Web-scale IT, Open-Source cloud and DevOps: Taking enterprise IT back to the future

It’s exciting times in enterprise IT.

Traditional IT operations face pressures from both business and development teams to provide new and innovative services in response to rapidly changing business requirements, which are being powered by mobile clients, the Internet of things (IoT), and the need for real-time responsiveness. The imperative is to serve existing clients through these new avenues while disarming competition. Thus, the focus is now on keeping up with—or better yet, ahead of—the wave of startups that harness the cloud’s rapid business capabilities.

Ideally, these business capabilities should be built by industry players—not just as a means for innovation but for survival, plain and simple.

There is significant pressure on enterprise IT infrastructures in four major ways:

  • To be able to adapt to this new way of doing things and to be able to offer multiple channels and avenues with which to do business with consumers.
  • To offer agile and elastic applications that can detect customer preferences and provide value-added services on the fly—services that not only provide a better experience but also help in building long-term customer relationships.
  • To be able to help lines of business prototype, test, refine, and rapidly develop new business capabilities.
  • To ultimately offer cost-effective platforms that help reduce both CapEx and Opex.

We posit that three new (and ultimately complementary) approaches to IT—Web-scale IT, open source cloud computing, and DevOps—are poised to transform the way enterprises create and deliver IT services and ultimately drive innovation.

All three are intrinsically linked in their roles to help companies become more agile, effective and innovative. Web-scale IT has already proven its mettle at large cloud services providers such as Amazon, Google, Netflix, Facebook and others and is now making its way into enterprises. OpenStack, meanwhile, is an open source platform that companies are already using to build IaaS clouds, including Walmart, Best Buy, The Walt Disney Co., Paypal, Cigna, Wells Fargo and many more. And DevOps, a software development method that increases communication, collaboration and integration between development and operations, is taking hold in IT organizations that want to be nimble and effective.

In early 2014, IT market research and consulting firm Gartner says that by 2017, Web-scale IT will be an architectural approach found operating in 50 percent of global enterprises. That’s up from less than 10 percent in 2013, according to Gartner. The firm defines Web-scale IT as “a pattern of global-class computing that delivers the capabilities of large cloud service providers within an enterprise IT setting by rethinking positions across several dimensions.”

It was actually Gartner that first introduced the term Web-scale IT back in 2013, and in this blog post, Gartner says the term is its effort to describe the IT initiatives at large cloud services firms that enable them to achieve extreme levels of service delivery as compared to many of their enterprise counterparts. There are six elements to Web-scale IT—industrial data centers, web-oriented architectures, programmable management, agile processes, a collaborative organization style and a learning culture.

As an IT architecture, Web-scale was designed from the get-go to handle a large number of data, apps and devices. It can help organizations become more agile by providing them with scalable, flexible, resilient and cost-effective IT systems.

A common element of Web-scale IT is its use of open source technology, such as an open-source operating system like Linux and open-source cloud computing like OpenStack. Open source technologies can break the log-jam of proprietary systems, providing companies with greater flexibility and opening up more options for data center design, for example. And the OpenStack platform is a huge, global collaboration of developers, corporations, service providers, researchers, and users. The OpenStack Foundation, which is promoting the platform’s development, distribution and adoption, has thousands of individual members from more than 140 countries around the world.

The key construct to emerge from Web-scale IT is the notion of software-defined data centers. The data center infrastructure in many enterprises, for example, consists largely of proprietary operating systems and hardware with only pockets of open source and virtualization. With a new software-defined data center that’s built for the cloud, open and elastic operating systems like Linux, cloud computing stacks like OpenStack and hybrid cloud management can be more effective for operating the inevitable mix of public and private clouds.

Finally, DevOps dovetails Web-scale IT and OpenStack because it provides enterprises with a model to improve software quality and speed up the release cycle. According to Gartner, the influence of DevOps on IT culture, tools, processes and organizational structure is resulting in not only the acceleration of application delivery, it can also create an environment of continuous experimentation.

Enterprise IT organizations are starting to embrace Web-scale IT, and companies have already begun using OpenStack and DevOps Together, we believe that these three IT approaches will transform how IT services are developed and delivered. This isn’t going to happen in one fell swoop, of course, but it will happen, and when it does, IT will be a powerful and cost-effective engine that drives business innovation. What’s your take? Let us know in the comments section below.

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