Running Internal IT as Efficiently as AWS
A Q&A with Juan Orlandini
Juan Orlandini is a Principal Architect with Datalink Corp., an enterprise systems integrator that helps customers with infrastructure management, virtualization and cloud computing and is a major reseller for NetApp, EMC, Cisco, Hitachi, VMWare, Symantec and others.In this role, he researches data center innovations and practices and advises Fortune 500 companies about best practices and technologies for optimizing the value of IT to the business.
StrataCloud: Tell us a little bit about your business and the challenges of your customers?
Orlandini: We are finding that everyone is making a mad dash to converged infrastructures and software-defined everything. In addition to helping customers understand and deploy the offerings from the major vendors, we help customers walk through the issues and requirements surrounding people and processes to take advantage of these technologies. Having done this for a while, what we’ve found is that many if not most companies that have bought converged architectures are still managing them like traditional non-converged architectures. In many cases the customers thought they were buying a “cloud,” but in fact all they bought was better packaging. One of our key efforts is to help new and existing converged infrastructure customers transform themselves into a more agile, cloud-like, internal service provider. This allows our customers to become the brokers of service and provide their internal customers public cloud-like service for usually lower total costs.
StrataCloud: What is “data center transformation” and how far are along are U.S. enterprises in getting there?
Orlandini: First, there’s the technical aspect of acquiring IT differently. In the past and to a large measure today, most IT shops hand-crafted their internal architectures. A common but excellent analogy is that of buying a car. A converged infrastructure should be similar to going to a showroom floor, finding the right kind of vehicle and purchasing a completely integrated, functional car. Non-converged infrastructure deployment models are similar to going to one or more car part stores, purchasing each component individually, bringing it back in house, and then manually building the car from the parts. Both work, it’s just that one is much more economical and simpler. Beyond this, the way we consume IT is also changing. We are all used to the almost instant gratification of an “app store” or AWS cloud compute model. We expect that our internal IT can provide a similar experience. When IT does not deliver this, internal consumers start looking to the public cloud providers for quicker response times. Our customers that have transformed themselves to be more nimble and provide a similar experience to their customers are finding that not only can they provide a better service, but they can do so for significantly lower costs. Companies further down the path of transformation are seeing that it’s 30% or sometimes 8X cheaper to run a cloudlike environment internally instead of using the public cloud. Still, there are times when it makes sense to leverage pubic cloud providers like Amazon or Azure, but it’s important to first understand the internal IT consumer needs and become a broker for that consumer.
StrataCloud: Your remark on running IT internally is nearly always cheaper than running it in the public cloud if you do it properly, seems contrarian to popular opinion. Can you explain?
Orlandini: It’s simple math. The reason why Amazon and Rackspace and others offer infrastructure as a service is because they can make money doing it. They do this by being more efficient than traditional IT departments. If your company can make IT more efficient, you keep the margin you would have paid to the cloud provider.
StrataCloud: How can a company run internal IT as efficiently as AWS then?
Orlandini: Stop one-offing every architectural decision. Use so-called Lego blocks of IT, the reference architectures, to scale and build repeatable blocks of compute, storage and network. Avoid buying storage, network and everything else separately. This makes architecture, and purchasing much simpler. Next, automate as much as possible. This is where orchestration solutions show their value. To create a proper orchestration solution you need cross-functional IT groups. Once you have created a more efficient IT infrastructure in terms of people, processes, and technology you have to transform how the business sees IT. The allure of cloud is that a business person can show up with a credit card and in a few minutes have 10-15 or even hundreds of servers online. If you can do that, you get efficiencies of scale and manageability, and a side effect of that is saving money. At the same time you are being more responsive to your customers, which is making more money for the business too.
StrataCloud: What’s the biggest challenge in moving from a traditional data center environment to one that’s software-based, cloud-based and more automated?
Orlandini: It’s a cultural issue. There is a large inertia to remain the same and live in the comfort zone. To progress though, companies need to change how the business consumes IT, not just how they purchase it. In large organizations there are silos across the business as well, from engineering to testing, security, purchasing and marketing. There are a lot of fiefdoms, and it’s not politically easy to break those down.
StrataCloud: Can you describe how the concept of converged infrastructure will help IT and business goals?
Orlandini: It’s all about agility and efficiency. CI reduces or eliminates a significant amount of architectural complexity. Coupled with proper orchestration, IT transformation and buy-in from the internal consumer, this leads to incredibly efficient and responsive operations. This, in general, will save money. It will also help generate more revenues by enabling internal consumers to react much quicker to business requirements.