5 Critical Things to consider while Transforming IT Infrastructure
We are in fast paced world, the technology landscape used to change in every decade-once around 1980s to early 2000s. Now every year the technology road map changes due to disruptiveness that innovation brings in to this field.
Most of the time, the Infra leadership faces this dilemma, on where to start the transformation. For any new IT Infra leader, this is a million dollar question, especially if they inherit legacy systems and team full of members having old school of thoughts.
In these kind of scenarios, “clarity of thought” is guiding light to take first step into this direction of Change or Transformation.
To make it more structured, below 5 key things will give Infra leader stay rooted on ground before he takes “leap of faith” on transformational initiative.
1. Understand the Business and Key stakeholders:
I was working for Retail/Automotive Dealer company in ME in late 2000s. Pretty new to the role, we found one more young energetic individual joining our team as Infra head. Since he was from banking(BFSI) domain, he started comparing Apple to Apple on Infra setup and Process.
In one of the discussion, he highlighted there is no Genset(Fossil fuel based Power generator as redundant power source) for the facility which is hosting the Datacenter, and he pushed it hard to have that implemented and budget the same for future.
I can still remember what VP, IT had responded to him. Our Company is in Luxury Retail and Automotive Dealership, even if IT Systems are down for a day, our business don’t suffer. They have manual way to process the billing and order booking. Moreover, UAE doesn’t have power cut issue and the ROI of having Genset for a Small Datacenter we have, is not worthy one to consider.
Most important thing to observe and learn is to see, what is Key deliverables to Business? What impacts them the most from IT Service Perspective? Your previous learning from different scenarios can’t be implemented without observing the current one. There is no preset strategy, so be flexible and align to Business Goals of the Organisation.
This helps in area we need to focus on transformation and to be an enabler for Core business. We may have urge to implement state of the art technologies, like a VDI solution or a SSO solution or Partner Onboarding Solution, but it may not be top priority or challenge that organisation is facing.
Have a open mind and always keep in mind that “Once size doesn’t fit all”
Especially when it comes to transforming the IT Landscape, we need to be mindful since its a critical enabler for the Core business.
2. Discovery — Application landscape
If you are aiming for opportunities to transform the IT Infra landscape, second step is to do discovery on Application Landscape in your organisation. Understand the objective of each applications and how its interlinked/integrated to each other(Upstream, Downstream).
Work on Criticality Index of all the Applications to business. Map the Infrastructure where these applications are currently running. Based on criticality of Applications, check whether HA & DR Setup is available. Check RTO and RPO are captured and aligned to Business expectations.
Check the Application compatibility to new Cloud framework(AWS or GCP or Azure), this can be done by having these CSPs running assessment in your Infra landscape. Many legacy applications can be run in IAAS model. The transformation to cloud actually starts from Application Architecture, the way the application is coded. Work closely with Application teams and their OEMs to come out with clear picture which stays on-prem and which goes to cloud. Before looking this as a technical assignment, look at ROI for the organisation by doing this exercise. The Transformation lead we see and enthrals us technically, may not have business sense at all.
Wear a Business lens while viewing IT Infrastructure Transformation.
3. How much data your company is churning or creating?
Third most critical area to look at is how much data being churned and created newly on daily basis(Both Structured and Unstructured Data). This usually becomes huge burden for initiating a transformation on moving backup infra to cloud. The legacy backup systems are severely depleted of resources and logic to align new Data Privacy laws and the way data being stored. Our Indian Government also has initiated framing Data Privacy laws and this needs to be complied for Organisations dealing with Customer data (PIs).
Many new launches happens in US tenant with regard to AWS, GCP and Azure before its made available for India market. We need to consider these aspects before initiating any transformational projects. As per new Data Privacy laws, the data shouldn’t be stored across the border specifically if it has PI data of the citizens.
Even now many organisations are still having legacy file servers(Unstructured data) as the means of sharing the files. Imagine you have plans to transform this to either Sharepoint or Cloudbased or Opensource OS based Filers or product like Documentum, most important thing to consider is user behaviour (Are they accessing the files across the sites through MPLS? Is there any discipline that File servers are dedicated to local site users only) and connectivity between the sites.
As Clive Humby said “ Data is the new oil”
For all Digital intiatives Data is fuel! How we are going to deal with Data growth and its storage to be considered as priority while initiating transformation on infra which holds them dearly.
4. Existing Network & Security Infrastructure
Fourth critical aspect is to look at current Network and Security Infrastructure. Start looking into details fo Network architecture right from LAN to WAN that are enabling the organisation to run its operations smoothly. See the gaps in alignment with Business goals, are they facing frequent MPLS or IP-Sec Tunnel outage issues? Is the architecture they are using is as per industry benchmark? Are they ready yet for SDWAN solution? Are they losing dollars/minute during site isolations? Come up with all the findings with a comprehensive assessment. You can get this done with partners who are good in this area. SDWAN saves lot of money if your organisation is using conventional MPLS link network paying Millions to ISPs.
Check the Security Architecture, specifically towards Firewall? Are they using distributed firewall architecture or consolidated one? Do they have Perimeter Firewall for all locations having same standard rules and policies across all locations?
On Proxy, there are many solutions which gives consolidated approach covering all locations and exceptions can be given site wise and department(eg: Linkedin and Gmail may be allowed for HR Function). Solutions like Zscaler provision VPN/Proxy SAAS kind of solutions where implementation is smooth and effortless.
5. Regulatory Requirements/Compliance
Fifth important area is Regulatory Compliance, Whether a BFSI or Manufacturing company they need to follow RBI Guidelines or GMP/FDA compliance to the letter. Not all Technology Transformation will adhere to all Compliance requirements of different Domains. We need to be mindful before venturing into transformational initiatives and to be well-read on Regulatory requirements.
Having said that, even the regulators are open minded now and making amendments to their policies. A quick eg. is GMP practices, where they are now ok with Cloud hosting of GMP qualified systems. Actually we implemented CSV related EVAL application in Cloud Tenant itself and it has been qualified without any issues.
So fine balance is the key when it comes to pushing a transformation initiative, we need to be wary of Business Ask, Application Landscape, Data & Operational Overheads, Existing Network & Security Architecture and Regulatory requirements & its compliance.