IT disaster recovery, cloud computing and information security news

Fighting the battle of IT simplicity vs. IT capability

The more complex IT systems and associated devices become, the more chance there is of security risks arising due to mis-management. Destiny Bertucci looks at this important issue.

The ability to enjoy simple IT systems with no compromise in capabilities or performance is the elusive White Whale for IT pros. While an Ahab-esque descent into madness is unlikely, attempting to find this balance has driven many IT managers to despair. (Readers unsure about what these references are about can read the story of Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, a novel written in 1851 by Herman Melville.)

With the number of IT solutions forever on the increase, the adoption of developing technologies often results in a compromise – more features and capabilities, but increased complexity for the user. As a general rule, the more the solution does, the harder it is to make it simple for the user to operate, and the instances where improved capabilities and simplicity are mutually exclusive pose a very real challenge.

Of course, a middle ground must be reached. Something extremely simple but with no functionality is of no use to anyone, while huge functionality but impossible to use is equally pointless. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the three areas where the battle between IT simplicity and IT capability is being played out, and how compromise is being reached.

Hyper-converged infrastructure

Hyper-converged infrastructure comes in two models — as a prebuilt, preconfigured appliance (like Nutanix or Simplivity) or as a standardised/tested architecture (like EVO:Rail). The aim of both models is simplicity: making it quick and easy to establish an IT infrastructure and its various elements, including virtualization, server and storage. There is even an ‘easy button’ of some kind to help you quickly add another VM.

Here comes the trade-off: hyper-converged systems can simplify installation, configuration and operations of the environment, but you are locked-in with a single vendor so are unable to achieve greater capacity and you can’t optimise the system for different workloads. Yet for many businesses, these issues are incidental. Managing an IT environment can be expensive and challenging, so simplicity is worth the compromise.

While hyper-converged infrastructure and its related vendors are seeing strong growth, there are still few instances of mid-to-large-scale data centers / centres swapping out existing infrastructure and replacing it with hyper-converged ones. It seems that that while improved capability remains the key reason for this infrastructure’s blossoming popularity, simplicity is also helping to drive strong growth in this segment of the market.

Cloud

The death of on-premises infrastructure and the glorious new age of the cloud-based enterprise has been heralded since the birth of Amazon Web Services in 2006. There’s been truth behind the prediction too, with cloud implementations growing significantly over the past few years.

Indeed, analysts predict a significant growth in cloud markets, including Pivot’s Michael Cote, whose presentation leverages data from Gartner and Goldman Sachs to show that the cloud IaaS and PaaS markets are expected to grow at a 30 percent five-year CAGR, compared to just three percent five-year CAGR for traditional IT spending. Yet, this brave new world may not arrive as soon as many predict. In absolute terms, the cloud IaaS and PaaS markets are big and getting bigger, but still have a way to go before catching up with the traditional IT market, where spending is still startlingly high.

With all the hype surrounding cloud, why is this the case? Well, enterprises can save money by turning to the cloud in the short-term, but it also has the potential to be more expensive as a permanent replacement for an optimised on-premises infrastructure. The loss of control and fears over security with regards to a cloud deployment are also well-established. So much so that cloud vendors generally only provide limited performance data and are only held to SLA agreements, which typically include very limited financial exposure for the cloud vendor if something goes wrong.

Essentially this means that if something goes wrong, it’s the problem of the business.

Yet outsourcing IT management to a cloud vendor is an attractive proposition, freeing up time and resources to handle other things, rather than, say, IT maintenance. With this, and the startling growth figures, in mind, it’s easy to see that the simplicity of the cloud is winning out over the alternative’s improved capabilities.

IT monitoring and management

Managing a business’ IT infrastructure is a handful, to say the very least. Tackling different platforms (from Windows to Linux and beyond), technical disciplines (from applications to the network), and the different vendors which provide each solution, can be a bit like juggling cats. As a result, many of the early IT management offerings attempted to cover a large number of these issues in a single product or framework which, unsurprisingly, became unwieldy and hugely complex. 

Such issues provided the impetus for the creation of a new generation of solutions, focusing on the simplification of these key tasks. This is where the middle ground is reached, with simplicity achievable only by limiting the technical capabilities in some areas. For example, if you want detailed monitoring of Mainframe, OS/400, Windows and Solaris all in the same product, you’ll probably need to seek out a more complex solution. However, if you can succeed by monitoring for Windows, Linux and Unix systems, these other, simpler solutions can handle your demands with composure.

Vendors of this new breed of IT monitoring and management products are witnessing multiple years of double digit growth, with many businesses preferring the new, simplified tools to the older, complex and admittedly more thorough examples.

While the battle between IT capabilities and simplicity is still being fought, it’s clear from the above examples that a happy middle ground can still be reached, with targeted functional capabilities combined with simplicity are a winning combination. Indeed, this should not be seen as a compromise, but the best of both worlds.

The author

Destiny Bertucci is Head Geek at SolarWinds.


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