The impact of data on infrastructure intelligence is creating new advancements and trends

The impact of data on infrastructure is accelerating. Infrastructure intelligence is not only supporting data for business intelligence, it’s also becoming a data source. The shift from a multicloud to hybrid cloud environment creates new challenges for managing data, infrastructure performance and cybersecurity. The software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) will be fundamental to adopting new connectivity technologies to enable your hybrid cloud strategy in a cost-effective manner without sacrificing application performance and end user experience.


IT infrastructure intelligence: from multicloud to hybrid cloud

Infrastructure intelligence is not just holding data, it’s generating data – data that can be used to optimize infrastructure performance through automation.

While public cloud continues to grow, enterprise data centers still play a key role in most organizations for reasons such as data security and sovereignty, local data access, cost optimization and low latency requirements. Organizations are therefore prioritizing a balanced approach between on-premises and hosted private cloud infrastructure, and public cloud.

The reality of this hybrid cloud environment is that today’s data center is all about where the data is located – and data lives everywhere. It's therefore critical to gain visibility of your hybrid estate and understand the characteristics of the ideal deployment model for each workload.

And the infrastructure is doing more than simply making data available for applications – it’s also producing data that needs to be captured and analysed to improve performance and business outcomes. In this environment, artificial intelligence and machine learning meet operations, allowing the infrastructure to heal and improve itself through automation that’s based on data it generates.

Optimize lifecycle management in a hybrid cloud environment

Organizations will need the right tools, processes and skills to architect, migrate and manage the hybrid infrastructure that houses business applications. In addition, they'll need to define an approach to harness the data created by infrastructure intelligence, and access intelligence and possible opportunities in an agile environment, across multiple platforms. They’ll also need to address new security challenges – something we discuss further here, and in our piece on Intelligent Cybersecurity.


'Enterprises often struggle to reduce the complexity and cost of operating multiple cloud services. We help clients gain visibility and control over multiple cloud deployments and relocate workloads to where they best fit. Private cloud is often chosen based on a combination of commercial, security and performance considerations.'

Roger Vila, Senior Vice President, Cloud Infrastructure division, NTT Ltd.

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SD-WAN meets cloud networking

'You can rely on hybrid cloud to improve performance and innovate faster, while a good intelligent infrastructure can help you decrease cost and complexity.'

Doug Adams, CEO, RagingWire Data Centers, an NTT company

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The role of the telco is being redefined as organizations are moving away from using a single telco provider and turning to the public internet. This has been accelerated by maturing SD-WAN technologies, which have become a billion-dollar industry in just a few years.

The reality is that there are multiple connectivity methods – including, now, the large-scale backbone networks that hyperscalers are making available to their clients. This move arguably means they’re also becoming network providers.

Explore all your options for network connectivity

With so many choices for connecting and improving the performance of the network and how it connects to a hybrid cloud environment, it’s advisable to explore all your options. Invest in the appropriate skills for the design, installation and management of your new WAN for optimal performance. You’ll also need people who understand applications and cloud environments and can architect for these requirements.


Connectivity at the edge

The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has created a greater need for processing and storage at the edge, which in turn is driving demand for next-generation connectivity like WiFi6 and 5G. To leverage the potential of these technologies, early adopters will need an underlying SD-WAN service.

As organizations start using technologies like IoT, we will see more frequent use of the edge and mobile networks. While 2020 will see early adopters looking to leverage the benefits of 5G and WiFi 6, it is critical to note that existing mobile networks, such as LTE/4G and LTEM/NB-IoT, are more than adequate for most IoT applications and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. 5G will not replace other mobile technologies, it will augment them.

Get the overall management framework for hybrid networks right

In order to fully leverage the benefit of new connectivity options, you need the right underlying management platforms and processes to deal with multiple connectivity technologies. Focusing on your SD-WAN strategy, software-defined access and intent-based networking will help drive more agility in how you upgrade your infrastructure as and when technologies like 5G and WiFi 6 become mainstream.

'With the Industry 4.0 and Services 4.0 revolutions raging, companies will increasingly be looking for systems to help them achieve consistency of service and secure connectivity, both on-campus and globally.'

Jacques Bonifay, CEO, Transatel, an NTT company

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Managed services platform and automating the network with intent

All these evolutions will drive the need to get more agility from the infrastructure intelligence – and create demand for automation and analytics skills. 

In 2020, artificial intelligence and machine learning will play an increasing role in improving performance and optimizing the network environment. Intent-based networking uses analytics to deliver visibility and awareness of network performance, and automated orchestration enhances agility across the infrastructure – from the campus through the WAN and into the data center or cloud.

Network management operations need to incorporate intent-based networking technologies into their managed services platform to remove operational complexity and break through the traditional silos of the network – the campus, WAN and data center – which have historically been managed separately. Common elements will be abstracted into a single management approach that delivers much higher levels of consistency and provides for a more holistic approach to network operations.

In addition to ensuring that the infrastructure intelligence can support new technologies, organizations will need appropriate automation, operational processes and platforms to manage large-scale infrastructure rollouts. Identity-based security will be critical (see Intelligent Cybersecurity for more detail).

Partnering for the right skills

Automation and analytics require investment into the developers and data scientists who put those systems in place and keep them going. Given the massive skill shortages in these areas, organizations are likely to partner with providers that are investing heavily in the required software DevOps and data science capabilities.


Security becomes central to infrastructure design

Security is no longer the domain of security specialists only. The sheer scale of current threats moves security from ‘after the fact’ to ‘before the build’ in infrastructure design.

The security threat to IT infrastructure intelligence continues to grow. Despite ongoing investments in cybersecurity technology, a large proportion of successful attacks can be attributed to known vulnerabilities and shadow IT initiatives.

In addition, the attack surface expands as organizations embark on hybrid cloud and IoT projects and therefore have a larger set of infrastructure to manage.

Organizations need to ensure operational governance and discipline in managing their infrastructure to minimize risk, but critically keep security front of mind when designing any piece of infrastructure.

Previously, those building infrastructure intelligence tended to look at security after the fact because it added complexity and delays. But the current scale of security threats is simply too big for this practice to continue without putting the organization at significant risk. Every piece of infrastructure intelligence equipment typically includes functionality that delivers security controls. It’s crucial to use this capability to protect each asset and ensure these controls form part of a broader approach that supports the organization’s governance strategy and security posture.

Build in security from the start

Looking at all the trends affecting the infrastructure intelligence environment, we can expect to see greater collaboration between infrastructure designers and providers, and security practitioners. Organizations need to be aware of the myriad security risks inherent in their infrastructure so they can build in the right controls from the start. Adopting a ‘built-in’ instead of a ‘bolt-on’ approach will ensure that infrastructure is secure by design.

'As our IT infrastructure is becoming more complex, it is time to rethink the infrastructure design, and our visibility of data and manpower allocation, to automate our defense and improve our risk management.'

Mihoko Matsubara, Chief Cybersecurity Strategist, NTT Group.

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Disruptive technologies to watch

Enabling adaptive computing; reducing power consumption.

One of the cool domains we’re working on now is adaptive computing. It has applications in complex environments such as smart stadiums and safe hospitals, where information comes from a range of sources – massive video feeds, sensors, and so on – and a fast, real-time response is key.

We’re creating a new generation of capabilities for NTT data centers to tackle these complex scenarios and target 5G. Adaptive computing uses Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), a new generation of semiconductor devices configured to manage and process massive amounts of information. We aim to create the first full-stack solution that can, for example, process information in real time from thousands of feeds from cameras, sensors and other devices, as well as social media, to assist with fast decision-making and quality responses.

In developing these solutions, we’re mindful that all this infrastructure and processing demands huge computing power, which in turn will require massive power supplies. So, in tandem with these solutions we’re exploring, we’re also focusing on technologies that could reduce the consumption and cost of energy by up to 80%. Achieving this would have a significant impact on helping our own business and our clients’ organizations live up to their sustainable development goals.

Rob Lopez

Rob Lopez

Executive Vice President, Intelligent Infrastructure, NTT Ltd.

Rob is accountable for transforming NTT’s services, capabilities and go-to-market to assist clients in building and managing cloud, data center, networking and security infrastructure that’s responsive to their businesses, applications and data needs while reducing overall costs and operational complexity.

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