In our interview with Don Boxley, CEO and Co-Founder of DH2i (www.dh2i.com) we learn his perspective on how companies should be leveraging “smart” availability over “high” availability, in order to achieve a successful digital transformation.
“Digital Transformation” appears to be topping most enterprise business and IT professionals’ priority To-Do List. Is this the feedback you are receiving from your client base?
DB: Yes, absolutely. For some time, we have been hearing from our clients that they would like to digitally transform their business. Unfortunately for some, the perception is that the goal will be achieved by simply deploying new innovative hardware and/or software. For others, they recognize that unless they are very strategic in their overall approach, they can miss out on the actual transformation – and the benefits and capabilities that go with it.
Many of our clients will ask us for our recommendation for the best strategy. Our advice is always – whatever approach you choose, first and foremost, make sure your strategy, as well as the technologies chosen to support that strategy, can easily change and adapt as business needs fluctuate. Agility remains a key goal here.
Do you find that many of your clients that are seeking to benefit from the promise of digital transformation are ready for the changes that need to take place?
DB: That’s a great question. We are finding that many of our clients, even those that are the most forward-looking, are a bit reticent to change when the time comes. But, they are not alone.
Relatively recent research from Dell revealed the uncertainty that’s in the minds of many executives. In its survey of 4,000 business leaders worldwide, Dell found that 45% fear their organization may become obsolete in the next three to five years. 48% said they weren’t even sure what their industry will look like three years down the road and almost 80 percent expressed feeling threatened by digital startups. Clearly business and IT professionals are worried that tomorrow someone else could completely annihilate what they’re working so hard on today.
Dell’s respondents are not crazy to feel this way. Pressure continues to increase in all directions. As an example of how quickly and dramatically digitization can change businesses and whole industries, think about how we buy groceries. If you talked to the executives from someone like a King Soopers last year, they likely would have answered rather differently about who their competitors are than if you talked to them today – now that Amazon has bought Whole Foods.
What other aspects are important when thinking about strategic transformation?
DB: Another important consideration is the identification of current pain points. For instance, many of today’s businesses are faced with managing a significant amount of legacy infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of operating systems have been installed for Windows and Linux, and an operating system doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Every operating system is on some kind of server—whether physical, virtual or cloud. Also, every server has a whole host of other components that go with it—from power and cooling to storage and networking. Consequently, one area where organizations can enjoy a fast win is addressing the dichotomous issue of having a ton of disparate infrastructure that needs to undergo transformation, but needing to do so in a way that minimizes business impact.
So, how do you do this?
DB: Some technologies do help organizations to harness infrastructure more dynamically, so that they can stay open to the changing environment rather than stuck in one place. These technologies enable them to take their workloads and move them independently of each other—to the best execution venue (BEV) that makes sense for them. Organizations that do this see a quick reduction in the number of operating systems required—and because of that reduction, they also experience faster transformation of their infrastructure (along with greatly reduced costs).
With the growth of Linux and container-based applications in the enterprise, organizations today are rarely just Windows or just Linux. If you go into any major organization today and ask “How many versions of this do you have, and how many editions of that do you have?” nobody’s going to say, “We’re just vanilla—we have only one edition of this and one version of that.” A vanilla environment has not been the reality in quite some time.
Since organizations inevitably possess a mix of infrastructure, versioning and editions, the best thing they can do now is find a way to unify their disparate environment before continuing down the road of further technology adoption. In other words, they need to ensure unified Smart Availability across their environment to continue down the road to true digital transformation.
The best solution will offer the flexibility to manage the multi-platform environments their legacy database applications—SQL Server, Oracle and more—necessitate. Preferably, it would provide the capability to sustain future needs around Docker containers as well. The key is for enterprises to have a way to do this without having to standardize their entire infrastructure on any one database or single operating system edition or version.
So, how would you sum up how today’s organization should encapsulate what has become rather chaotic environments, and achieve true digital transformation?
DB: I believe that digital transformation is about having solutions that help companies simplify and encapsulate their workloads on the fly. It’s about the ability to move workloads from any host, to any host, anywhere in their environment, at any point in time by supporting a mixed operating system environment. This approach optimizes enterprise operations by unlocking the freedom to dynamically move workloads to always run on their BEV.
Here’s why this approach is really a game-changer: when organizations have the ability to encapsulate workloads and move them around, they can start to think differently about how they manage their applications. Instead of thinking, “I’ve got it here, running on this old box, and I’ve got to migrate it to this new box,” migration is no longer the conversation basis. Instead, it becomes about moving each workload where and when it makes the most sense. Because it may be that the old box does some things pretty well, but for a certain time during the year (or even month), it would be terrific to be able to leverage another capability on a more fitting infrastructure.
When you are able to dynamically move stateful instances and containers around, organizations can take something that’s running on a bare-metal box, move it to a virtual machine, take it to the cloud and then decide to move it back on premises. Each of these processes can take place automatically based on predetermined criteria, or with management intervention if desired – all in a matter of seconds.
Bottom line, organizations can now start to reimagine “high availability.” Its no longer just high, but smart. Instead of workload-specific targets, now workloads are free to move wherever they need to go to ensure BEV at any point-in-time. It’s the ultimate enabler for enterprise agility and adaptability—the legs needed for any successful digital transformation.