Agility in IT organizations is critical to business success. Agility enables the organization to react appropriately, and quickly, to changing business needs, especially amidst uncertainty as we’ve seen during the pandemic. Like in athletics, IT agility, and ultimately success, starts with the ideal ready position.
I recently wrote about this idea of an athletic ready position for IT for protocol.com, and I wanted to elaborate on that piece with a post that delves a bit deeper into how VMware’s solutions can enable an IT ready position.
As I talked about in the article, almost all sports have a variation of the “athletic-ready position.” It’s the stance based on our human physiology—bent knees, feet shoulder-width apart, lowered center of gravity and slight bend at the hips—that provides maximum mobility and stability. From this position, one can readily make any move—forward, backward, side to side, jump or duck.
Businesses also need a ready position. And because business and IT agility are now inextricably linked, success really depends on the right IT ready position. But unlike the athletic-ready position, which is the same across humans due to our common physiology, businesses can vary widely. Therefore, each business must define the best IT ready position for its organization.
At VMware, we’ve designed our solutions to support your unique IT ready position. As you look to modernize your applications and infrastructure, while simultaneously satisfying business requirements, VMware’s architecture accelerates that journey while allowing you to support a changing environment.
Here are three ways VMware solutions improve your IT ready position.
There’s a lot of talk about “lock in” – the inability to make technology or vendor choices now that will reduce their choices in the future. The counter balance to “lock in” is optionality, providing maximum flexibility to accommodate future decisions. This is paramount to a proper ready position: optionality to move in a direction of choice at any time. The key here is ensuring that technology decisions meet the business need and help move you forward, while at the same time not constraining future decisions. A hard tradeoff to accomplish!
This is exactly the strategy we’ve been focused on at VMware. VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is our core infrastructure building block and we have proliferated it to all the public clouds. VMware Cloud on AWS, Azure VMware Solution, Google Cloud VMware Engine, and more are all based on the same underlying VCF infrastructure. This consistent infrastructure enables great optionality for businesses looking to move to cloud.
If we take cloud migration as an example, what we see is that many businesses have mandates from their board or CEO to move to cloud. They may want to get out of the business or take advantage of cloud economics for bursty workloads. The challenge is that many businesses can’t immediately move their apps to the cloud – instead those apps must be modernized (refactored, operations retooled) before they can be migrated. This is a great example of how technology can limit options. A business may want to move quickly to the cloud, but technology holds them back.
This is where VMware’s unique architecture delivers much needed optionality. The consistency of our infrastructure and operations across all clouds as well as on-premises means that apps don’t need to be modernized before they’re moved to the cloud. Instead a business can move as many apps to the cloud as quickly as they want, sometimes in just a few weeks. This way, businesses have the ability to migrate and then modernize, rather than being forced to modernize before migration.
Another great example is our recently introduced VMware vRealize Cloud Universal solution. It accelerates cloud adoption by combining SaaS and on-premises capabilities for automation, operations, and log analytics. Flexible licensing and delivery enables teams to deploy cloud management on premises or as SaaS, and provides the freedom to move between the two as needed. It’s another example where optionality improves agility.
Simultaneous problem solving while moving to future state architecture
One of the keys to being agile is balancing long-term IT improvements with keeping things operational today. A classic example is the application rewrite. That’s when you have a current app, which is old, doesn’t scale well, and is difficult to extend. And you have a new implementation in mind that, when completed, will be ideal—efficient, scalable, easy to extend. The only problem is the solution of tomorrow will take years to fully build.
We’ve all seen IT teams try to make this work. They start building the new while maintaining the existing—but the existing is what brings in the revenue. If an urgent new business need suddenly emerges, all work on the new application must stop so teams can shift attention to working on the existing app to address the urgent business need.
What if, instead, after setting your future state vision, you could continue to move toward it no matter what happened? For example, if in your effort to modernize an existing app that is a business priority, you were able to also do heavy change work on the underlying infrastructure. That would enable you to take the opportunity to slip in that modernization work along with the business priority work—all with the goal of better aligning you with your future-state architecture. Scoring double-duty changes like this can fast-forward you to your future technology goals—boosting agility.
VMware solutions help you do this. When COVID-19 first hit, businesses scrambled to support remote workers. We were inundated with requests for remote desktop support, specifically VMware Horizon Cloud. Customers often didn’t have the on-premises capacity to support all these remote desktop instances, so they turned to the cloud to support that. The combination of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Horizon Cloud allowing customers to quickly spin up remote desktops for their workforce. Moreover, by standardizing on VMware Cloud on AWS, it allowed them to begin their cloud journey. This is a great example of simultaneously solving the immediate business problem while moving forward toward the future state architecture.
Tooling that Promotes Better Teamwork
Coordination is required for an IT ready position to enable the level of agility businesses are looking for. Teams must work together to achieve the desired business result. Nowhere is this more important than the teamwork between developers and operations. In the Protocol.com article, I talk about the importance of defining clear roles and responsibilities. I use the Google SRE model as an example of a way to ensure that everybody knows their responsibilities and can effectively work together.
Here I’d like to focus more on the technical coordination aspect. A key misalignment between developers and operations are their very different views of the world. Operations teams are often focused on the infrastructure, in the world of VMs, block storage devices, and L3 networking. Developers, on the other hand, are thinking about services, functions, data, and more. Kubernetes is becoming an important bridge between these two worlds. It encapsulates the developers’ concepts into its own – clusters, pods, persistent volume claims, and more – and maps those onto the operators’ concepts.
The challenge remains, there typically isn’t anywhere that these various concepts came together. VCF with Tanzu solves that problem by building Kubernetes into vSphere and VCF. Kubernetes is now a core, native component of vSphere, meaning that VI Admins can now see and operate on Kubernetes objects directly from the vSphere Web Client. When developers create new Kubernetes clusters, namespaces, or pods, operators see them and can begin to manage them, using their existing operational tooling.
Developers can move at their own speed, creating new clusters, spinning up pods, without needing to directly coordinate with the operations team, as the operations team have visibility into everything that developers are doing. Moreover, when troubleshooting an issue, this integration enables developers and operators to work together since VCF translates between the different terms they use (e.g. Kubernetes for developers, VMs for operators). In the end, the right infrastructure enables better team collaboration, leading to greater business agility.
Our collective goal as IT leaders is to be future ready. This means becoming agile and adopting an ideal ready position, like athletes do. This requires choosing the right technological foundation for expanding optionality, making your priorities return twice the benefits, and encouraging team coordination.