Agility is something all businesses are trying to achieve. But in practical terms, what does this actually mean?
We spoke to Enterprise Director, Ben McGahon, about the importance of IT infrastructure and how it can empower businesses to do more, deliver more and become more agile.
In terms of running a business, how important is your IT infrastructure?
If we go back 10-15 years ago, the IT department was seen as an enabler and it could sometimes be seen by a lot of executives and boards as more of a necessary tax on the business and its overheads – which was the nature of the times.
Now, we see IT infrastructure as the engine in the car that makes it all work. And technology and digitisation are now driving not only the IT strategy, but the business strategy of most organisations.
So, businesses need to have an agile and modern IT infrastructure – that works for them – to allow them to drive revenue and differentiate themselves in terms of where they sit in their market and where they sit as a business.
Many companies that have adopted new technologies and adopted digitisation, have leapt ahead of previous, larger competitors, because they have become that more agile and they can react to both expected and unexpected shifts within their markets and within their business.
So, we have gone from what was once seen as a ‘tax’, to the profit driver within an organisation.
Traditionally in the past, we would have had a very segmented and decoupled stack that would have been connected through a network. So, you would have had your backup product, your infrastructure, your storage and your servers, and then you would have had your hypervisor sitting on top.
Primarily, in a hyperconverged environment, both the storage and the server layers are converged. And the coupling together and the converging together of the hardware – that used to be separate within one platform – allows for the virtualisation to move beyond just server virtualisation into storage virtualisation and then taking it a step further, it allows for a software defined approach.
So, the software defined approach is what’s allowing the rapid deployment of digitisation of much of the application stacks and the services that businesses are trying to deliver to their users and their customers. And what hyperconverged infrastructure allows people to do is, it allows you to focus on areas of higher value as you move towards your business outcomes.
And part of that comes with being able to automate and couple together not just the infrastructure, but also the people who would have been delivering and administrating those services.
So, we’ve gone from having a storage administrator, a server administrator, a virtualisation administrator and even a backup and security administrator as well as network architects, to being able to manage this infrastructure from a central location.
And that also includes not just your on-premises and hyperconverged infrastructure, but also – as you start to move, or if you have already moved towards cloud services and offsite services – SaaS models that would have traditionally needed large infrastructure stacks to run within their own data centres or on-premises. So, it’s that ability to manage more – with less.
Moreover, people might say storage administrators or server administrators are becoming defunct – they’re not. They’re evolving into positions such as cloud administrators. So, they’re evolving into being a different resource but delivering a broader, higher value to the business because you’re able to automate what was previously a manual process.
So, you have a lower OpEx, a lower CapEx but your output is increasing and their value to the business is increasing.
So, with that in mind, it’s important to remember as you go towards those converged or hyperconverged solutions, that one of the first things you do is look at the impact on your IT team, you have to think ‘how am I going to restructure, how am I going to deliver this, how am I going to create the resources to manage and deliver this?’ because it is a different way of going about it.
How can hyperconverged help with business agility?
Firstly, hyperconverged is about being able to manage everything within one stack.
And what we’ve found is that this has a huge impact on the time needed to get these systems up and running for customers who are in the process of implementing large projects.
For example, the roll out of an SAP or ERP environment or a new site or a greenfield environment, that we know is going to grow quickly and grow large – your time to get those systems up and running is really, in essence, the time to get that product delivered to that site.
Where, previously, we would have had professional services requirements from backup, to server to storage and often different people for networking as well – we’re now making that deployment a lot more central – and lots of those benefits hold true for hyperconverged.
The key differentiator is that hyperconverged has a node architecture where you can both scale up and scale out.
This means it’s a lot more affordable to a much larger and wider footprint of potential customers because they can start with a small number of nodes and then add nodes as they need and how they need – for example to increase capacity or performance.
The idea is that you can quickly expand and scale that environment to your business’s needs.
So, customers can manage their budgets and go about how they manage their investments over time, in a more granular way.
A big area that we’re hearing a lot about now is containers and micro-services. And a software defined approach is ideal for that because it’s software to software and it’s providing the agility that you need.
The last thing you need is massive agility within your Development, R&D, Application Development and your DevOps departments and then that agility not being matched within your infrastructure.
The agility of the infrastructure layer needs to match the agility that’s available at the project and application layer.
It’s very important, that in high cost software or application or SaaS based projects, that the infrastructure stays ahead of those projects.
And how can hyperconverged impact your business revenue?
The total cost of ownership is important when you’re looking at converged or hyperconverged.
When customers are assessing the value of a solution that’s going down the hyperconverged route, it’s really important that you look it in comparison to what you did before over a period of time. So, not just how much it’s going to cost to buy – but also to manage.
Then, of course, you need to look at the agility and the areas in which that infrastructure can add a lot of value.
There are also elements that come into your SaaS applications that you’re consuming within your organisation. And through a software defined, hyperconverged approach, you can manage those far more efficiently.
So, as you bring these things together, you can start to see how you can do things a lot more efficiently, more quickly and very importantly, with a lot less risk as the security solutions that go around these environments are a lot more robust and easier to manage as well.
So, you have to look at it in terms of total cost of ownership and not just how much is this piece of infrastructure compared to this piece of infrastructure.
What are some of the common pitfalls in employing hyperconverged?
When you implement hyperconverged for the first time – that’s when you need to pay the most attention.
Having sold the first vBlock or converged infrastructure with Dell EMC Ireland back in 2013 and subsequently selling the first vxRail products in Ireland, we’ve gained an awful lot of experience within the field with regards to where the potential pitfalls are. And a lot of it isn’t with the hyperconverged infrastructure itself, it’s how it actually integrates into the rest of the environment.
And we’re experienced in knowing exactly where to look for potential issues.
So, making sure you do the preparation at the beginning as you’re implementing this new approach for the first time is really critical.
We’ve seen a lot of companies and projects run into issues going forward because they haven’t necessarily catered for the things that they need to cater for at the beginning.
How you actually start with a hyperconverged environment has a big impact on how you go forward and the success of how you’re going forward – as you build and scale and introduce more applications and services into those environments.
Our experience allows us to de-risk projects and bring a higher level of success to our customers’ investments.
We delivered the first two large-scale converged infrastructure projects in Ireland which shows how Evros has seized upon these new technologies and is able to match customer requirements to specific projects.
From a hyperconverged perspective, we also delivered the first Dell VxRail. So, we have almost seven years’ experience in an area of infrastructure that has only really grown – exponentially – in the last three years.
We’re able to come into these projects with the experience that our customers needed not only to architect and design it correctly for their needs, but we can guide the implementation to make sure our customers start in the right way. We assess their current environments and we know where the pitfalls are and know how to avoid any potential issues so they can move forward.
And what this means is they can maximise the agility, maximise the scale and maximise the total cost of ownership – and implement that reduction of using less infrastructure to deliver more services.
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Learn how you can become more agile as a business with our Hyperconverged Infrastructure solutions.