Intelligent infrastructure: beyond plumbing
The foundation of the modern enterprise, delivering growth and enabling greater agility and flexibility for businesses, by James Francis for Dimension Data
It's often quipped that half the money spent on advertising is wasted, but you're never sure which half. The same could apply to technology infrastructure, at least from a business perspective. Infrastructure is often the bane of technology purchases and yet very necessary. More than a few problems occur when hardware is slow, under-provisioning resources, or outdated. Infrastructure is also where companies accrue technical debt, skills shortages and operational costs sunk into keeping the lights on.
The maxims and cliches around infrastructure say it all: You need it, but a few missteps can lead to regrets. Kyle Stanton, Executive of Dimension Data’s Intelligent Infrastructure Go-to-Market, agrees: "Technology is a means to an end, it's not an end in itself. If you don't link it to an outcome or a problem we're trying to solve, it's a wasted investment. You're not going to extract the value that you need. And you're not necessarily going to get the returns that you want as an organisation."
Traditionally, this had been the only choice: go big at great expense or go threadbare and risk not having enough. But a third way has emerged in the past decade, and it's the beating heart of Dimension Data's Intelligent Infrastructure go-to-market led by Stanton.
Leading IT services provider, Dimension Data, completed its transition to operate as one entity bringing all its subsidiaries together under a single Dimension Data brand. The powerful combination of people, technology and service delivery has expedited the growth and relevance for cross-go-to-market strategies. By bringing together the former brands of Internet Solutions, Britehouse and ContinuitySA, Dimension Data is delivering on its client-centric strategy. The objective is to provide clients with an end-to-end solution to help transform how organisations operate, sell and remain relevant.
Dimension Data’s end-to-end go-to-market positioning begins with Intelligent Infrastructure (II), which is the foundation of the modern enterprise and enables greater agility and flexibility in today’s rapidly changing market. The company provides clients with improved productivity through its Intelligent Workplace (IW) solutions, helping connect people, processes, platforms and products. Dimension Data’s Intelligent Business Applications (IBA) accelerate operational efficiency and enable clients to innovate for the future, while its Intelligent Customer Experience (ICX) go-to-market strives to offer meaningful digital client experiences for its clients' customers. Integral to all solutions is Dimension Data’s Intelligent Security (ISec) go-to-market, which helps businesses achieve true organisational resilience.
The software difference
Software-defined is the new lever by which infrastructure behaves differently. Infrastructure technologies have moved to a point where one manages, deploys and migrates through software, not through the above-mentioned traditional deployment. This software-led culture has also reshaped how various parts of infrastructure technology interact and co-operate, says Stanton: "When you looked at the different domains – network, cloud, data centre, storage, compute – there were different journeys that people took clients on. But because of changes to technology, changes to the market, changes to client demand and changes to the way that we run infrastructure – specifically in terms of the software-defined approach – the journey across all the different domains is now becoming the centre."
In other words, different parts of infrastructure don't manifest as independently as in the past. They now embrace an integrated approach through software engineering, prompting a consolidation of different infrastructure disciplines under one unified roof as part of the Dimension Data business.
"We've brought those aspects together, across the network, the data centre and cloud software. The software unifies these, which means it's about infrastructure across the board, not necessarily the specific domains." This is the essence of Dimension Data Intelligent Infrastructure.
Four steps to success
Dimension Data Intelligent Infrastructure works on projects directly related to infrastructure, but they also collaborate closely with the other four go-to-markets inside Dimension Data, as all other digital solutions rely on the right infrastructure choices. To ensure the division doesn't reflexively reach for the 'big bang' way of offering infrastructure, it follows four steps to realise the best outcomes for clients.
Everything starts with assessments of the client’s estate. These can be broad or nuanced, from the baseline of the infrastructure or focused on a specific point in time. Assessments scrutinise the infrastructure and the ecosystem around it: strategic direction, best practice, reference architecture and other considerations that range from the specific to holistic.
The second step is to consider migration options, which again can involve large chunks of infrastructure estate or very nuanced changes – if migration is necessary at all. Operational considerations follow this step: how can the customer best run their environment? Operations can involve introducing the ideal management and monitoring platforms, as well as to consider managed service choices. It's here that a considerable amount of Dimension Data's investments in IP, programmable infrastructure and platforms come into play.
Finally, the estate is optimised. Optimisation is a crucial area to understand, infrastructure is not a fixed investment, operations on top of it change all the time, so infrastructure needs to be flexible and scalable. In other words, it requires continued effort, which is why managed services make up a significant part of Dimension Data’s Intelligent Infrastructure go-to-market.
"There are very few scenarios where you are going to get your infrastructure layer as you want and then it's going to sit like that. Instead of looking for an infrastructure partner, the market wants a partner that goes beyond that, knows it's about business outcomes, and understands it's a continual journey," said Stanton.
The infrastructure market often still resorts to a one-size-fits-all mentality. As a result, there is still a habit of expecting best practices and vertical-specific architectures to dominate solutions. Stanton agrees that these are important, and points to the fact that Dimension Data draws from its own footprint as well as the wider NTT family of practitioners to deliver the best solutions. Yet for clients to see real value from their infrastructure, Dimension Data Intelligent Infrastructure values creativity and business-led outcomes.
"When a client comes to us with a business problem or an outcome that they're trying to achieve, what tools do we have to solve that problem? These might be traditional tools, but we're not necessarily approaching it in the traditional sense. Have we done it before? Have we had a client with a similar problem with a similar outcome? And how did we solve that problem before? What's changed since then? And what new approach can we take to ensure that we extract further value out of that client?"
We don’t reach for convenient solutions merely because they worked before. Instead, a multi-disciplinary team of professionals in Dimension Data’s Intelligent Infrastructure go-to-market believe in delivering solutions in new ways.
Dimension Data’s Intelligent Infrastructure differentiation is clear, by using software and pursuing business outcomes, it creates lasting value out of infrastructure. These can be nuanced or holistic. It can focus on direct challenges or collaborate across all of Dimension Data’s go-to-markets. It involves physical infrastructure, cloud, networking, storage and hybrid environments, provisioned through projects or managed services. It deploys best-of-breed, original IP and repeatable reference architecture for the best results. Above all, Dimension Data’s Intelligent Infrastructure go-to-market takes technology's plumbing and turns it into a value-driven advantage for clients.
"It's important that we understand the problems you're trying to solve, and the outcomes that you're trying to achieve," says Stanton. "We can assist you from very early on, in both the implementation, the assessments, the migration, that operation and optimisation across the region."