Consuming IT: The Entire Stack Is Being Transformed

Consuming IT

If you’re sitting in an office, on a train, in a departure lounge, a cafe or a hotel lobby, take a look around you. What do you see? People with tablets and smartphones. Some of them are using those devices for their own entertainment but many others are sitting there working. Some of those devices will have been provided to people by their employers, many will be their own personal property. What you are witnessing is the consumerisation of IT in practice.

People want to use their chosen devices, especially those employees who are mobile or out of the office, to do their work. While companies and organisations may have been prepared to wait for Windows-based tablets and smartphones to incorporate into their Windows-based infrastructure, their employees weren’t. They went out and bought iPads, Galaxys, Android tablets, iPhones, Samsung Galaxy phones and other Android models and started asking why they couldn’t use them in their work environment.

The fact they could use those devices at home, irrespective of whether they had a Windows PC or an iMac, merely served to reinforce their expectations of being able to use them at work whatever the corporate environment.

Companies and organisations are interested in enabling them to do so for a number of reasons such as enhanced productivity, reduced costs, mobility and flexibility. However, consumerisation has brought its own headaches for IT departments as they seek to integrate the “freedom” and “flexibility” it delivers to employees and support a plethora of devices within the more rigid constraints of a corporate network and infrastructure.

As the advent of tablets and smartphones (and the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon) has opened up IT hardware at the device level, there needs to be a corresponding opening up of the infrastructure to support the more flexible, interoperable and heterogenous IT they require. Consumers are now used to integrated services that just work – irrespective of location, or device, and completely on demand. Think about the experience of getting new songs onto your devices vs. the traditional experience of getting a new application stood up in your IT infrastructure.

Consumers are forcing IT to become more dynamic and much easier to use. In part as a result, the very cloud technologies that are making life simple for consumers on their mobile devices are making their way into enterprise IT.

Take Korea for example, where recent reports indicate that overall mobile phone and smartphone usage leads the world. Companies like Korea Telecom are providing every wireless customer with his or her own hard drive in the cloud and the option to build their own site via the company’s cloud. To achieve this, Korea Telecom has to have an infrastructure that can provide customers with IT resources at the click of a button.

Traditionally, that has not been something most companies have been able to provide to customers or employees. Many people are aware, to their frustration, that it can take a long time to get access to different IT resources in a traditional IT environment. The Korean Telecom cloud has been called the largest cloud in Asia and the fastest public cloud in the world.

The cloud infrastructure used by Korea Telecom is primarily based on open source software and commodity hardware, rather than more expensive proprietary equipment from name brand enterprise vendors. Korea Telecom’s use of open source-based software and commodity hardware mirrors that of Amazon, Google, Facebook and other major cloud vendors.

Cloud infrastructure is becoming increasingly important to deliver the experience that today’s users, accustomed to being able to add an app or a title to their iPad, Galaxy or Kindle in a minute, expect and demand. With a traditional approach to IT infrastructure that process can take weeks.

There are many elements of the infrastructure required for companies seeking to digitalise their businesses available today such as OpenStack, CloudStack and VMWare’s Cloud Foundry. Companies and organisations that fail to understand the importance that open technologies will play in the infrastructure of the future will struggle, if not fail completely, to digitalise their businesses because they will be unable to keep up with the shift towards a dynamic, on demand, cloud environment and therefore will be unable to keep up with the consumeration of IT.

An open source approach to development removes all the mystery attached to what is being developed and why. It also eliminates the costs associated with proprietary technology and the risks of vendor lock-in.

Take storage for example. One thing we know for certain is that the explosive growth in data will continue as the addition of devices such as tablets and smartphones brings more sources of data generation onto the network. One of the major requirements of consumerisation will be the ability to enable access to company or organisational data from a plethora of devices. Storage will need to be more flexible, scalable and cost-effective.

But writing data to disk in a proprietary format creates massive vendor lock-in. While the first deployment from a legacy proprietary storage vendor might be inexpensive, as a customer’s data growth accelerates it may find itself being charged much more than if it was free to choose from a number of suppliers and use commodity hardware and open storage.

Lock-in also holds the customer hostage to the proprietary vendor’s timetable for enhancing its technology and this may well include the efforts a particular vendor is making to incorporate consumerisation into its roadmap.

The benefits of open technology at a storage level are duplicated at the infrastructural level. The infrastructure of the future needs to power a plethora of devices and deliver the resources they require in the best way for those devices to use them. Open technology will help to deliver a cost-effective, flexible and scalable infrastructure that meets the needs of the users of today and tomorrow.

The entire IT stack is being transformed. The result will be fundamentally better, more consumer friendly ways of delivering and consuming IT. New major vendors will emerge and many of the older, proprietary technologies will be surpassed by the pace and value of open approaches.

Mark Lockareff joined Nexenta in February 2013 as CEO and member of the Board of Directors. He is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the company and leading the executive team across all operational aspects of planning and execution. Mark has spent the last 25 years growing, leading, and investing in disruptive technology companies during their key growth stages in the enterprise infrastructure, software and internet markets. These companies include: ParAccel, Agiliance, Apptera, Softricity, Model N, Facebook, Riverbed, Quigo, Acopia, ProofPoint, Excite, Classifieds2000 and Echelon. Mark holds a BAS in Electrical Engineering and Economics from Stanford University, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.