Virtualization is a broad topic with many definitions that also span many critical components of infrastructure as well as applications. My hope here is to provide practical insight into this maturing strategy as well as provide some practical experience from the perspective of “fit for purpose.”
Traditionally, organizations have been very focused on reducing capital spend and increasing speed and efficiency by deploying server virtualization technology. This is one of the more mature aspects in the virtualization continuum. This has also led us into the “cloud era” where organizations can effectively manage and orchestrate infrastructure in private, hybrid, and public clouds. This flexibility provides an inflection point from a “fit for purpose” perspective–how can we effectively leverage these target environments to gain the best economic returns. With the risk of stating the obvious, leveraging public cloud environments for development, quality testing, performance testing, and disaster recovery purposes truly provides great economic returns and agility. Additionally, focusing new product development to operate effectively in cloud architecture also provides flexibility for deployment as well as best economic gains.
"The flexibility and speed gained by leveraging IaaS and PaaS along with Agile, DevOps, and micro-services architectures really takes your business case to the next level"
On the subject of application development and architecture, the flexibility and speed gained by leveraging IaaS and PaaS along with agile, DevOps, and micro-services architectures really takes your business case to the next level. While many organizations have completed their infrastructure and Platform-as-a-Service strategies, the next big turn of the crank is now focused on additional efficiencies to be gained in the application design, build, and deploy arenas. From an agile perspective, it is important that the organization is aligned to effectively support this concept. Having aligned, focused and effective multi-functional teams (i.e., product management, product development, quality assurance, infrastructure, deployment, and automation) delivering on the agile and DevOps concepts is absolutely critical. As container technologies continue to evolve, these teams will start to focus on containers and not VMs in developing micro-services architectures in the agile process. This truly leads to providing an effective Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) layer in the cloud and virtualization strategy. Historically, the creation of SaaS has been focused on new application development; however organizations are now focused on refactoring existing applications into this architecture to gain the financial, time to market, and componentized solutions. This architecture also provides for enhanced horizontal scaling to best manage growth and unanticipated volumes.
A key component in gaining the efficiencies that the agile and DevOps strategy promise is to focus on automation. The areas of focus need to be on deployment automation to keep with the pace of agile releases as well as automation from an application testing and quality perspective. Without this focus, an organization will not be able to truly deliver on the speed and effectiveness the agile teams are working toward. This automation will also create dramatically new scale with your build, deploy, and testing teams.
Some of the latest virtualization trends are now focused on other key components in the infrastructure. One trend that has been receiving a lot of press is Software Defined Networks (SDN). Here, speed and economics is also the target; however given the infancy of this technology one should be careful where to deploy. The other significant goal of SDNs is to eliminate boundaries that are associated with a data center and physical network equipment. An organization has to develop the right expertise along with their key suppliers (i.e., large ISPs, hosting providers, cloud providers, etc.) to support this technology. At this time, getting familiar with SDN is well suited for development environments where you can minimize the impact of failures but further support the nimbleness your agile teams continue to expect. I would also be remiss not to mention the evolution of VDI in the virtualization space and expect that a new “layer” be created – Endpoint-as-a- Service (EaaS). From my perspective, maturity in this space is increasing the use cases while continuing to enhance end-point supportability and more importantly security. There are several significant vendors now in this space offering excellent solutions and managed services.
In summary, this continues to be a very exciting and engaging era from a technology perspective. As a CIO, it is very rewarding to be able to continuously provide more agile and efficient infrastructure solutions as well as have a significant positive impact on the product development process. Unrelenting focus on automation truly rounds out the value proposition that virtualization provides by adding scale and speed, as well as quality. Enhancing the economics while increasing quality– this certainly fosters the trust and support from your business partners–it doesn’t get any better than that.