by Andy Jonak
Let’s start this month with a very pointed question: When something changes, is it a good or a bad thing? Depends upon the context, of course, and the quantification of the results that change has brought. However, if that change happens—as change Inevitably does—and the endgame or goal doesn’t change, is that a good thing? I will posit that not only is it a good thing, but it is also in fact a very good thing, especially when it comes to IT infrastructure. Let’s unwrap that a bit this month.
Oh, how IT has changed over the years. I have the pleasure and privilege of being in the IT world for 25 years this year and what a 25 years it’s been. I’ve been through the PC upswing, clients/server and away from everything central, application virtualization and the swing back to centralizing everything, the start of centralized storage, the predecessor to cloud and SaaS we used to call ASP, virtualization on the server side, then storage, then the network, consolidation with scale up and scale out, and then the whole cloud and everything as a service (EaaS) phenomenon that we are all living in right now. Whew, exciting times. I believe that IT is the most exciting place to be, but call me biased after 25 years. What is the commonality among all the things I mention above? Everything above has to do with IT infrastructure and while the delivery types of IT infrastructure continue to change, IT infrastructure’s underlying purpose and goals have not.
What is IT infrastructure’s purpose? When you boil it down, it’s to serve the needs of the business. It provides the foundations for which applications and IT services are delivered and used and supports your firm with IT applications, services, and technology. That was IT infrastructure’s purpose from the beginning and, you know what? It still is today. It performs the same function, albeit in a different way. Your infrastructure can be on-prem, in the public cloud or multi-cloud, but it serves the same purpose.
Let’s take it a step further. While your IT infrastructure is there to support the needs of the business and be the foundation for your IT operations, it still must serve a more critical function: to help drive the business forward in a way that couldn’t be done without them. Think about it: All of this IT are just tools, important and high tech tools, but tools, nonetheless. If you’ve kept up with my blogs, you’ve heard me say it many a time: If these tools do not help make your better at what you do, make you more efficient, or help save or make you money, then what is their purpose? If you aren’t better with them, should you have them? I would lean towards no.
Let me correlate that back to my role at Vicom as Director of Marketing. My role as head of marketing is to help Vicom’s brand and image and our position us out to the world, but most importantly to use those things to help us drive our business forward. To help us grow and expand our business. If I don’t help Vicom in that regard and help us grow, develop, and expand our business, then what is my purpose? I wouldn’t be necessary. This same is true with IT and our IT infrastructures.
But wait a minute, what about how the IT world works today with multi-cloud and other solutions? In the end, it really doesn’t change things at all. Cloud and SaaS (along with all other multi-cloud solutions you have) are just another way for you to have infrastructure. These solutions, no doubt, make our lives easier since we don’t have to manage infrastructure anymore—so that’s a great thing. However, does it change anything? No, it’s still infrastructure. If you are using cloud or other service providers it’s critical to make sure that these “tools” provide the value expect, especially since if you are using cloud and paying for as a monthly, you are going to probably pay more, as opposed to on-prem solutions over the long term. So getting value out of these “tools” is paramount.
The upside of these new tools and new ways to utilize IT infrastructure is your people can move from managing it to trying to improve your environment. Ease of delivery changes how your people do things, a consequence of change—but a good one. People will have to learn to take their time and effort off of running and focusing on IT (unless that is your thing) and focus on doing things that help make the business better. Get your people to focus on bigger stuff, whatever that stuff is defined to be, per your goals. If your people can’t (or won’t) do that, then you might need to find new people. We all know that when a role changes people have to change with it. Some can; some can’t and it can be tough, but in the end, it’s OK as it’s part of the IT world we all live in.
What does this mean for the future? In the end, it really doesn’t change that much. IT will still be just as important as ever to our organization's success and the heart it will still be infrastructure. It will just happen to continue to be delivered differently and much more quickly.
Think of how the time to value has accelerated over the past 20 years with IT infrastructure. It started with virtualization of the server environment and then came to bring that capability to all things infrastructure, then add applications, right down to the container environments that we all use. The whole cloud phenomena is based upon those virtualization principles that we all started using so long ago, but the speed of value is what is incredible. Need a new workload? It’s ready near instantaneously for you and your team to start working. Need to develop a new app and test it? Your access to that environment is immediately available. That’s so powerful as compared to years ago, and I think many of us take it for granted, as not only is it powerful, but is extremely cool as well.
So has infrastructure changed? The delivery of it, a big resounding, yes. The purpose? Not a bit. It’s still meant to try to enable business results as always, but new methods of delivery allow that to happen faster, so you and your team don’t have to think about that part. Just the results part, which is a great place to be. As I mentioned above, and as someone who’s been in the industry a very long time, it’s fascinating to watch all of this unfold. It’s also this type of innovation and these changes that have kept me in the industry for so long, and will for the rest of my career, as I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
So has infrastructure changed? Yes, but in the best possible way.