Perfecting digital transformation and the funny little acronym behind it


Digital transformation is no longer enough. Any company looking to stay truly competitive needs to work to make the process intelligent if it is to yield maximum results in the shortest possible time. Business school jargon and consultancy-speak is around every corner. Many ask ‘where shall we focus our efforts?’ Understanding how to implement an ambitious strategy is no easy task however.

CIOs are under huge pressure from their C-level peers to accelerate delivery and satisfy business health expectations and competitive-ness as a whole. Enabling digital transformation while staying consistent with existing infrastructure and processes for the sake of employees carrying out critical work is key to this. Running a ‘digital factory’ requires automation and continuous deployment. Managing the applications ecosystem IP information is key and this is where DDI and the IPAM ‘golden record’ view of information becomes a catalyst for quick, effective change.

There are many aspects to a winning transformation, from smaller development teams producing incremental but rapid software updates to maintaining user experience during the process. The golden thread tying everything together is the visibility and control offered by DDI: bringing together DNS, the Domain Name Systems involved, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and IP Address Management (IPAM). It is from viewing digital transformation through the prism of DDI that other crucial qualities such as orchestration and speed of change can flow naturally.

Continuity is key

Maximising end-user satisfaction by maintaining productivity while transforming is key. Businesses should ensure this happens by issuing incremental software iterations, working quickly to deliver software in tight production loops and then revising, while incorporating user feedback. These tight production loops often mean embracing iterative methodologies as opposed to previous ‘waterfall’-based methodologies with longer study periods, then development, then testing, before finally putting software into production. Two week deadlines for delivery to end users do not allow for this.

Speed and stability are key to optimising digital transformation. This necessitates shipping software so frequently that the underlying infrastructure needs to be highly agile. However, implementing agility can be difficult with end user software being installed potentially every two days, requiring all software quality validation phases are performed without any halt in the process. Introducing new features also potentially compromises the quality, negatively affecting previous software sections.

Critical to maintaining stability, continuous integration, testing and deployment are now mandatory when planning digital transformation. It would not be reasonable or cost-effective to dedicate specific infrastructure for each pipeline step, each product, and each developer team. Therefore, automation and orchestration are now essential. However, these same qualities sometimes go unappreciated, ending up hidden under umbrella terms such as ‘infrastructure as code’ and ‘software defined’. Neglecting these results in a poor digital transformation process and lost value for the business in the short-term, allowing competitors the chance to catch up and overtake.

Building the digital transformation A-team

The digital transformation process impacts how development teams work and so need to be organised. What used to require big, inline development teams has evolved into the work of several smaller independent developer squads each working on producing their own product to meet end user requirements. To work independently, each team contains developers, architects, business analysts, and various specialists. Working on a feature set, each small team releases the small and incremental but frequent and stable increments needed to modernise without causing disruption. To ensure end goals are kept in mind, each team is driven by a product owner; the person responsible for putting software into field and ensuring maxim user satisfaction in addition to the software meeting the minimum requirements.

The golden record

Automating the infrastructure supporting digital transformation also requires new architecture patterns, usage of cloud services, various development languages, a test-driven methodology, microservices, containers or API management. This adds many additional layers of complexity to the way infrastructure should be built and managed during digital transformation as well as how assets should be tracked during application life cycles and during all development phases.

Added complexity is where a strong repository becomes key, IPAM (IP Address Management) being the single version of the truth containing the ‘golden record’ of information related to IP resources such as addresses and names. The ability to query and control IPAM during the process through API and connectors to the ecosystem’s main tools is mandatory any business looking to rapidly deliver infrastructure components such as networks and servers. Again speed is key and IPAM shows where a competitive edge can be found when competitors are also undergoing their digital transformations.

To allow these new infrastructure patterns, the DNS is put under pressure. It will require frequent and rapid updates – in coordination with the IPAM repository mentioned before – to expose all components, ranging from microservices to the endpoint, which will be used in the user’s browser. To prevent losing speed, ceding ground to competitors, manual action should always be avoided with businesses applying automation wherever possible instead. If any manual action needs to be performed, the agile nature of the process is compromised as work immediately becomes more inefficient and rapid service delivery to end users is made impossible.

Developers expect tests to be performed upon source commit in their repository in minutes rather than days, in order to maintain speed and meet delivery deadlines. If a quality gate is not passed, there is very limited time for the source to be fixed. With dozens of steps in the pipeline during a validation, each requiring infrastructure to be deployed, managed and destroyed, automation absolutely has to run seamlessly for all concerned, including DNS updates in coordination with IPAM information as a minimum.

The funny little acronym: DDI

DDI: or DNS-DHCP-IPAM, addresses multiple network areas in concert enabling superior orchestration and service activation, helping maintain continuous integration and increase the maximum possible testing and delivery speed. It can also allow businesses access to software, regardless of production phase or the location it is deployed – on-premise or in the cloud, using either virtual servers or containers. Through its rich set of API and connectors, DDI can be totally integrated into your software production pipeline. Any ‘infrastructure as code’ software, orchestrator, configurator, or deployment tool should rely on IPAM’s ‘golden record’. Its rich information set provides an accurate and consistent understanding of the whole IP ecosystem at any development process stage.

DDI’s central position in IT infrastructure guarantees teams have the tools to view and affect the entire ecosystem from a consolidated view of the IP world. The DDI-based view is not just a key element of digital transformation but one that will deliver the greatest results from digital transformation.

Ronan David, CMO & BD, EfficientIP
Image Credit: Konica Minolta Business Solutions UK