As I go about talking about my Modern Enterprise theme, people ask me about the role of infrastructure in the Modern Enterprise platform. Industry confusion about the role of PaaS Vs IaaS (even though PaaS is a distinct layer on top of IaaS) is one of the biggest reasons for this. Today I’m adding my thoughts on the role of infrastructure in the Modern Enterprise.
IaaS in perspective
When cloud computing gained traction five years ago, its success was driven by public infrastructure clouds and in a way that got attention in industry conversations. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) was attractive because it gave people a fast path to the market with minimal cost. IaaS gave people innovative advantages previously not not seen by developers and startups. Inside large organizations, IaaS helped individuals innovate faster without hiding servers under their desks. Public infrastructure clouds leveled the playing field for innovation and transformed the industry for the better.
As companies considered taking advantage of cloud computing inside the enterprise, the conversation got stuck on public vs private clouds debates, overlooking the infrastructure cloud’s impact on enterprise IT. Adopting the approach of individual developers and startups offers limited benefits to enterprises.
Yes, infrastructure clouds might help organizations gain efficiencies from resource consolidation, self service, and elasticity but there are some shortcomings. At worst, organizations end up with silos, hindering them from reaping all the benefits of modern day technology. They must reconsider how they do IT and find a holistic approach to enterprise IT. In short, they need the Modern Enterprise model.
Elastic Infrastructure, beyond a simple IaaS
If you use the simple IaaS approach to enterprise IT, you may build a successful enterprise IT environment, but it will never reach its full potential as a Modern Enterprise Platform. Focussing on infrastructure ignores the implications of elasticity bottlenecks at higher layers of the stack. Moreover, the result is IT platform silos and applications unable to take advantage organization-wide data. The short term advantage of using cloud infrastructure for deploying applications is enticing but, not worth the long term consequences. The holistic Modern Enterprise platform is a much better way to address the needs of your organization compared to short term band aid solutions.
Let me be clear. I am not dismissing the role of IaaS. Rather, I’m pointing to IaaS’ role as one of the core components IT needs to build a Modern Enterprise platform. The elasticity of the underlying infrastructure is as important as the elasticity on the higher orders of the stack. A compromise at any layer of the stack results in a sub-optimal return on investment.
The Modern Enterprise Model, which uses the composable enterprise framework, calls for a layered approach to platforms where elastic infrastructure is at the bottom. The elastic infrastructure used in these platforms has the same features of IaaS but the nature of this infrastructure depends on the needs of the organization. It could be public clouds, private clouds, hybrid clouds or even infrastructure sourced from several service providers (federated clouds) but the complexity is well abstracted by a management plane offering hooks for layers on the top.
In short, instead of using IaaS to push your enterprise applications, think of it as an elastic infrastructure powering your Modern Enterprise Platform. The figure in this post highlights a typical implementation of a Modern Enterprise Platform which uses a layered approach with elastic infrastructure at the bottom. As with all my posts on Modern Enterprise, I would love to hear your feedback.