Operational efficiency in the cloud comes in part from automation and orchestration as well as from the outsourcing of management and maintenance of the hardware. While you can’t achieve the latter without cloud or hosting externally, you can realize a lot of the same efficiencies in a traditional architecture just by leveraging existing collaborative capabilities of infrastructure 2.0.

Glenn Gruber of Software Industry Insights in “Who’ll Be the First to Offer Cash for Infrastructure” (which is a great read in general) says: 

And for those who are thinking about evaluating a private cloud strategy (although a cloud on your own infrastructure in my view is not a cloud), they may be able to get more value out of virtualization and other strategies, but they lose the operational efficiencies and instant scalability to match spikes in demand that the Cloud has to offer.

I won’t argue the private cloud comment. Really, I won’t because what’s important is the reminder that cloud isn’t the only way to realize operational efficiencies in data center architectures. This is important because not all applications are going to be able to move to “cloud” – whether internal or external. Some applications are just not suited to a shared environment for many reasons including aging technology and the cost to essentially “rip and replace” the systems. But improving the efficiency of delivering those applications is something we can do whether we’re “going cloud” or not.

It’s easy to forget amidst the hype (or maybe the air is just really thin up here in the clouds) that there are other ways of doing things that can be just as beneficial to achieving operational efficiency. It’s true that some operational efficiencies associated with cloud can’t be achieved without, well, a cloud; on-demand scalability is part and parcel of the definition of a cloud and without cloud that capability – and its operational benefits – simply can’t be realized. But there are many other efficiencies – particularly those associated with automation and orchestration and integration – that can be realized by just about any architecture. 

  • Automation and orchestration aren’t just for cloud
    The operational efficiencies that come from automating and orchestrating processes in the data center usually associated with cloud and virtualization can be applied to any architectural model, provided the infrastructure is capable of being automated. The reduction of errors associated with manual operations and the time-savings can provide real operational benefits in terms of time recovery and financial efficiency. Whether via scripting or a standards-based control plane API, automation of mundane operational tasks (take down a server for maintenance, bring it up afterwards) can reduce the burden on staff by offloading the tasks to automation systems.

    Infrastructure 2.0 isn’t specific to cloud or virtualization; it’s an evolutionary step in infrastructure that provides the framework through which automation and orchestration can be achieved. It’s the foundation for a dynamic infrastructure, the definition of which does not preclude the use of its capabilities in architectures other than cloud.
  • Feedback loops that include applications make (smarter) real-time decisions possible
    The integration of status, capacity, and performance information from applications with the rest of the infrastructure means security, performance, and availability focused infrastructure can make better decisions in real-time regarding how best to distribute requests across resources. If one application instance is nearing capacity or processing a particularly intense request, that information can be relayed to the infrastructure such that the next request to the application is directed to another more capable instance. The ability to incorporate feedback from applications and across the infrastructure means decisions made by individual components are made within the context of the entire data center, not just its immediate network environment.

    This integration is really part of automation and orchestration, as it implies that if actionable data is shared with the infrastructure subsequently the infrastructure will be able to use that information to make decisions without human intervention. And because it’s making decisions based on current information rather than on a static configuration the entire data center executes more efficiently by leveraging the resources available to meet demand as well as business requirements.

    This is one of the core tenets of Infrastructure 2.0: collaborative feedback that results in actionable data upon which intelligent systems can make smarter decisions.

Cloud computing models offer greater operational efficiencies  because the physical tasks associated with management and maintenance are completely removed from the shoulders of IT in addition to the more flexible use of resources and the inherent benefits of automation and orchestration. While you won’t be able to skip the monthly maintenance on your servers if you aren’t going to a “public” cloud model, you can apply some of the architectural lessons learned from cloud to traditional architectures to realize many of the same operational benefits.


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