements, security needs etc. This will feed into the design of the infrastructure landscape.
Migration to the cloud (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) is going to get you a lot more services and scalability while helping to reduce costs on the infrastructure side. But assuming that moving to the cloud will immediately sort out all of your problems with your applications and functionalities is a fallacy. The key challenges to designing infrastructure layer is:
SaaS Application: Business prefers SaaS applications for quick deployment and no maintenance. The data stored in these applications will often require to be interfaced using APIs or through middle tier applications.
Organization must focus on developing a robust IT strategy with a 3-4 year roadmap. The strategy should also define the business critical applications, DR requirements, security needs etc
Having a wide range of business critical applications in SaaS model gives integration challenges. It also brings several providers into the mix and debugging networking & data management issues become very challenging. Disaster Recovery architecture is often very complex when you have to integrate several SaaS solutions & their DR sites.
Big Data: Data is the upcoming future wave of transformation. The IT infrastructure landscape should support real time consolidation of all data points from IoT gadgets, SaaS solutions & on premise applications for business to make key decisions. It should also feed the data into a data warehouse for projecting trends and predictive analysis. Even the most sophisticated analytics technologies, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, can’t deliver results by themselves. To make the most of these technologies, enterprises must have a solid IT foundation to ensure underlying data sets are complete, timely and accurate.
Effective analytics capabilities ultimately depend on an IT infrastructure that has these core elements:
• The ability to collect data in real-time from a wide range of sources
• Tools to process, store and manage data
• Appropriate means for sharing data and insights within the enterprise
IoT: Business is rapidly expanding its usage of IoT to maximize efficiency, gather intelligence, and provide real time transparency to make quick operational decisions. IT infrastructure should be flexible enough to allow fast connectivity for these field IoT gadgets while keeping the information secure through encryption.
CyberSecurity: This is a very important and often overlooked aspect of infrastructure. Security considerations should be from ground up and an integral part of IT infrastructure. IT security strategy will drive the requirements for encryption(at rest & in transit), storage of sensitive data, compliance to government data or ITAR and other security-related regulations enforced by the business. The infrastructure should also facilitate upgrade or application of patches giving complete transparency.
Internet Connectivity: If your organization has a need to connect to remote job sites, manufacturing plants, distribution centers, or sales offices, strong redundant connectivity becomes very critical without which no technology can operate. SDWAN technology may be an alternative to overcome the connectivity challenges.
Due to complexity & rapid evolution in computing, organizations are now reluctant in owning& maintaining IT infrastructure. The number of data center providers are growing with cost & quality of IaaS soon becoming a commodity. Most startup organizations are relying on IaaS and existing companies are gradually moving towards hybrid cloud solution, leveraging on premise deployment with public cloud and private cloud architecture. However, it is necessary to properly analyze the design to ensure all challenges are addressed in the infrastructure solution. One of the major advantages of a solid infrastructure is that it provides for an exchange of information across your organization. A strategic infrastructure reduces the inconsistencies and communication barriers inherent in an organization’s structure, establishing cross-functional and interpersonal communications.
In today’s age, Infrastructure has become the backbone of the organization and adopting proactive measures is the only option to ensure survival & growth.