The reasons behind the unceasing migration of IT infrastructures to public cloud environments and maturity thereupon to hybrid cloud models are numerous: cost benefits, freedom from vendor lock-in, better security, scalable storage with high-speed access, and overall workload suitability.
What more does an agile infrastructure need? Agile is synonymous with simple. Cloud computing simplifies the IT infrastructure by reducing the amount of hardware and software assets and boosting service automation to improve workload efficiency.
Ward & Uptigrove, one of Ontario’s largest tax and accounting firms consolidated its IT infrastructure by migrating its VDI, server, and storage systems to the Nutanix Enterprise Cloud. The resulting unified “single pane of glass” management of different components of the infrastructure, accelerated storage performance, and reduced deployment times bettered the user experience for IT admins and departmental employees alike.
“Instead of looking at four or five management consoles, for our SAN, switches, VMware, and other components, we can focus on Nutanix,” said Randy Anderson, IT Manager at Ward & Uptigrove. “In the past, we would have to check compatibility between multiple elements, and carefully schedule upgrades. Now all that complexity is gone.”
“There are frequent updates of our tax and accounting software, so we are always a bit cautious about updating a production image and rolling it out to more than 100 users,” Anderson went on. “Our new solution lets us quickly deploy an image and test it with a few users before we push it out, so we can minimize risk,” he added.
“Nutanix helps us ensure that we deliver the application performance that our employees desire. Our team is spending much less time maintaining and monitoring the hypervisor and hardware, freeing us to do research and testing for more strategic initiatives,” remarked Pat Downey, CEO of Ward & Uptigrove.
4 Steps to a Truly Agile IT Infrastructure
To fully utilize Agile methodologies for improving the IT infrastructure, network teams must change their attitude towards service delivery – they must be comfortable with radical change and a trial-by-error approach. This warrants continuous internal transformation of the IT function itself, with the following steps:
- A shared vision for IT operations: This involves detailing the infrastructure services that the organizations can provide to its application developers and business users, so that IT teams have a clear idea of the scope and ownership of their tasks. Defining collaboration best practices between the coding and operations teams allows the organization to push through automation solutions faster as well as adapt to new and evolving technologies.
- Prioritized opportunities: IT leaders need to set clear guidelines and tracking systems for performance improvement and business value creation, so that these can be attributed to improvements in the IT infrastructure. A data-driven understanding of resource consumption in the past and present, and development of algorithms to predict future needs will give the organization a better idea of its infrastructure needs.
- Focused, agile IT teams: All IT teams need to know the ins and outs of DevOps as well as be comfortable with Agile methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban, so that they can figure out how to use these strategies to build a better IT infrastructure.
- Sustained transformation: It is the IT leaders’ responsibility to refresh the objectives and priorities of all teams after every digital transformation milestone is passed. More often than not, new opportunities to improve the infrastructure model come to light as soon as current project goals are met.
"We dogfood the products that we actually build," said Nkposong. "So, internally, Agile has been a continuous journey. We use a product and give feedback on it to the product group so they can improve it."
Agile is Not a Replacement for Leadership
For any organization, Agile is a way of life. And as with any way of life, it is driven more by people than by processes. The trust and cooperation needed for technical excellence and simplicity can only be achieved with a radical change in the present day top-down attitudes towards value delivery.
“The way the CIO role is defined, conceived and executed today is incompatible with Agile thinking,” wrote Mark Schwartz in his book A Seat at the Table. Today, technology is the first interaction a customer has with the organization. As a result, CIOs need to become more product-centric, user-centric, customer-centric, and data-centric, all at once.
IT operations – or even digital transformation – is not a separate function anymore. Leaders are responsible for constantly reinventing the business according to changing market conditions and customer expectations.
Schwartz pointed out the way forward: “If we re-conceive the role of IT leadership based on Agile principles, we can turn IT into a value creation engine.”