- Exploring Infrastructure with Purpose
- Bringing Network Administration into the Automation Age
- Exploring Infrastructure with Purpose – The Cumulus Approach
- Can Change Control and Network Automation Coexist?
- Exploring Infrastructure With Purpose – Delivering Your Strategy
- Infrastructure as Code: Free Your Intellect
In this series, we are exploring how the changing demands upon the enterprise are forcing us to rethink how infrastructure is designed and delivered. Having recently spoken with Cumulus Networks about their “Infrastructure with Purpose” strategy, I wanted to explore further how this new approach to networking is core to our ability to deliver modern web scale IT to our enterprise.
In the first two parts of our series, we put this approach into context and looked at the component parts we need to build a software-defined, open networking platform. In this final part, we will look at some of the things we need to consider to successfully deliver an infrastructure with purpose project.
Why is “Why” Important?
When speaking with Cumulus, one of the things that became clear was that the shift to a more open networking approach is not a trivial one and is about much more than just technology adoption. It’s important whenever embracing change that our organisation fully understand the “why. We need to see how an open networking strategy is going to improve the flexibility with which we deliver our infrastructure. We need to understand that an open networking strategy will allow us to more quickly meet the demands of our business and those of our customers – bringing a significant business advantage. Understanding the “why” is going to be crucial in ensuring a successful shift to an open networking future.
Before we attempt any kind of technical delivery, it is important to have the proper backing across our organization. It’s critical to understand this is not just about a new technical deployment model – there is going to have to be investment, perhaps in new hardware platforms, training and software licenses, as well as a shift in operational models and how we deliver infrastructure to support our enterprise. The benefits of these changes and investments have to be clear to the entire organization.
Ensuring you have the right executive sponsorship behind this kind of project is going to be critical to its success. Someone who understands the “why” and the business benefits of this change is going to have a major role in getting support for what will be a substantial shift in the way technology is delivered. However, it is not just executive sponsorship that is needed. Technical acceptance is equally important. Without this, you will likely waste time fighting internal battles with individuals or departments who may feel alienated or threatened by a new delivery model.
Build your Team
To make a success of this new approach, it’s important to have a strong delivery team. As we’ve discussed throughout this series, one of the real strengths of the infrastructure with purpose strategy and something that struck me with the Cumulus approach, was how the use of open standards and familiar LINUX-based tools means many of the skills required may already exist in-house. This can increase both the speed of acceptance and deployment. But it’s not just about pulling together a smart team; it’s very important that we encourage these teams to interact across the enterprise, so we can fully exploit the benefits of this open approach.
Don’t be Afraid to Try
As with any project, one of the best learning tools we have is experience – learning as we go. But sometimes this can be expensive. One of the huge benefits of software-defined infrastructure is the freedom we get to trial and test. One of the most valuable tools that I believe Cumulus has is their Cumulus VX platform – a virtual appliance that allows you to test their platform in the safety of a self-contained, hypervisor-based appliance. The platform provides a fully featured environment in which you can test your design, tools integration and the impact of adds, moves and changes.
This agility and speed with which we can take our virtual test environment and move them into production, allowing us to quickly respond to changing demands while lowering the risks, is one of the major values of a more open software-defined infrastructure.
Do you need infrastructure with purpose?
The answer to that will depend on your organization’s needs and goals. I do believe that open infrastructure is going to become increasingly commonplace. The flexibility and scale we see in the cloud is very attractive and open networking allows us to replicate much of this in our own enterprise. Cloud-like capabilities that provide us with a flexible infrastructure that can be delivered quickly and at web scale while not being restricted by the boundaries imposed by traditional models will be critical in ensuring enterprise IT can continue to meet future business demands. Let’s face it, if you are going to deploy infrastructure, it may as well be deployed with purpose.