Closing the innovation gap: Diversified IT

Juniper Networks Australia

By Richard Bayliss, Senior Director of Solutions, Juniper Networks Asia Pacific
Monday, 01 August, 2016

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To close the innovation gap, there’s a need to blend old and new in a hybrid model with clearly-defined workflows and open interfaces.

If you’re operating a national or international network, performance means everything — alongside simple, agile infrastructure which ensures more efficient management of the network as a whole. In today’s world, we’re all about needing faster and easier ways to gain deep insights and ensuring we can act on these insights in a meaningful way. Business depends on it.

But what if I told you that IDC FutureScape predictions suggest there will be increased use of outsourcing in coming years, with 48% of companies’ IT assets predicted to be outside the walls of headquarters, positioned offsite in colocation, hosting and cloud data centres by 2018? Furthermore, up to one third of IT staff will be employees of third party service providers by this time. How likely is this to impact your ability to maintain the high performance of your network?

The answer lies in diversified IT and open networking. The cultural shift to incorporate the best workforce regardless of organisational boundaries is certainly a positive change, as it will help businesses remain competitive, encourage development of new cloud skills and keep downward pressure on costs. However, these benefits will only be achieved if external platforms and employees are not unnecessarily burdened with legacy thinking at both the technology layer and organisational layer. They must also be able to freely interact with in-house staff and IT systems. To do this, businesses must step up to the Third Platform.

The Third Platform

There’s no denying that the Third Platform environment is one of increased complexity; new cloud-based systems of engagement, insight, and action require implementation and management efforts. These systems in turn require integration with legacy systems of record, predominantly so-called Second Platform on-premises environments. As such, service providers, systems integrators, and cloud providers are building out datacentres and points of presence to support the demand for IT facilities, optimised to support fast-growing systems of engagement, insight, and action.

The fact of the matter is that open interfaces are essential to making the most of third-party integration opportunities, with automation ensuring all IT tools can better deploy, operate and optimise the network. Too often, legacy infrastructure holds enterprises back but an open network, built on industry standards and designed to prevent vendor lock-in, protects an organisation’s initial investment by avoiding ‘rip and replace’ further down the line. Additionally, it provides the flexibility for newer applications to be added live to the network with speed and ease as they’re developed over time. With increasing pressure on IT budgets, it’s essential that our infrastructure be flexible enough to support our current and future needs, but this hasn’t always been part of our thought process.

Consider this. If you’ve ever installed a router, you’ll know that over time, new interface line cards will be released that provide higher densities at lower price points. To use them however, you’ve always had to upgrade the network operating system. Traditionally, this has required network operators to qualify a new version of the operating system in their labs; a time-consuming and costly process that can even take more than a year to complete, and that’s even before you’ve started to upgrade the actual devices in the network! In many cases, several years pass before your network is ready to take advantage of new hardware. In any context, this is counter-productive, not to mention costly and it doesn’t serve anyone’s best interest.

Long-run scalability

Thankfully, the future model of IT organisations looks very different; even going beyond hybrid cloud to operating diversified IT environments, encompassing a range of deployment models (on-premises and off-premises) and a broad portfolio of SaaS and IaaS cloud services. IT organisations will manage distributed assets across multiple internal and third-party datacentres. They will also implement hybrid IT operations and governance models that bring in the assets, technology capabilities and expertise of external managed services providers.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity, as many IT departments will struggle in this new role, increasingly looking to service partners for the requisite support. In this scenario, the role of the IT department will shift from procurement to the administration and orchestration of internal and externally-sourced IT assets and functionality, with increasing degrees of co-management along with third-party service providers. In other words, Diversified IT presents the IT department with the chance to devote more time to innovation.

From a business standpoint, this model will ensure IT is increasingly seen as a strategic partner, necessary in driving business value and competitive advantage rather than serving as a ‘cost centre to be minimised’. In this new model, executives will understand that increases to IT budgets will deliver new organisational capabilities that create lasting business value. To ensure this shift takes place however, IT departments need to enact change; devoting less time managing day-to-day operations and more time building next-generation services that help grow the business.

Gateway to the future of IT

Solutions such as Junos Continuity are great examples of how thinking differently about operating network infrastructure will transform the way we think about hardware upgrades. They’re a gateway into the future of IT and a roadmap for navigating the changing workplace and IT landscape that we’re all bound for. Junos Continuity eliminates the need for operating system upgrades to take advantage of newer hardware line cards. It’s just one of the technologies Juniper is pioneering to help transform traditional operations workflows to allow the necessary transformation I’ve described to occur.

Diversified IT is a need of today’s business, not one of the future. In order to close the innovation gap, there’s a need to blend old and new in a hybrid model with clearly-defined workflows and open interfaces to allow external staff to provide value and transfer skills to the organisation. The ultimate goal is a transformation to hybrid IT environments with fully-automated, open and secure network architectures. These goals are non-trivial to achieve, but forward-looking organisations will find many new innovations already exist to start us on this vital journey.

Image courtesy Juniper Networks.

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