Bridging Legacy and Cloud: The Prevailing IT Model for 2016

The world – and the tech sector in particular – runs on the cult of the new: The latest technologies; the latest products; the latest services. We are, as they say, living in the future.

The issue for IT, though, is that so often, the arrival of the future is delayed by reliance on present-day configurations of technologies purchased in the past. The majority of companies have mission-critical data center workloads running on legacy systems. Bridging those systems with the emerging cloud-first approach to IT is the biggest current challenge to administrators and CIOs focused on ushering in the age of cloud IT.

This is what the industry-standard Gartner IT Glossary has identified as Bimodal IT: The simultaneous support for traditional, sequential platforms focused on stability and a nonlinear, cloud-based architecture focused on agility. Gartner has recognized that enterprises need to do what many believe cannot be done – occupy both the present and the future concurrently.

How can they do that? Fortunately, the advent of the software-defined data center (SDDC) makes a dual approach possible. SDDC architecture, wherein all data center resources – compute, storage, networking and management – are virtualized, software-defined, and automated, reduces the cost and complexity burdens of ongoing legacy application management, freeing IT resources to focus on introducing new, cloud-based platforms.  And when deployed on the right infrastructure, SDDC can allow the orchestration of these virtualized and non-virtualized workloads from a single control pane, making Bimodal IT not just possible, but also operationally feasible.

For the IT manager selecting an infrastructure solutions partner that will support a Bimodal IT stance, there are three crucial criteria that must be met:

  • The infrastructure solutions provider must offer a broad family of solutions that are inclusive of traditional IT systems, as well as converged or hyper-converged systems.
  • The solutions must be simple and flexible, with robust management and orchestration capabilities: Creation and elimination of workloads must happen easily, and migration of workloads between platforms must be automated and responsive to the changing requirements of business.
  • The solutions must provide the agility needed to scale capacity and services quickly and on demand.

Bridging legacy and cloud by deploying SDDC on integrated systems – converged and hyper-converged infrastructure – can be a winning strategy for companies of all sizes. On one hand, converged infrastructure offerings can be robust enough to support an enterprise-wide transition to a private cloud environment. Converged infrastructure is nearly infinitely customizable, allowing IT managers to custom order the precise compute, storage and networking capacities needed to address the enterprise’s unique profile of need.

On the other hand, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) provides a different kind of flexibility. In hyper-converged architecture, virtualized compute, storage, and networking capacity are delivered in software atop a common x86-based platform. The simplicity, modularity, and small unit of scale that HCI delivers allows companies to start small, deploying as few nodes as needed to support the initial use cases and then scale over time as performance and capacity needs increase, stacking HCI nodes like building blocks in the data center.  

In other words, HCI delivers readily automated, pay-as-you-grow scalability that allows for incremental forays into private cloud while maintaining legacy architecture. It makes sense, then, that this also provides a significant budgetary advantage. According to a survey of more than 500 technology professionals in the ActualTech Media 2015 State of Hyperconverged Infrastructure Market report, nearly one third of respondents (31 percent) who had deployed HCI cited cost savings as one of the top benefits of doing so. (ActualTech Media)

That instant scalability is a boon to DevOps teams, too. The self-contained aspect of HCI allows these entrepreneurial units to readily stand up their own infrastructure and operate independently of the broader enterprise, launching projects that may start small but need a big ramp-up on short notice as workloads increase exponentially. SDDC agility and HCI scalability allow DevOps teams to expand and contract their efforts quickly and easily. And for DevOps teams operating within enterprises that deploy SDDC widely, migration of successful projects across platforms to a permanent hosting environment can be a seamless operation.

Bimodal IT via SDDC also provides advantages for administering geo-distributed infrastructure, by virtue of strong, centralized management and orchestration capabilities. This acts as a multiplier for your IT staff. HCI can be deployed – for instance, at a regional office without an on-site IT presence – and the entirety of the workloads it supports can be managed through the enterprise’s private cloud. The IT personnel at the primary office can administer the regional data center, and that remote site benefits from integration with the legacy systems supporting back-end operations in the main data center. And once again, the scalability of HCI allows for rapid growth or even relocation of capacity at remote sites, as demand requires.

Conventional wisdom insists that IT will migrate to the cloud entirely at some point. But practical experience shows that enterprises that have invested in legacy architecture that still has many years of life left in it are not likely to rip and replace, at potentially astronomical costs. Instead, implementing a Bimodal IT approach supported by SDDC on integrated systems will allow companies to address scalability needs with agility, while also ensuring the mission-critical functions of their legacy systems are not compromised.

Living in the future is good, especially when you don’t have to give up your past to get there.



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