These days everyone wants to be agile. In fact, agile is now considered essential for survival in the emerging service-driven economy.  It has stoked fear in big organizations that have invested years, if not decades, in building the monolithic data environments that are anathema to agility.  Therefore, we need to consider the best practices in building an Agile infrastructure.

The enterprise is accepting the “adapt or perish” mindset that is the first step in digital transformation.  Yet, it is important to note that agility is not only dependent upon an abstract, cloud-based infrastructure.  It requires changes to processes, business models, and the very fabric of the organizational culture.

Agile History

In terms of software development services, agility as a concept dates back to mid-century.  This was when engineers at IBM and Motorola needed a more efficient and effective means of leveraging these amazing new machines called computers. Since then, several methodologies have emerged to extend agility from small teams to large-scale organizations.  However, they all require a significant commitment from management to overcome the inertia that inevitably builds up around long-standing practices. In the end, though, agile development deployed at scale can accelerate innovation by as much as 80 percent.

Adopting An Agile Infrastructure

Agility does not spring from virtual infrastructure on its own.  However, it is fair to say that it is challenging to achieve within a static, silo-laden data center. This is why organizations should be working overtime to convert key resources, such as storage, to more agile, software-defined architectures, says Shachar Fienblit, CTO of Kaminario.

For starters, organizations should establish consistent performance across unpredictable workloads.  That includes, in part, by deploying a means to scale capacity and performance independently. Without this, the enterprise must maintain massively over-provisioned infrastructure to meet increasingly demanding user requirements. Likewise, storage infrastructure must have the ability to incorporate new technologies, like Flash media, without disrupting existing processes.

Agile Challenges

Agile is also next to impossible without new networking and network management, says William T. Cannon, CEO of Monolith Software. In many cases, organizations are trying to build service-based architectures using systems created at the turn of the millennium.  That is before many of today’s services and even the virtual layer they reside in were even conceived.

What’s needed is an overarching Service Assurance Manager of Managers (MoM) that provides end-to-end visibility across operational and business support systems.  This role requires accessing device-level interfaces for both data-centric and virtualized assets. At the same time, it should provide runbook automation capabilities for real-time service assurance and provisioning.

The Value Of Automation

Do not underestimate the power of automation in support of agile infrastructure, says IBM’s Osai Osaigbovo. In fact, with infrastructure resources increasingly being provisioned as code, it will be nonsensical not to incorporate this into the agile Dev/Ops model.  That includes everything else needed to support the product. Not only does it speed up the development and deployment process, but it also provides for a more consistent service environment across the board. Thus, allowing multiple services to work together, even learn from each other in a coordinated manner.

However, systems like Chef, Ansible, and IBM’s Cloud Orchestrator are only the first step in the transformation. They will need to be supplemented by release orchestration management, plus security and governance tools.  These ensure that the automation stack is in tune with evolving processes and workflows.

Create A Roadmap

Creating an agile enterprise is like building the perfect house. There is always room for improvement. This is why most organizations will adopt agility as a never-ending strategy rather than an operational goal.

Agile infrastructure can help the enterprise lay the groundwork for agile development.  However, a meaningful transition relies on more than just technology. It takes time, effort, and, most of all, the vision.  These are essential before you start to see successful outcomes. In the meantime, get ready for a fair amount of griping about how much better things were in the old days.

IT leaders need to keep in mind that the old way of managing data and infrastructure is holding the enterprise back.  It is a burden that nimble, service-driven start-ups do not carry.

This comes from Prima Business Solutions.  Check out their site to learn more about the services they offer.

Rob Broadhead

Rob is a founder of, and frequent contributor to, Develpreneur. This includes the Building Better Developers podcast. He is also a longtime student of technology as a developer, designer, and manager of software solutions. Rob is a founder and principle of RB Consulting and has managed to author a book about his family experiences. In his free time, he stays busy raising five children (although a few have grown into adults). When he has a chance to breathe, he is on the ice playing hockey to relax.

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