We've been talking a lot about the benefits of Infrastructure 2.0, or Dynamic Infrastructure, a lot about why it's necessary, and what's required to make it all work. But we've never really laid out what it is, and that's beginning to lead to some misconceptions.

As Daryl Plummer of Gartner pointed out recently, the definition of cloud computing is still, well, cloudy. Multiple experts can't agree on the definition, and the same is quickly becoming true of dynamic infrastructure. That's no surprise; we're at the beginning of what Gartner would call the hype cycle for both concepts, so there's some work to be done on fleshing out exactly what each means.

That dynamic infrastructure is tied to cloud computing is no surprise, either, as dynamic infrastructure is very much an enabler of such elastic models of application deployment. But dynamic infrastructure is applicable to all kinds of models of application deployment: so-called legacy deployments, cloud computing and its many faces, and likely new models that have yet to be defined.

The biggest confusion out there seems to be that dynamic infrastructure is being viewed as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Dynamic infrastructure is not the same thing as IaaS. IaaS is a deployment model in which application infrastructure resides elsewhere, in the cloud, and is leveraged by organizations desiring an affordable option for scalability that reduces operating and capital expenses by sharing compute resources "out there" somewhere, at a provider. Dynamic infrastructure is very much a foundational technology for IaaS, but it is not, in and of itself, IaaS.

Indeed, simply providing network or application network solution services "as a service" has never required dynamic infrastructure. CDN (Content Delivery Networks), managed VPNs, secure remote access, and DNS services have long been available as services to be used by organizations as a means by which they can employ a variety of "infrastructure services" without the capital expenditure in hardware and time/effort required to configure, deploy, and maintain such solutions.

Simply residing "in the cloud" is not enough. A CDN is not "dynamic infrastructure" nor are hosted DNS servers. They are infrastructure 1.0, legacy infrastructure, whose very nature is such that physical location has never been important to their deployment. Indeed, these services were designed without physical location as a requirement, necessarily, as their core functions are supposed to work in a distributed, location agnostic manner.

Dynamic infrastructure is an evolution of traditional network and application network solutions to be more adaptable, support integration with its environment and other foundational technologies, and to be aware of context (connectivity intelligence). 

Adaptable

It is able to understand its environment and react to conditions in that environment in order to provide scale, security, and optimal performance for applications. This adaptability comes in many forms, from the ability to make management and configuration changes on the fly as necessary to providing the means by which administrators and developers can manually or automatically make changes to the way in which applications are being delivered. The configuration and policies applied by dynamic infrastructure are not static; they are able to change based on predefined criteria or events that occur in the environment such that the security, scalability, or performance of an application and its environs are preserved.

Some solutions implement this capability through event-driven architectures, such as "IP_ADDRESS_ASSIGNED" or "HTTP_REQUEST_MADE". Some provide network-side scripting capabilities to extend the ability to react and adapt to situations requiring flexibility while others provide the means by which third-party solutions can be deployed on the solution to address the need for application and user specific capabilities at specific touch-points in the architecture.

Context Aware

Dynamic infrastructure is able to understand the context that surrounds an application, its deployment environment, and its users and apply relevant policies based on that information. Being context aware means being able to recognize that a user accessing Application X from a coffee shop has different needs than the same user accessing Application X from home or from the corporate office. It is able to recognize that a user accessing an application over a WAN or high-latency connection requires different policies than one accessing that application via a LAN or from close physical proximity over the Internet. Being context aware means being able to recognize the current conditions of the network and the application, and then leveraging its adaptable nature to choose the right policies at the time the request is made such that the application is delivered most efficiently and quickly.

Collaborative

Dynamic infrastructure is capable of integrating with other application network and network infrastructure, as well as the management and control solutions required to manage both the infrastructure and the applications it is tasked with delivering. The integration capabilities of dynamic infrastructure requires that the solution be able to direct and take direction from other solutions such that changes in the infrastructure at all layers of the stack can be recognized and acted upon. This integration allows network and application network solutions to leverage its awareness of context in a way that ensures it is adaptable and can support the delivery of applications in an elastic, flexible manner.

Most solutions use a standards-based control plane through which they can be integrated with other systems to provide the connectivity intelligence necessary to implement IaaS, virtualized architectures, and other cloud computing models in such a way that the perceived benefits of reduced operating expenses and increased productivity through automation can actually be realized.

These three properties of dynamic infrastructure work together, in concert, to provide the connectivity intelligence and ability to act on information gathered through that intelligence. All three together form the basis for a fluid, adaptable, dynamic application infrastructure foundation on which emerging compute models such as cloud computing and virtualized architectures can be implemented.

But dynamic infrastructure is not exclusively tied to emerging compute models and next-generation application architectures. Dynamic infrastructure can be leveraged to provide benefit to traditional architectures, as well. The connectivity intelligence and adaptable nature of dynamic infrastructure improves the security, availability, and performance of applications in so-called legacy architectures as well.

Dynamic infrastructure is a set of capabilities implemented by network and application network solutions that provide the means by which an organization can improve the efficiency of their application delivery and network architecture.

That's why it's just not accurate to equate Infrastructure 2.0/Dynamic Infrastructure with Infrastructure as a Service cloud computing models. The former is a description of the next generation of network and network application infrastructure solutions; the evolution from static, brittle solutions to fluid, dynamic, adaptable ones. The latter is a deployment model that, while likely is built atop dynamic infrastructure solutions, is not wholly comprised of dynamic infrastructure. 

IaaS is not a product, it's a service. Dynamic infrastructure is a product that may or may not be delivered "as a service".

Glad we got that straightened out.

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