Software Defined Networking - "The Biggest Thing Since Ethernet"

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How can previous generation businesses actually succeed in this new software-defined world?

In my last post I discussed how all major business models are facing a software-enterprise threat, and that IT will need to tackle this head on in order for businesses to remain successful.

However: how can previous generation businesses actually succeed in this new software-defined world?

Last year Gartner introduced the concept of ‘bimodal IT': a new organizational model for enterprise IT in which IT organizations have two different modes of IT, each designed to address different technology and information goals. The first mode will focus on stability, scalability and efficiency, the second being more experimental and agile, with a focus on speed. They predicted that by 2017, 75% of IT organizations will have bimodal capacity (though 50% may make a mess of it).

I'll leave a more detailed discussion of bimodal IT for a future blog, however it's worth noting Gartner's comment that leaders simply can't ignore bimodal, because they need it to be able to confront the range of needs presented by digital businesses - now and in future.

So we've established that we need change - but how and where do you start?

I would argue that the first step that needs to be taken to enable these next generation business models lies in ensuring your infrastructure has the flexibility to scale with you, and face off against market changes. There are two common routes being taken by businesses to address this problem today.

  1. Rush in where angels fear to tread: Investments in public cloud services and experiments with customer data go on aplenty: but often with little thought for risk management, regulatory compliance, and data mobility. Inevitably, scattershot attempts at enabling an agile infrastructure through these sorts of tactical investments either fail or need more comprehensive re-architecting. If not, they certainly never capitalize on the efficiency and productivity benefits promised from each tactical investment, and the 80/20 problem of IT - where more effort gets allocated to maintenance than innovation - will only become more pronounced.
  2. Slow and steady wins the race: This class of business is far less common - I'd say fewer than one in five businesses we talk to. They plan: they evaluate, they complete proof of concepts and do small-scale lab deployments. They consider the context of their market and account for every possibility as they roll out their next-generation infrastructure to support their next-generation business models. Some of the proofs of concept we have worked on are so thorough that they run for over a year - depending on the complexity of the business, this degree of thoroughness may or may not be necessary. But certainly given the stakes - new revenue streams, new regulations affecting data mobility, privacy and security, and more - a degree of due diligence is extremely important.

In both cases, the starting (or re-starting) point is a proper scoping and architectural planning exercise. With consumer applications becoming more sophisticated and demanding, the enterprise IT systems that serve them grow proportionately complex themselves.

The ‘slow and steady' businesses tend to prioritize investment in technical innovation, hiring in change management support, assessing the migration path from point A to point B in their journey to become a software defined enterprise. This is vital to long term stability and growth.

And then there's the skills challenge, which I discuss in my next post.

More Stories By Dinko Eror

Dinko Eror is Vice President of EMC Global Services for the EMEA region. He is responsible for EMC’s consulting & technology professional services, and its award-winning customer support organizations, and for helping clients drive business value through IT innovation. Dinko is passionate about how technology is disrupting and revolutionizing business models – particularly through the enabling power of the software-defined enterprise.