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Why programmable infrastructure has reached its tipping point



Independent Network Architect, ipSpace.net

And a few tips to help you get started

Programmable infrastructure has officially hit the mainstream. The technology isn’t new – in fact, engineers have been using it since the 90s – but across every industry IT teams are now rethinking the way they manage systems in an effort to drive down costs and work more productively, and programmable infrastructure has the potential to help them achieve this.

So what exactly is Programmable infrastructure?

When we talk about programmable infrastructure today, we’re describing the use of a programmable interface between IT systems. This cuts down human involvement (which is often the limiting factor in terms of speed and accuracy) and allows companies to automate repeatable processes. For IT departments that are under pressure to go from cost-centre to value driver, this is hugely attractive.

This begs the next obvious question: Why has programmable infrastructure taken so long to gain a following? Put simply, numerous mainstream IT infrastructure components could not support the technology until now. Now that common enterprise IT infrastructure components have finally caught up, programmable infrastructure has become a viable option for any organisation.

We’ve already seen quick wins in the financial services industry, where one of the world’s biggest banks (UBS) was able to roll out dozens of data centres at dizzying a pace of one per month after automating all aspects of the deployment process, including validation testing and automatically-generated ready-to-use documentation.

The Phillips screwdriver of a modern IT system

It’s important to understand that programmable infrastructure is just a tool. Saying it will revolutionise enterprise technology is like saying the Phillips screwdriver revolutionised the flat-pack furniture industry. Screwdrivers certainly made it easier for anyone to assemble a table at home, but it was IKEA that reimagined the way homewares are manufactured.

In the same way, programmable infrastructure alone will not transform the IT industry. It all comes down to an organisation’s mind-set. It will be companies like UBS, which recognise the technology’s potential uses, which will take the lead in their respective fields.

The alternative to progress is obscurity. Nobody wants to be go down like the booksellers who ignored the Internet, or the DVD rental companies that never adapted to the Netflix generation.

How do I get started?

From a corporate perspective, there’s no reason not to get started with programmable infrastructure today. Many processes can be automated with zero risk, such as simple monitoring that gives companies greater visibility across their operations and makes it easier to spot problems or pinpoint opportunities for improvement.

For engineers, automation is the future. Every business will move to the cloud, automate its processes, or most likely do both, and now is the time to become fluent in the language of programmable infrastructure to support these shifts.

With that in mind, here a few points to keep in mind when laying out your programmable infrastructure approach:

  • Programmable infrastructure is an enabler, not a panacea: When implemented correctly, businesses are seeing outputs in the form of automation and efficiency. So it is worth considering implications that delaying deployments can have for your business, and tailor your approach accordingly
  • Technology can’t solve your problems: As with any investment, innovation is the result of people seeing the potential of a new technology, not of the technology itself. Make sure you have a roadmap for programmable infrastructure in place before investing, then either build the necessary skills in-house or factor the cost of consultancy into your plans
  • Get teams involved early on: each department in your business, be it operations or development, will have their own needs. Make sure every team affected by your programmable infrastructure investment is involved in the implementation early on so that their needs are met, and so that the business as a whole sees the greatest returns

For more insights from Ivan on a range of technology topics, check out his webpage and blog.

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