Invisible Infostructure #1 – Virtual Lego

The more IT and infrastructure are abstracted through layers and components (driven by the cloud), the more IT infrastructure looks like ‘virtual Lego,’ which can be automatically (re)combined, at will, to support business agility. Virtual appliances enable easy deployment and run of a complete ‘application as a component’ including its operating system, networking properties and supportive tooling. Even more convenient: it can be deployed ‘ad hoc’ for certain unexpected tasks. This brings a complete software stack in minutes, available on a scalable, manageable platform.

Innovation of virtualization technologies continues to move on rapidly, driven harder and faster since the advent of cloud computing. In fact, even though virtualization has existed since the 1960s (originally the logical division of mainframe computing resources), the infrastructure world has now significantly evolved past the simple creation of abstracted logical resource pools post processor, memory and storage.

The insatiable demand for global computing power remains on a path of exponential growth. The ability to maximize the benefits of hardware investments and ease of automation and management therefore becomes more acute. Also, the acceptable timescales for new infrastructure resource implementations can often be measured now in minutes, not days or weeks.

At one end of the spectrum, we have the chip manufacturers ensuring the power and function of the silicon has advanced to include not only sensors, security and on-chip management but also hardware virtualization assistance/acceleration. On the other end of the spectrum, we have software vendors furthering the evolution of hypervisors and enabling new types of abstraction past memory, storage and compute to data to software application and even networks. Many predict that soon all of the IT estate will be able to be virtualized, aggregated and intelligently managed. At that point, ‘IT as a Service’ will be the norm and the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) will be fully realized.

Software-Defined Data Centers and the maturing Software-Defined Networking (SDN) market are already enabling new paradigms. In the cloud world, compliance, management and end-to-end support ideally should be policy enabled, highly automated and presented as components within updated IT landscapes and ecosystems that will be fit for the future. These elastic virtualized computing enablers can be likened to the building of an ever evolving dynamic metropolis complete with re-routable roads (SDN) and the ability to re-purpose buildings on demand (SDDC) to meet the changing needs of the tenants or landlords.

In addition, ‘Software Appliances,’ applications designed to optimally run on a specific compute stacks will benefit from these advances by creating further building blocks that organizations can easily implement. ‘Virtual appliances’ are ‘virtual machine images designed to run on specific virtualization platforms.’ This world of enhanced componentization enables new architectures, new solutions and requires new skills and capabilities.

Simple building blocks, unlimited possibilities.

This contribution by Adam Lewis  

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.