Step #4 towards an orchestrated datacenter: Assess the agility of application architecture

By Muneer Mubashir, Senior Marketing Manager, Cloud and Automation

 

Note: This is the fourth of a seven-part blog series exploring what steps you can take toward an orchestrated datacenter. Catch up on the other posts:

 

Let’s place the orchestrated datacenter into a slightly broader context.

 

When we play Farmville, check our bank balance on-line, print our medical or vehicle insurance card, file for claims, book a flight, we are actually interfacing with a service. This service cranks and churns behind the scenes to answer our questions, book our next vacation.

 

It is fascinating that the wide array of services that we interface with on a daily basis are really quite complicated in nature, made up of a lot of smaller parts and components that work in harmony (or at least most of the time).

 

Every business today needs these mobile and internet ready services to be competitive. But these services are going through some “growing” pains.

 

 Mobile first is the mantra but how do we get there?

20130918_HpLondon_UpperHallway_010.gifHow do we take a service that has been chugging along, which was designed for Internet Explorer over desktop and make it ready for Chrome on mobile.

 

We could make use of the power of cloud computing - but how?  How do we take a service that was designed to run on super-domes and make it run on the small, medium and large instances of a cloud platform? Even more fundamental is the question - should we even bother? Or do we just start fresh? What do we keep, and what do we obsolete?

 

With more questions than answers - there is a need for a fresh and an organized perspective

 

A new way to look at applications

As your organization shifts its collective mindset from managing servers to delivering integrated services, it is worthwhile to assess how your applications are architected. Noted organizational theorist, management consultant and author Geoffrey Moore has described it as a shift in IT, from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement.”

 

Systems of Record are the traditional core of IT, the transaction-based applications typically built on a single database of mostly structured information. Access is controlled and data is kept in the systems for extensive periods of time for compliance. In essence - Systems of Record are stalwarts of the business. Just think ERP or other financial and manufacturing systems.

 

In contrast, we see Systems of Engagement as newer types of applications built for interaction and collaboration, often using SOA principles. These are inherently more agile applications, because they exist to share insights and ideas about business opportunities and projects through transient relationships, ad hoc access and unstructured information. Although they are important for collaboration and making decisions, they are not, strictly speaking, business critical.

 

One is architected rigidly around data; the other, more flexibly around interactivity. In reality though, applications probably won’t fall neatly into one bucket or the other. But how the various components of IT services are architected, including applications and their data sources, will have an impact on your approach to automation and orchestration. Naturally, the cloud plays a big part in this. HP Cloud chief technologist Christian Verstraete puts it best in his explanation of how concepts like Systems of Record relate to migrating applications to the cloud. Your organization is more than likely already looking at rearchitecting applications to take greater advantage of the cloud, where the orchestrated datacenter should be part of the process.

 

Automating engagement

The point is this: when evaluating how to most effectively orchestrate IT services, you should in parallel assess their agility requirements. How flexible and responsive do they need to be, to successfully engage users now and into the future?

 

Undoubtedly, engagement is a big success factor for any enterprise IT initiative. We are all accustomed to IT services like Facebook and Netflix. Applications that have been architected from the ground up for engagement and interaction, for frequent feature updates, for use on mobile devices. Clearly not all enterprise IT services need to attain those high standards, but they do need to be considered. Technology projects, no matter how core they are to the business, ultimately atrophy or fail if they are not used, especially if they are not easily maintained and updated. And that’s where orchestrated datacenter can help.

 

Orchestrated agility

Probably 80 or 90 percent of your enterprise applications (services) still use a traditional, rigid architecture. By examining how you will automate and orchestrate their components, you open up an opportunity to consider how it is architected and determine which aspects need to change frequently and which parts ought to remain inflexible. What applications could be transformed to a more agile engagement model today?

 

Designing more agile application architecture is not a prerequisite of an orchestrated datacenter. Traditional IT environments and processes can still be orchestrated. But agile application architectures can set you up for greater success with orchestration. Creating a roadmap for these transformations will inform your plans for orchestration, and how it will empower continuous delivery of IT services — a topic I will address in my next post.

                       

HP Discover 2014.jpgExplore the many topics related to automating and orchestrating your IT environments at our semi-annual HP Discover event. Be sure to catch session TB3337, and learn what's new with Enterprise Maps - to transform your IT using IT4IT architecture. See you there!

 

Explore HP Discover Las Vegas 2014 session catalog

 

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