The triad: key to moving from maintaining to innovating

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Today’s CIO needs to be a change agent. Leading companies count on CIO’s to shift the value of IT from “keeping the lights on” to innovating. They are measured on impacting the differentiation of their company and its position in the marketplace.

This is made all the more challenging by the fact that IT trends have introduced greater complexity, not less, increasing costs and making economic management nearly impossible. Amid this climate, to deliver on business priorities, CIO’s must shift costs away from managing traditional legacy infrastructure and towards building digital transformation solutions.   

This challenge still plagues many enterprises today. In a survey released last year by BMC and Forbes, 37 percent of IT executives report that the majority of their IT budgets are allocated to ongoing maintenance and management, tasks like maintaining uptime and availability; applying upgrades, fixes, and patches; and ensuring security – versus new project development or new initiatives like digital, virtualization, or cloud.   

To shift this balance, organizations must shatter the structural siloes that bind them, and imagine a technology portfolio that enables human agility and capital efficiency to keep up with the increasing pace of the business.   

The Key is Managing the Triad of Competing Tradeoffs 

The central question faced by many CIOs is, “where to start to build this portfolio?” The answer is to re-orient their strategy. Shift from the traditional, manual, supply-allocation model to one focused on managing application workload demand. Just as markets harness demand to allocate resources in an economy, managing demand focuses on serving the real-time needs of the application workload rather than trying manually to allocate infrastructure supply by guessing.     

Workloads – the fundamental application units in our cloud-based world – represent the capability (application logic and data) necessary to perform a specific application task. Workload demand can vary dramatically with usage and, as a result, workloads consume infrastructure resources differentially across time and across IT environments.     

By focusing on managing workload demand across the environment – whether public, private and hybrid cloud – IT teams can at last stop trying to guess (in vain) at which workloads should run where, when, and with what resources to satisfy this continuously shifting demand.  These processes must also map to new workload constructs as we move from virtual machines to cloud instances, containers, PaaS and other services (e.g. DBaaS).      

But this is easier said than done. The key is managing the triad of competing tradeoffs that every workload faces in real-time to keep things running smoothly: assuring performance, maintaining compliance and managing costs. Here’s how to approach managing that triad. 

Assuring Performance 

The goal of IT is to assure application performance. But we operate in a world with constraints, where assuring application performance typically runs contrary to maximizing efficiency. The challenge for today’s data center administrators is to simultaneously achieve both: keep the environment in a state in which application performance is assured, while maximizing efficiency—this is the desired state.   

The desired state consists of numerous tradeoffs in the data center, none of which can be addressed in isolation. These tradeoffs are between huge, conflicting forces that pull the data center in different, opposing directions—in real time, all the time. When all tradeoffs are simultaneously satisfied, the environment is in a desired state—a dynamic equilibrium in which workload demand is best satisfied by infrastructure supply.    

The key to controlling the environment in this equilibrium is to be able to continuously and simultaneously analyze all the tradeoffs that define the desired state and automate decisions about the environment and the actions to reach the desired state. 

Maintaining Compliance 

Compliance comes in many challenging forms, and represents another set of tradeoffs. Let’s consider the tradeoff from policy constraints: high-availability, business continuity and disaster recovery, with important concepts like failover, affinity and anti-affinity rules, geo-diversity for application resilience, and more, all of which designed to prevent catastrophic outages from happening.    

The key here is to put a policy framework to maintain compliance both on-premises and in the cloud. For example, a simple placement policy ensures workloads stay within a public cloud region based on data sovereignty or data locality requirements. Any element within an infrastructure from the applications down to the physical and cloud infrastructure topology can be used to define policies for placement (affinity), non-placement (anti-affinity), merging of infrastructure, and for the purposes of license compliance. Groups that participate in policy should be completely dynamic and self-managing using simple regular expressions for selection. Using dynamic groups ensures that new workloads added to the environment are automatically put into the appropriate policies to maintain compliance while also assuring performance and delivering on the lowest cost infrastructure. 

Shifting from Maintaining to Innovating 

If CIOs will truly fulfill the role of change agent, they need to move quickly. The best part of focusing on the triad is that the CIO’s team can make the shift from maintenance to innovation within one hundred days. It helps them to seamlessly transform their business from the platforms of today, like virtualization, to the platforms of tomorrow: the cloud, the edge and the Internet of Things. Most importantly, it frees the CIOs most valuable resources – people – to create, innovate and add greater value to the business. 

Charles Crouchman, Chief Technology Officer of Turbonomic 

Image Credit: Igorstevanovic / Shutterstock