Monday, May 29, 2017
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How to Start Preparing Your Company for Converged Infrastructure

At the intersection between multiple trends within the business world appears to lie converged infrastructure (CI). As companies face more pressure to adopt big data analytics solutions, cloud services, improved customer interactions, and integrated digital technologies, the need to implement converged infrastructure has grown. In many ways, CI solves many of the problems companies face these days. It simplifies IT management and deployment in various ways, leading to lower costs and more agile operations. For some, CI is simply the right option for them. Much of the concerns regarding CI, however, deals with the transformation of traditional IT infrastructure — hardware and software that has made up the bulk of IT operations for many years now. Such significant changes aren’t always easy to implement, let alone doing so smoothly. Many of the biggest problems can likely be overcome by adequately preparing your business for what CI entails, but that’s much easier said than done. If preparation is key, knowing how to prepare is just as important.

Adopting a converged infrastructure solution is a major decision for any company. Once your business has committed to the idea, it should be treated like any other crucial business case. That means coming up with a plan for implementing CI with your existing IT infrastructure. This may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising how many organizations try to adopt CI without first having a detailed plan prepared beforehand. As with any plan, listing out the steps that need to be taken is important, taking special note of where your company is regarding their infrastructure at the moment, what you hope to accomplish with CI, and how those goals will be reached. The beginning steps of any detailed plan are especially important. Many companies are served well by implementing a virtualization plan right off the bat, sort of a primer for future converged infrastructure measures. With virtualization in place, and resulting CI solutions will be more efficient and able to adapt to any changing business conditions with relative ease.

In essence, making the right preparations for converged infrastructure requires answering a number of rather basic questions — the who, what, why, how types of questions. Again, this may seem overly simplified, but having good answers to these questions avoids unnecessary confusion in later stages of implementation. A smoother transition into CI is itself an easy measure to avoid complications at the most inopportune times. This all is related to the need for a plan. Without a plan, your company would act like it is feeling around in the dark for a lightswitch. A step-by-step guide is the sure way to ensure the important questions are answered and you know exactly where you’re going.

The answer to the “what” question is usually pretty easy to grasp. You’re trying to implement converged infrastructure. Of course, there are many different CI solutions and products to choose from. That’s why it’s important to choose from a list of converged infrastructure vendors that will help lead you through the implementation process; this represents the answer to the “who” question. Cooperation is key here but you need to understand that interacting with these vendors is just like any interaction with a salesperson. The more informed you are about the products and services, the more you’ll be able to engage in a meaningful and fruitful conversation with them. Consider the knowledgeable approach as a way to put yourself onto equal footing with the experts. Of course, this requires plenty of research about CI and its related technologies before even making contact with the first vendor. How much research you do is entirely up to you, but neglecting to do any will be you at a significant disadvantage during any negotiations you may have.

Working well with a converged infrastructure vendor also has the added benefit of asking informed questions about what types of products will benefit your company the most. Some vendors will want to overhaul your entire IT infrastructure, but that might not be necessary. Certain existing components may still function well with new CI solutions, so you’ll want to ask about what infrastructure you should keep around. Beyond that, you’ll also want to foster open communication between yourself and your CI vendor. In this way, you’ll be able to voice your concerns along with any problems or issues you may be having as you implement converged infrastructure. It’s all about being able to trust each other during a complex process, and since any new technology can cause unforeseen problems, knowing who to call when those problems arise can save more than a few headaches in the future.

Another part of answering the “who” question deals more closely with employees in your own organization. Your IT teams should already have some familiarity with converged infrastructure and all that it entails, but they may not be experts on the subject. For that reason, it’s important to cultivate and develop their skills and knowledge about CI and virtualization. The CI phenomenon is part of a major shift within the IT community. This shift involves a transition from an emphasis on hardware to software defined solutions. Software, platforms, and tools are the name of the game when it comes to CI, big data, and virtualization, which is why you see so much talk about Hadoop security, open source projects, and boxed components. Having a trained IT staff well versed in these concepts puts you a step ahead of implementing your converged infrastructure.

The “why” in the CI conundrum should be easy to answer for most organizations, but a surprising number fail to properly establish what they hope to accomplish with CI before pressing ahead. Defining your goals is an important step in multiple ways. It helps you in your talks with CI vendors, as mentioned above. It also lets you know where to focus your efforts. Any road map worth its while needs a destination, and if there has been no defined goal, your plan would serve little purpose. It’s the equivalent of treading water. Knowing the “why” lets you know where you’re trying to get to and what success your company can expect from using converged infrastructure.

“How” is another question that needs to be answered, though it’s not as easy to figure out as some of the other issues explained earlier. Of course, a CI vendor can play a crucial role in determining how best to proceed. The same goes for your expertly trained IT department. Even so, there are many different strategies that you can employ to ensure your CI solutions are being done correctly and efficiently. One of the best to use is to centralize your management tasks. A centralized framework makes it much easier to oversee the operation of your converged infrastructure. This also leads to having more free time to focus on some of the business issues rather than spending valuable time on IT functions.

IT departments should also prepare for converged infrastructure by promoting a tried and true service provider model. There are multiple components within CI, such as networks, applications, servers, storage, and more. These components can affect your entire organization. IT teams that truly want to take advantage of what CI has to offer should look at the service provider model, basically turning the entire department into its own service provider for the rest of the company. Other departments in the organization can get specified health through an IT targeted approach. The service provider model makes all of this possible.

In addition to collaborating and coordinating with CI vendors, IT teams will need to collaborate together to deploy CI most efficiently. Encouraging that level of collaboration is critical for effective implementation. This basically comes down to eliminating certain organizational and data silos, allowing for improved communication of insights. Dividing IT team operations may have made sense when using traditional IT infrastructure, but CI calls for those old walls to be broken down. This streamlined way of implementing new technology ensures fewer mistakes and easier handling of any problems that crop up. Team get a better sense of how well the CI systems are operating and can identify where they can make the process more efficient.

Preparing for converged infrastructure isn’t always easy, but there’s no need to become intimidated by the process. CI offers many advantages for you company if you decide to implement it. Success in many ways is determined by how well you prepare for it before starting. CI represents a notable and significant transition to software focused strategies. Any major shift like this needs the right plan in place, the right people, and the right strategies. Take it too casually, and it could end up hurting your business. With the right ideas and attitude, however, you’ll be well prepared to weather the storms and come out stronger on the other side.