Geared for speed: Accelerating IT with hybrid infrastructure

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“I feel the need, the need for speed.” It’s hard to believe thirty years have passed since Tom Cruise spoke that line in the movie Top Gun. Cruise’s character, a fighter pilot with the call-sign Maverick, has an insatiable appetite for speed – fast planes, fast motorcycles, anything that takes him into the “danger zone” (cue the Kenny Loggins soundtrack). But the need for speed is not just an iconic line from a favorite old movie; it’s a common concern I hear from IT leaders across many industries and verticals.

Businesses of all sizes are feeling the need for infrastructure that’s faster and lighter on its feet. In today’s economy, success is often defined by a company’s ability to turn ideas into innovative products and services faster than the competition. The C-Suite is looking for IT to be a catalyst for change, not a constraint. And that can take you into a “danger zone,” because traditional IT is built for stability, not speed.

Caught in the middle

Traditional applications that run your business – things like ERP, CRM, OLTP databases etc. – have SLAs and objectives defined around reliability and stability. Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) teams are tasked with reducing operational cost and complexity, improving efficiency, and above all else, keeping these systems running.

At the same time, I&O teams are being asked to support a new and rapidly growing set of mobile, social, and cloud-native apps that drive business growth. Digital transformation is creating a new set of demands for IT that focus around speed and time-to-value, adding complexity to IT environments that were already struggling with workload-specific hardware platforms, resource silos and disparate processes.

I&O leaders are caught in the middle, supporting two separate and conflicting operating models. The new generation of apps fuel business growth, but traditional “keep the lights on” IT still consumes most of your IT spend. Line of business owners are technology agnostic – they’re looking for service levels and are perfectly happy to go to outside vendors if IT can’t meet their needs. So what’s the way forward?

Change a little, miss a lot?

One option is to stick with what you know, the traditional approach to IT, and make incremental changes to improve operational speed. Technology refreshes can help, bringing enhanced virtualization and modern infrastructures that make deployments easier and a little faster. You might also consider adding an additional software control layer in your environment, kind of a “manager of managers,” giving you a more unified interface to reduce the complexity of managing different resource silos. All of these alternatives add value and provide improvements. But are they enough?

There’s a scene in Top Gun where Maverick is flying a training exercise – a dogfight against two opponents. He makes all the right moves, seemingly outmaneuvering both opponents, only to fly directly into a trap. After the exercise, Maverick’s flight instructor says, “That was some of the best flying I’ve ever seen – right up to the part where you got killed.”

For IT, the trap is thinking that you can resolve the issue of operational speed without addressing the root causes of operational inefficiency at the hardware layer in your datacenter. And while no one is getting killed in your data center, your I&O team is getting tired of working nights and weekends just to keep up. There has to be a better way.

A new hybrid model for infrastructure

Your business is looking for public-cloud-like convenience and speed – things you’ll be hard-pressed to provide with incremental changes. So why not just let users go to the public cloud and be done with it? Well, like most things in life, the cloud comes with tradeoffs; you gain convenience and speed but lose some degree of control over risk and cost. Some applications just aren’t a good fit for public cloud. Many businesses with concerns around compliance and data security are hesitant to go there.

The alternative is a hybrid approach, establishing the right mix of public cloud, private/hybrid cloud, and traditional IT opportunities in a hybrid infrastructure, controlled by a single management environment. Companies ready to move beyond their existing IT models should consider these approaches:

Option 1: Hyperconverged infrastructure. These systems enable companies to take a confident step towards hybrid cloud, bringing together compute, storage and networking in a single frame with an easy-to-use software management layer. This approach simplifies deployment and management. It’s especially well-suited to branch and remote office deployments and desktop virtualization. On the downside, some hyperconverged systems require a different infrastructure for physical and SAN-attached applications, meaning there are still management silos associated with these systems (though that’s not the case with Hewlett Packard Enterprise Hyper Converged systems).

Option 2: Composable infrastructure. This new category of infrastructure eliminates resource silos by providing fluid pools of resources, a unified API and software-defined intelligence for compute, storage and fabric resources that can be provisioned on-demand for the needs of a specific workload, and then released back into the pool when no longer needed.

DevOps developers can leverage a unified API to “compose” infrastructure as code. Provisioning is template-driven and fully automated, enabling physical, virtual, container, and bare metal deployments on demand from the resource pool. A composable infrastructure can reduce the time needed to deploy new compute, storage and fabric assets from days or weeks to minutes.

The gear for speed

Hybrid infrastructure is the new reality for IT, providing an effective bridge from traditional IT to the digital enterprise. The right strategy can give your I&O team the ability to kick on the afterburners and deliver change at the speed of your business, instead of struggling just to keep up.

Learn more about the many ways Hewlett Packard Enterprise can help you transform to a hybrid infrastructure and achieve cloud velocity without compromising traditional IT predictability.