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Changes to the Enterprise Infrastructure

By Troy Collins, VP, IT Infrastructure, MedVet

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Troy Collins, VP, IT Infrastructure, MedVet

Enterprise infrastructure has changed significantly over the past two decades. We have gone from a large bulky single used system to virtualized multi-tenant systems. Historically, we built and managed dedicated server rooms at the building in which we needed to deliver services. Now we put things in the “cloud” in data centers that we have never seen or physically access.

These changes have added new layers of complexity and dictated that we make changes in the way we manage and deploy systems. Instead of walking up to a server and making changes we now use new and additional layers of software and/or technical support for which we have limited understanding of their abilities or skills.

Understanding why Things have Changed

To properly deploy, manage, and support this new and evolving infrastructure we must understand why it’s changing and how it’s being used.  The underlying IT infrastructure, architecture, and management solutions have all evolved with an amount of change that is so staggering that it creates its own complexity. It is critical that we understand these various layers of complexity. While the landscape has changed, and we now manage more things, and with more complexity, we are also challenged to increase the rate in which they deliver services.

The Why and How:

1. Global workforce: Gone are the days when everyone worked in one location that required to access a system.Today we have employees and consultants working from remote offices, home, coffee shops or anywhere in the world that they can get an internet connection.  This results in a need for an infinite number of connections, hardware, and software in order to make it all work together.

"The underlying IT infrastructure, architecture, and management solutions have all evolved with an amount of change that is so staggering that it creates its own complexity"

2. Always on business: At one time most businesses were in operation 9am – 5pm, Monday – Friday. Today, with our global workforce, we experience employees on systems 24/7, leaving little room for error or downtime.

The Complexity:

1. Hardware: Hardware has become more complex simply because we want something to do more with less of a footprint. We once had a card for every component, today multiple components are an integral part of the motherboard. More integrated components means when a physical system goes down there is no longer an easy swap of a card.

2. Software: We rely on software for more than the tasks required by our users, we rely on it to manage where and how our infrastructure is delivered and performs.  This extra layer means we must employ specialists who manage this layer which results in larger teams and steps to find and resolve issues.

3. Maintenance: The new environment requires that we maintain a constant state of maintenance in which BIOS, drivers, OS, and software layers are updated independently.  In the large enterprise networks there is a never ending need to update something.

4. Demand: There was a time in business where IT dictated when systems would be up and available. However, this is not the case anymore. Today’s demand is that everything is up and running all of the time. As a result, we must change the way we think about systems and services.

Each of these four categories provide a degree of complexity on their own. The challenge we now face is the combined complexities of all four categories causing the complexity to grow exponentially for IT organizations.

Dealing with It

So, how do you deal with these complexities?  First, start by getting closer to your business’ goals, understand the why. Understand why people are working remotely and why things are being pushed to the cloud.  Secondly, don’t fight the change. It’s going to happen with or without you in most cases. If you can understand the why you can guide teams through the changes in a manner that is best for all areas of the company. Finally, be honest with your consumers. Simply because someone thinks something can be done in a specific amount of time doesn’t mean it can be done right in that amount of time.  We must be the voice of reason and effectively sets expectations when it comes to the foundation of technology within the enterprise. It is critical that we know more about the whys, the complexities, and the deliverables than anyone else involved. This knowledge and insight will enable IT organizations to deliver the best, most sustainable enterprise infrastructure solutions.

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