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Software-defined strategies speed application deployment and accelerate time-to-market

Uber, the largest taxi company in the world, runs on software but owns no taxis. Airbnb is on track to become the largest hotelier in the world, but it owns no hotels. These are extreme examples of how software is disrupting traditional industries. It illustrates the type and scope of digital transformation that is now possible. To accommodate this transformation, IT must be more application-oriented and more responsive to changing business needs.

Three trends are currently forcing IT departments to rethink standard operating procedure and leverage technology to enable a more responsive and application-centric management approach.

1. More applications

Companies are rolling out more applications than they did just a few years ago. Mobile, big data, social applications, business process optimisation and technology-enabled service offerings are increasing the breadth of application portfolios. Traditional, infrastructure-focused IT approaches don’t scale.

2. Faster development

Developers are using agile techniques to get new software features into users’ hands as quickly as possible. New releases and features can be ready as much as five times faster than traditional development methodologies. The agile model typically requires multiple deployments as updates go through test, quality assurance and staging on the way to production. Traditional approaches for requesting infrastructure resources aren’t fast enough.

3. Multiple environments

Virtualized data centers, private clouds, hosted private clouds and public clouds are all viable homes for digital workloads. IT needs the flexibility to choose the deployment environment that is a best fit, based on the type of workload, budget limits, performance needs, security concerns and compliance requirements. Traditional datacenters don’t offer enough options.

While accelerating time-to-market enables a competitive advantage, it can, however, be very difficult to rework traditional IT management processes and procedures that were carefully optimised for a slower release cadence in a traditional data center. Developers can’t wait weeks for IT to deploy virtual machines (VMs) and other infrastructure resources using manual, ticket-based processes. Instead, IT organisations are adopting application-oriented management solutions to support the faster pace of the digital enterprise. These solutions streamline developer requests and automate processes to support the full breadth of application types and deployment environments.

Simplifying automation for agile operations

Software-controlled infrastructure is proving to be a critical enabler of more agile and responsive IT operations. Application programming interfaces (APIs) treat infrastructure as code, and they can be called to allocate and adjust physical infrastructure. Unlike manual and physical processes, both software-defined data centers (SDDC) and software-enabled cloud infrastructure enable automation that offers a far more flexible, scalable, repeatable and cost-effective approach.

Two powerful steps help IT remake and automate processes building on a software-defined foundation:

1. Combine infrastructure and application automation

Every additional automation tool helps streamline and accelerate tasks and processes. But they also create technical debt in the form of scripts and artifacts that must be version controlled and maintained over time. Many enterprises start their SDDC and cloud transformation with one set of tools to deploy infrastructure and another set of tools to deploy and manage application components, such as databases, application servers, load balancers, web servers and applications. Now companies can combine infrastructure and application automation from a single, deployable application template or blueprint, thereby improving agility and reducing ongoing automation costs.

2. Use one automation and management platform across environments

Companies risk vendor lock-in when they use different automation tools optimised for each specific environment API, such as offered by Amazon Web Services, Azure, OpenStack, VMware or Cisco. Instead, companies can standardise on a single cloud-management platform that abstracts the environment-specific services and APIs and acts as a common management fabric across environments.

The best strategy for meeting the increased pace of application release is to build on software-defined infrastructure and to combine infrastructure and application automation using a cloud-agnostic platform that works across environments.

By combining new, application-focused automation technologies with an underlying, software-defined infrastructure, it is now possible for the management platform to direct the infrastructure, rather than infrastructure dictating how applications must be managed unique to each environment. Application-defined solutions improve both agility and service-delivery efficiency in ways not previously possible. Most importantly, they enable digital enterprises to gain a time-to-market competitive advantage.

Kurt Milne, VP of Product Marketing, CliQr