Much is being said about how our IT world is changing, the need for “transformation” is utmost nowadays for most companies as they need to keep up with competitors, even though they just play “catch up” in most cases since they are so far behind. However, once those basic and necessary steps are taken we need to figure out how and where we are moving from that point. The first word that comes to my mind is “forward”, always: there is no chance to go back neither in way of thinking nor in technology.
In theory everybody is implementing or about to implement their own version of the latest in technology, “the internet of things” or the “Holy Grail” that will bring wonders to every business as it will benefit from features such as the “big data analysis”: taking the right decisions without human intervention will be paramount blah blah blah…beautiful… The idea is great and I truly believe in it. However, down to Earth and going into the practical side, how do we put this in practice? What is the underlying devices or equipment? I will give you my view even when and I am pretty sure that you will be surrounded by “gurus” of business transformation. The market is now full of them…far too many. This is the latest, the new trend, the new topic that people are “forced” to learn. Those “professionals” just know the acronyms and try, once again, to catch up and play the “I know it all” using the buzzing words that probably read in a magazine or heard from someone else. They will always find the right moment in front of an audience eager for technologycal developments, sometimes even pretending they were part of the history that made it all happen.
Mind you, from a marketing perspective we are all pushed (sometimes even “bullied”) to embrace a number of initiatives that, should you not take them into consideration, you will be considered as “not-up-to-date” professional, a technological “pariah” sent to the corner “to think”…so word of caution in case you are “presented” with a magical solution by one of those…Welcome to the new “fake experts”.
So, instead of thinking how things are now let’s take a couple of steps forward for what may come after the next business transformation (which is currently happening in case you didn’t notice).
The first step that I see ahead is the almost-full implementation of hybrid elements in our IT infrastructure alongside “the pure cloud”. SDA (Software Designed Architecture), NFV (Network functions virtualization) or SDN (Software Designed Networking) will be the core of our new strategy. Elements are not rigid as before, and when implementing different software in the same physical devices it can be transformed into a switch, a router, a firewall, storage or any other element that you may wish. We can see lately how many companies are jumping on the SD-WAN backwagon, which is the most known service that falls into these virtualized services.
I am not going to talk about what these elements would bring to your infrastructure. Just lets say that you will need to change your mind about how you design your portfolio and products, enjoying elasticity and freedom when designing.
So, what will bring the next generation of what we call version 1 of SDA, NVF and SDN? Self-awareness and auto-recovery. I am not talking about a network in which a virtual router is down and, since the overall topology is known, you have alternative routes to move your traffic. I am talking about having devices intelligent enough to change their functions by themselves, even to create new ones. Let’s imagine that in our infrastructure we have a database server that is critical for the operation. All the elements in the network are aware of this server since they send and receive data from it. Now let’s imagine that it stops working so, in theory, the final applications facing our customers don’t work…but then the overall infrastructure architecture understands that without this element nothing performs so it somehow self-heals: firstly tries to put the server back on-line and, should it not be able to do so, the “overall intelligent system” will take resources from the “virtualizator” (call it VM-Ware, Red Hat Virtualization, etc) creating a new database server replicating the parameters from the original instance while it rebuilds the database from the latest archive/backup, putting on-line this new device without human intervention and in a record time. This scenario could be replicated in many other occasions, like if a router breaks down and a switch adds to its function the ability to route as well.
As we can see the future is not about virtualization or virtualizing any possible device. The future resides in the ability for the infrastructure, as a whole, to be self-aware of its own needs in order to function correctly, sometimes overcoming the dysfunction of a broken device or even putting in place devices that originally were not considered. An example would be the necessity to access a set of applications on a server. Our friend “the orchestrator” realizes that there are too many queries and that the response time is starting to be an issue. Before there is a serious problem it decides not only to implement by itself a second server to answer queries but also to implement additional elements, like a load-balancer.
We have to think that the more critical our network is the easier it has to be for either people or future elements to correct and maintain. I therefore foresee an infrastructure in which you will have like a catalog of different elements that can be installed in your systems but may not be used from the beginning. The infrastructure will have the intelligent by comparing how it is working as a whole and comparing its functionalities, devices and needs with others via of what we understand now as “internet of things”, addressing automatically and in an autonomous way every need it may have, which will be a combination of SDA, NFV or SDA with AI (Artificial Intelligence). This will bring a new concept which I envision could be addressed as “Self-Aware Software Defined Architecture (SA-SDA)“