“We no longer have to plan ahead to deal with growth in unstructured data or the rollout of new applications,” said Daniel Davis, Infrastructure Manager at Endemol Shine UK, a global media producer and distributor. Endemol moved their distributed legacy infrastructure with blade servers and fiber-channel SAN storage platforms – which were ill-equipped for their digital applications with unstructured data demands that spiked without warning – to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud and gained the ability to size workloads on the fly.
Brian McDermott, Senior Network Administrator at Waste Pro USA, had a similar story to share. “With a hyperconverged infrastructure, it only takes minutes to add nodes. Whenever we have new business unit needs we can react quickly. The easy scalability enables us to bring new applications and services to market much faster, and provide better service to all of our customers.”
The real customers that these admins refer to and service, however, are developers.
The Developer as a Customer – and a User
An IT organization – especially in the enterprise – might be well equipped with HCI and have DevOps in place, but that doesn’t mean hyperconvergence is necessarily the driver for application development and deployment.
Why? Because developers – the builders of applications – couldn’t care less about the underlying infrastructure and couldn’t probably tell HCI from a private cloud. Madhukar Kumar, Vice President of Product Marketing, Cloud Services at Nutanix, likened the developer to a racecar driver.
“I’m not interested in how the piston of the engine works – my craft is to make the car run at 200 miles an hour on an uncertain surface,” emphasized Kumar.
What developers care about is the resources they need – VMs, containers, storage (volume based or object based) and highly available development and test environments. This is where the admins come to the rescue – HCI enables them to quickly set up virtualized production environments and allocate VMs to different teams from engineering, marketing, and other departments on demand.
In the absence of such flexibility and instant provisioning, the threat of shadow IT looms large. Today, developers (or even staff from non-IT departments) can whip out a credit card and quickly buy a few cores of processing power, a few gigs of memory, and storage space from AWS for testing an application or third-party service that central IT doesn’t even know about! If IT is seen as an obstacle instead of a resource, determined professionals might try to put together their own solutions, with devastating outcomes.
Instead, if IT admins could use the existing HCI to give dev teams the same agility, same ease of use, and same experience as the public cloud, and enable them to set up and scale a test environment in a few hours, monitor and tweak it as needed during the testing process, and then destroy it when the changes or module goes live, that would truly empower them to do their job better as well as further the cause of DevOps in the organization.
How? In most organizations, production environments get most of the resources, including servers, storage, and bandwidth, as well as support. On the other hand, test and development (test/dev) environments are left with hand-me-down environments with legacy hardware. This results in a lot of problems that hamper the quality of application development and live deployment:
- Slower test/dev infrastructure robs developers of their time and delays delivery. The more their work is hindered, the less efficient they become. It simply increases time to market for new features, products, or services.
- When a critical part of a test/dev environment fails, all work is stopped. With no availability guarantees, there is no certainty in application delivery.
- Significant variations between the test/dev and production environments leads to unpredictability and uncertainties in how the application will run when it’s deployed live.
- Even if the application performs well in an underpowered test/dev environment (and goes on to do well in production) it only means production resources are underutilized. Plus, the two different sets of hardware simply translate to redundancy.
- If the test/dev environment doesn’t have the same security policies as the production environment, it could leave vulnerabilities in the application even after live deployment.
HCI addresses all these challenges in the best way possible – building a separate test environment within the same physical infrastructure with the same resources and capabilities as the live production environment, with the option of scaling up either on demand. This has the additional benefit of replicating the production to test/dev and vice versa, protecting the former in the process. Even if a complete replica isn’t needed, adding additional nodes to the production environment gives it the benefits of deduplication.
All in all, it makes every stage of the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) shorter for developers.