Converged infrastructure and services lay the foundation for agility and dynamic IT provisioning
Written by AJ Hartenberg, Portfolio Manager: Data Centre Services at T-Systems South Africa
In today’s world, connectivity and connectedness are essential. Customers are no longer satisfied with siloes of information and disparate systems that cannot interact with each other. The real value of technology can only be realised if solutions are fully integrated, from the infrastructure layer right through to applications and services. Traditionally, this integration has been one of the biggest cost centres for IT, creating additional layers of complexity and often only limited integration functionality.
Convergence of networks, infrastructure, platforms, applications and services, enabled by the cloud and software-defined solutions, has changed this model for good. Dynamic infrastructure as a service solutions empower organisations to leverage converged technologies to support mobility, enable BYOD and ultimately take advantage of fully flexible, automated and agile IT provisioning, essential for competitiveness in a changing business world.
Limited integration has been an on-going challenge in the IT space, as in the past OEMs and vendors have operated in isolation, focusing on their own technology stacks without thought to how they might work together to enhance operations. The cost of integrating different solutions has always been high as a result, and many solutions ended up simply being workarounds that added complexity while only delivering limited functionality. If technology solutions do not work in harmony with others, organisations not only lose their ability to be agile, but also are unable to leverage the full potential value of their technology.
With the advent of the OpenStack community as well as initiatives such as the Open Datacentre Alliance, this mind-set began to change, ensuring open standards across different vendor technologies. Integration has been further driven by the cloud, and convergence at the software layer provided the final enabling factor for fully converged technology and infrastructure solutions.
With software-defined solutions providing the necessary integration layer that enables convergence, infrastructure, networks and even data centres have become commodity items. All of these previous cost centres can now be offered as a service, for a fixed monthly fee, which helps organisations to reduce IT complexity and capital outlay while simplifying and expediting technology and process adoption. This enables organisations to benefit from full automation in terms of integration, and provides the basis for dynamic services and solutions to be delivered.
Convergence of applications and services on top of an integrated, dynamic IT infrastructure enables organisations to deliver a single, virtualised front end to their employees. The concept of ‘zero desktop’ is made reality, as employees are no longer tied to a specific desk, or even a specific computer. A consistent user experience can be delivered to all employees, regardless of the device they use or even their location. This empowers true Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) ability, allowing staff to access internal applications from anywhere in the world using virtualised services and a web browser.
In addition to facilitating mobility, the dynamic workplace also ensures security. All data resides on centralised servers and not on the device, so there is no risk of data leakage should the device be lost or stolen. Patches and security upgrades are centrally controlled, removing the potential for vulnerabilities resulting from out of date software. This empowers employees to work from anywhere, on any device, without compromising stringent corporate security protocols.
The IT environment of the past was all about building the physical bits and pieces necessary to deliver technology services. Thanks to the evolution of convergence, system integrators have now taken over this role, dramatically simplifying the technology procurement process for business. Organisations are now looking at virtualised, converged data centres, which deliver fully automated provisioning dynamically, as capacity is required. By scaling up and down dynamically based on requirements, organisations can leverage the increased agility they need to drive innovation.
As convergence continues to evolve, we can expect to see even more solutions offering advantages for organisations, from data and mobility as a service to hospital systems, retail point of sale, databases, big data, mobile device management and even WAN optimisation as a service. These solutions are all driven by and enabled by converged, dynamic services infrastructure, empowering the business of the future to leverage agile technology to full advantage.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”