Aug 27 2021

CDW Tech Talk: An Infrastructure That Delivers on the Promise of the Cloud

To optimize operations, organizations need to understand their workloads and how they fit into cloud and on-premises infrastructures.

Technology by its very nature is always evolving, but the pandemic has sparked change at an impressive and escalated rate. Organizations across many industries invested in innovative IT solutions initially as a means of survival and have since recognized the value of business transformation.

However, new technology tools can’t reach their potential unless they’re supported by a solid foundation. A company’s IT infrastructure must be kept updated and clearly aligned with business objectives.

Neil Graver, executive technology strategist at CDW, joined CDW’s Tech Talk webcast to share some details on how CDW keeps its business outcomes in mind when planning technology investments.

Register below for an upcoming CDW Tech Talk, held Tuesdays at 1 p.m., to hear from IT experts live.

The Pandemic Forced Companies Into Quick IT Decisions

During the pandemic, many organizations had to accelerate their technology decision-making because they needed to accommodate remote work. Graver pointed out some of the common choices made by companies and the lingering results of those decisions.

“Cloud adoption increased quite a bit, right? Cloud roadmaps accelerated across most companies. And this is partially driven by the need for holding onto staff or cash, in some scenarios,” he said. “But also the flexibility that this cloud provides — we’re able to spin up workloads and wind out workloads as needed and pay as you go. And now, for those who rushed into the cloud, they’re looking at costs. And, beyond costs, configuration, setups, development patterns, they’re now rethinking and fine-tuning cloud positions and really avoiding cloud lock at all times.”

“When COVID-19 hit, we all had to scramble, especially those in traditional infrastructures,” Graver continued. He observed that CDW customers with flexibility were able to adapt quickly, “versus those customers with classic, rigid, separate compute storage network architectures, where they were really left scrambling, versus perhaps a hyperconverged HCI environment, a more flexible, hyperconverged infrastructure that was easy to scale and manage. And, taking flexibility a little bit further beyond on-prem, HCI customers with true hybrid environments could shift, pivot really quickly and account for the massive change that happened overnight.”

“Another area where we saw an explosion was Desktop as a Service. And, for those companies that were already in this area, they really had a massive head start in the first few weeks. They were able to quickly accommodate that remote workforce,” he said. “But beyond cloud and HCI and desktop, our customers with a high degree of digital transformation maturity did very well. And that’s the consistent theme that I saw throughout this entire pandemic.”  

Companies Are Continuing to Invest in Remote Work Solutions

As the pandemic has stretched on and companies have extended remote and hybrid work policies, many of them have had to revisit their IT needs. “The question now is, how will we operate post-pandemic? First, where are we going to work? We’re expecting a return to the office, right? But for knowledge workers, we see this really more in a part-time capacity, versus a full-time return to a physical office, in most cases,” Graver said.

With companies that are returning to the office, Graver has noticed some trends. “We've seen some businesses quickly implement new office designs. Lots of hoteling space for many offices, with reservation systems. We’re being forced to rethink visitor management systems, conference rooms, office gatherings, etc. Offices are really less of a place to work and more of a place to collaborate. That’s what we’re seeing.”

Graver recommended leaning into new ideas and not accepting the norm. “We're more productive now than we’ve ever been. I see companies now rethinking KPIs, the way they measure work output. We’re seeing the emergence of new tools that companies are embracing now to support this new way of measuring work. So a lot of challenges that we’ll face but basically, we want technology to work for us.”

WATCH THE WEBCAST: Unlock the exclusive Insider video to learn more about the benefits of a dynamic infrastructure.

A Dynamic Infrastructure Demands Reliable Data

NetApp’s Matt Brown, executive director of IT customer engagement, and Stephan Stelter, national technical partner manager, also joined the conversation to offer their insights on how IT infrastructure can drive new and better business outcomes.

“If you really want to talk about dynamic infrastructure, to me, what it means is from the network all the way up, the ability to provide utilitylike availability. And then operations to be able to scale up and scale down to business cycles,” Brown said. “And, in terms of delivery to the developers, on-demand delivery, where we can deliver the entire development stacks — ideally, as fast as possible, to really allow the developers to be as productive as possible.”

Stelter offered his definition of a dynamic infrastructure, which he said is probably different for every organization. “There’s different interpretations of how companies want to take the next step in their IT infrastructure, how they want to become flexible and take advantage of the instant availability of things like cloud architectures. So there are pieces of optimizing your on-premises infrastructure that really lend themselves to being able to leverage next-generation cloud technologies.”

While virtualization helped customers seeking to become more dynamic, it was “one of those areas where you try to centralize some storage and try to build yourself to a common data set and carve that up and have the applications access that data set. So you’re managing an infrastructure that is a bit more flexible in that regard,” Stelter said.

Brown pointed out the need for organizations to develop a single data set. “As you know, there’s a difference between data sets and the data that you’re managing holistically across the environment. And part of the goal there is, No. 1, we don’t want to make multiple copies of our data. So really being cognizant of what applications, what capabilities are using data, and establishing those single sources of truth, and then ensuring that we’re providing the proper governance around them.”

Flash Technology Offers Multiple Benefits  

Stelter spoke about the various kinds of technologies an organization can use to create a dynamic infrastructure while working with a single data set. “One of those underpinnings of that single data set that we talk about and certainly we leverage inside of NetApp IT is some of the technology for storing that data, protecting that data, managing that data and automating the way that developers interact with those data sets.”

Brown explained how NetApp improved its infrastructure by using flash technology. “It’s interesting where flash fits into this overall strategy. So at NetApp, we probably have about 1,200 or so applications. But obviously, only probably about five really need the application-level performance that flash provides.”

Brown said NetApp’s data sets keep growing. “And what we don't want to do is have a data center that constantly has to grow to accommodate the need of those data sets. So we actually use flash as a strategic part of our data center, longer-term strategy, to help shrink the data center as our data grows,” he said.

Flash technology offers other benefits as well, according to Brown. “Many of our peer organizations are not only concerned about being more cost-efficient, but how do we ensure that we’re protecting the environment? So, yeah, flash uses less space, power and cooling, which is a net benefit to the environment. And, again, we have a scalable infrastructure that keeps the data center a certain size as our data sets grow and as our business continues to change going into the future.”

WATCH THE WEBCAST: Unlock the exclusive Insider video to learn how your organization can get ahead with automation and security.

Cloud Can Be a Valuable Part of a Dynamic Infrastructure

Stelter and Brown agreed that public and private cloud resources can offer flexibility and scalability. “The public cloud is a very powerful way not only to leverage size but also to unleash the innovation — the ability to scale up and scale down in that developer space very quickly,” Brown said. “Obviously, containers play a huge role in that. But costs still matter. So how do you take all that flexibility and provide the management around it? You don’t want things running out of control, so governance becomes important.”

“But then, being able to run these applications in your private cloud, they also need to be able to scale up and scale down, and you need to do that dynamically as well,” he continued. “We’re here to support the business, we’re here to be as cost-effective as possible, we’re here to be as responsive as possible. So looking to the Cloud to provide all those various capabilities as resources is key to this medium- to long-term automation strategy.”

But organizations don’t need to abandon on-premises data centers for the cloud. As Brown said, “The keyword is ‘dynamic,’ right? You want to be able to have the infrastructure when you need it, and you want to be able to turn it off when you don’t.”

Follow BizTech’s full coverage of the CDW Tech Talk series here. Insiders can register for the event series here.

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