Improving and Accelerating DevOps Through Convergence

In today’s business environment, software has become a critical differentiator in determining business success. A recent article in Harvard Business Review postulates that every business is a competitor on a software playing field, no matter what sector it is in. To wit:

You may be thinking: but my company isn’t a software company. That may be the case, but the current business environment requires all leaders to view their companies as software businesses—and think like software executives… Companies face major risks if they fail to recognize this new platform-driven context and the different economic rules that govern it.1

Given these challenges, updating the processes involved in software development and operations is critical for any organization that wants tighter alignment between application development and business groups. In a recent TechTarget survey of more than 3,000 IT leaders, the three leading software development-related initiatives for 2016 were cited as:

  1. Application modernization

  2. Agile development

  3. Custom application development

One of the challenges in modernizing DevOps is the need to segment high-performance infrastructure from mission-critical production workloads. You don’t want DevOps to take away from infrastructure that is crucial to running your business. At the same time however, you need to supply DevOps teams with the infrastructure they need to operate quickly and efficiently.

One of the important ways in which IT leaders are enabling their DevOps teams to be faster, more agile and more efficient is through the use of converged and hyperconverged infrastructures.

With a converged or hyperconverged infrastructure, IT can provide DevOps with a fully functioning, dedicated infrastructure that can be deployed much faster than a traditional infrastructure in which servers, storage, networking, management software and virtualization software have to be purchased separately and then integrated together.

In addition, because a converged or hyperconverged infrastructure is virtualized, infrastructure resources can be pooled and shared with self-service capabilities and elastic scalability. DevOps teams can use the resources they need at all stages of the process, and then put them back in the pool when they are done. This accelerates applications development while also giving DevOps teams the resources they need—when they need them—to test, revise and test again.

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While converged and hyperconverged infrastructures are proven technologies in making DevOps teams faster and more agile, there is also a new term that is heavily associated with DevOps these days. That term is “composable infrastructure.”

The idea behind composable infrastructure is that physical infrastructure is turned into pools of modular building blocks that workloads can use, as needed, to provide a service. The composable infrastructure API allows developers to treat hardware as code, so they can programmatically control infrastructure instead of letting the hardware restrict what they can do. A great description of composable infrastructure can be found in this blog post by Robert Hormuth, Dell Fellow, Office of the CTO.

As noted in a subsequent blog post from June 2, 2016, the reality is that composable infrastructure is not quite ready for prime time. Hormuth says that to be viable, composable infrastructure must overcome the following three challenges:

  • A lack of software-defined intelligence;

  • A lack of a new industry standard around a modern I/O memory fabric at rack scale, which is needed for full composability; and

  • A lack of industry standards around openness, allowing customers to allocate resources across multiple vendors’ technology.

While industry leaders such as Dell continue to work on addressing these challenges, IT teams have a tremendous opportunity to provide their DevOps teams with the infrastructure resources they need through converged and hyperconverged infrastructures. With convergence, IT can achieve their critical goals in modernizing applications, supporting agile development and strengthening custom application development.

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1You Don’t Have to Be a Software Company to Think Like One,” Harvard Business Review, April 20, 2016