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Getting to Infrastructure 2.0 with a Little Help from Your Friends

Infrastructure 2.0, also known as dynamic infrastructure or dynamic data center, is the next-generation data center model in which IT resources (these days, likely virtualized) are pooled and leveraged to provide flexible and scalable IT capacity on demand--whether in the data center or in the cloud. In theory, everybody wants it, but how easy will it be for enterprises to implement? And what does it take to achieve it?

Any IT organization that has struggled with enterprise application integration (EAI) knows how difficult it is to integrate disparate systems, applications, and data sources. Implementing infrastructure 2.0--a fully integrated, collaborative infrastructure--isn't any easier. At least, not yet. It will require whole new levels of integration, automation, and orchestration beyond what's required for EAI.

Many organizations have already taken steps toward automation--converting the steps required to complete management tasks (such as provisioning or deprovisioning a virtual machine) from manual to automated processes. Automation is about managing infrastructure components to provide consistency, eliminate redundant tasks, cut down on errors, and improve response times. In contrast, orchestration is about using the results of those automated processes to make intelligent decisions based on business goals. Where automation helps improve IT performance, orchestration uses that performance improvement to achieve specific business goals and initiatives. Because it enables orchestration, automation must be mastered before enterprises can even think about orchestration. (It's counterproductive to make business decisions based on processes that are not proven and reliable.)

Enterprises are not alone in their struggle to implement Infrastructure 2.0; network vendors and infrastructure providers share the same challenges as they develop solutions to help customers achieve these goals.

Ideally, the best way to achieve advanced levels of integration, automation, and orchestration is through service-enabled APIs. The problem is, most vendors have their own APIs, and no two are alike--you can't use one vendor's API to manage another vendor's network devices.

The good news is that many of today's infrastructure management solutions are API-enabled--SOAP, HTTP, REST, XML, JSON, etc. That's why many network vendors are working closely with partner/vendors that provide these solutions. Through collaborative partnerships, network vendors can tightly integrate their networking (load balancing and application delivery network) solutions with popular infrastructure management solutions such as HP Operations Orchestrator, Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager, and VMware vCenter Orchestrator. (These solutions are somewhat analogous to EAI solutions that include vendor-specific software adapters.) Through automation, these solutions greatly simplify network deployment, management, and maintenance tasks--and bring organizations one step closer to implementing the orchestration that's ultimately required to achieve a fully integrated, collaborative infrastructure.

Posted by Karl Triebes on 07/01/2010 at 12:47 PM


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