After spending the day discussing IT operations, here are some musings on the future of IT ops.
Traditionally, IT ops has been responsible for managing operationally "dumb" applications. These legacy applications are like infants – they need constant care and feeding. They can’t take care of themselves, and they rely entirely on others to survive. Actually, these dumb applications are even less capable than infants – at least infants cry when they’re hungry!
IT operations today is like day-care. Every infant is different, has different needs, signals their needs in different ways. There’s not much economies of scale here at all. Not a lot that can be automated. And new infants are being added daily!
There are three major paths for IT operations in the future – and each of them is very different:
(1) The Day-Care for Clones: Limit IT operations to management of a single (or small number of) applications. Knowing exactly how these applications work allows you to custom design IT operations/automation to their needs. This is what cloud providers typically do today, and application-centric environments (around Oracle, for example).
(2) The Smart Day-Care: The effort for years has been to make the day-care smarter, more adaptive, more on-demand. This has been a huge challenge, and will continue to be a huge challenge. One new concept has been the introduction of virtual machines, that can be used to encapsulate workloads – which doesn’t solve the problem, but it does enable more automation. Ideally, you still want to have metadata about what’s inside the virtual machine, which can describe service topology, security requirements, even service level requirements.
(3) The University: Expect more from the applications. They need to manage themselves, describe their requirements. They don’t "trust" infrastructure at all – if there are failures, the application is designed to be resilient and extremely self-reliant. On the other hand, IT operations still has a role. With "smart" applications, IT operations can’t necessarily trust them. The role of IT operations is to set constraints, manage the amount of resource that can be used, monitor behavior, look for changes in behavior.
The issue in IT operations is that these three paths are each viable, but each has very different skill, architecture, process, and management tool requirements. This confusion will take place inside enterprise IT – managing a mixed bag of “dumb” applications, “smart” applications, management of virtual machines, private clouds, and public clouds. Get ready for a bumpy ride!