Jul 07, 2022

Managing Modern Infrastructure: A new-age approach to keeping up with the evolution

The evolving infrastructure landscape

The digital transformation wave has pushed enterprises to adopt cloud-native application architectures that enable continuous, high-velocity changes at massive scales, and are designed to withstand failures. As more data and apps run closer to the edge apart from being on multiple hyper-scale clouds and corporate private clouds, it makes them highly distributed as well. Therefore, it means that simply moving applications to the cloud, and running them the way you would in datacenters, does not make them ‘modern’ anymore. Enterprises need to do more to support their digital transformation.

Digital applications with these modern microservices architectures and business imperatives use higher-level cloud services such as PaaS, SaaS, FaaS, and modern infrastructure technologies like Kubernetes. A single application would be composed of many disparate, distributed, complex technologies at scale, expected to change multiple times a day. Such dynamism makes the management of the underlying infrastructure extremely difficult without deployment of high-level tools for automation.

The changing definition of infrastructure

Infrastructure for enterprises is not limited to IaaS for enterprises as we know it

Consider a SaaS endpoint of a content distribution network provider or an identity service provider. Here, the endpoint is an infrastructure element for a digital application. Similarly, FPaaS of a hyperscaler or self-hosted on KNative are pieces of application code running or a PaaS service which collects, processes, and analyzes real-time, streaming data such as Amazon Kinesis, which is a modern infrastructure.

Consequently, the line between infrastructure and apps is now more blurred than ever. Many argue that code written for non-functional aspects (without business logic) of an application is part of its infrastructure. While this might be a stretch, modern Infrastructure is surely different.

Key challenges of managing modern infrastructure

1. Complexity and Scale

Today’s digital business is growing at an unprecedented speed and scale, making the underlying digital infrastructure complex from a technology diversity and scale standpoint. Most of the enterprise environments today have 100s of thousands of cloud components of diverse technologies from multiple providers, making it humanly difficult to keep track, troubleshoot and support. Managing complex environments at a very large scale requires more effort with little room for error.

2. Dynamism

This has two elements. First, the ever-changing landscape of the technology in the cloud world and secondly, the deployed infrastructure itself changes dynamically according to the application needs. This dynamism of modern infrastructure is often too daunting to catch up with and also to maintain them up to date. Such a dynamic environment makes it critical for companies to adapt newer management models.

3. Ecosystem Tools

Modern infrastructure is virtually impossible to be managed with a single tool. Enterprises require multiple tools to manage their modern infrastructure, in almost all instances. The availability of a plethora of tools is also making the right choice a difficult exercise for leaders. This also leads to integrating and maintaining multiple tools often requiring efforts, training and capability building.

4. Cost, Security and Compliance

Management should be completely aware of the environment’s security posture, compliance and spends against budget. It is important to get visibility into the resources and/or services in use, the ones lying idle, or that could be optimized. Monitoring the status of resources is unalienable to improve the efficiency of an organization’s IT spend. And even though the Cloud environment provides agility and flexibility to the system, it leads to no single point accountability to cost and compliance. This can lead the business to being exposed to regulatory non-compliance issues, loss of reputation, budget overruns, etc.

5. Continuous Optimization

In traditional IT world, optimizations, efficiency improvement etc. were done as periodic projects with a defined target. Organizations tend to stop making additional efforts into improving the management practices once a set target is achieved, thereby, creating a handicapped system which is incapable of adapting to any new changes induced in the environment. In the modern cloud world, these efforts needs to be continuous as the infrastructure changes almost every hour.

Handling modern infrastructure: Modern approaches

Managing modern infra requires a modern approach. Managing infrastructure with old-school approaches is likely to fail. Therefore, here are some focus points for organizations to consider when managing modern infrastructure.

1. Architect for Automated Management

The best way to manage modern infrastructure is to automate processes to the maximum possible extent. This gives organizations an advantage when they introduce a change in the existing environment, enabling them to adapt to a new system and avoid manual effort for adapting to the changes. The right time to automate is always when you start designing and building your environments; build it for an automation led management model.

2. Automate, Automate and Automate

Automation should be at the heart of modern infrastructure management and is a continuous process. The thinking should be about ‘automated operations’ than ‘automating operations’. Once the infrastructure for an enterprise is automated, the changes to the system must not be made manually. The focus should be on reducing manual effort of the workforce to the maximum possible extent.

3. People, Process and Practices

Infrastructure management has always been the administrator’s job who are generally good at doing it and preferred doing it by themselves instead of writing codes to automate their work. Similarly, the skillsets required for modern management methods and tools need significant coding skills with deep understanding of modern tools. While ITSM processes have been great, it may not be enough and some of the aspects needs to be rethought. Many of the traditional ITSM processes were designed to be done by humans and are automated over a period of time. Modern methods, on the other hand, put automation first and processes are devised based on the possibilities of automation than the laminations of manual execution. Similarly, embracing elements of practices such as SRE would be highly beneficial.

4. Know the Pitfalls and Best Practices

It is important to understand the issues that may arise and the best course of action when you are taking a modern approach to Cloud management. It includes a lot of new methods, tools and practices which could overwhelm the team and you may face resistance initially. Hence, expecting greater reduction in efforts initially may not be the right KPI to measure. It could actually slow down the benefits realization. While these are just a couple of aspects, there are many areas that one should consider and take a balanced approach towards implementing modern management methods. Engaging experts to help with structuring these initiatives would be a good idea for accelerated benefit realizations.

5. Adopt and Adapt

To keep up with the competition and the ever-changing customer demands and cloud environments, the infrastructure and tools require regular updates and maintenance. It can be done by adapting to the changes introduced to existing infrastructure or by adopting the new methodologies which have been tried and tested by other organizations from related industries.

How Microland is driving change

What is SmartCloudOps?

SmartCloudOps is a state-of-the-art CloudOps solution from Microland for management of modern infrastructure. The solution relies on modern approaches to tackle new age challenges, and prepare the systems of the organizations for issues that may befall in the future.

The solution essentially integrates and organizes models, tools, people, and practices. It helps organizations realize the benefits of modern infrastructure who have adopted modern cloud-native applications and infrastructure architectures to fuel their digital business.   

Our Approach

Microland helps customers manage their private, public and distributed cloud environments through our SmartCloudOps solutions. Here are some of the ways in which Microland helps organizations manage their modern infrastructure.

Microland SmartCloudOps is a modern operations model for digital, cloud native infrastructure leveraging concepts and practices like GitOps & SRE and tools such as, IaC & AIOps. It leverages deep observability techniques and principles of software development and releases in deploying, configuring and maintaining desired state of the infra. It also makes use of CI/CD pipelines where infra codesare version controlled, built, tested and released along with application code.  

1. Deep Observability and Auto-Remediation

Deep Observability driven by AI/ML and Knowledge Graphs enable faster, better event correlation (Eg: noise reduction) and clustering (eg: identify unusual patterns) and augment humans in identifying and predicting actual incidents, their causes and directing efforts to focus on resolving important issues, thus improving service reliability and operational efficiency.

It also uses service bots driven auto-remediation of incidents, fulfilment of service requests and running scheduled housekeeping tasks. These bots can be triggered by the observability engine to auto resolve issues or can be called in by engineers from the Chat Rooms to augment them with complex analysis, visualizations and remedial actions at scale and speed, typically not achievable by humans alone. Microland’s homegrown AIOps platform - Intelligeni and its service bots framework -MicroBots is leveraged for this.

2. Cost and Governance

It ensures zero cost leak points and zero unidentified non-compliances through continuous identification of potential optimization opportunities and non-compliances and implementing best practice remediations. SmartCloudOps leverages the SmartGovern Framework and tooling that has 150+ best practice rules and regulatory standards compliance checks which is always updated with new developments on each cloud.

Our tooling provides deep visibility into the cloud environment, resource level recommendations based on our custom best practices thresholds from a single console.  Our architects provide consultation to the app owners with datapoints and help them make the right choices in terms of resource selection, reservations, architecture and sizing for cost optimization. Further, the SmartCloudOps solution helps organizations manage their compliance and governance policies across geographies to ensure compliance to regulatory requirements.

3. IaC and GitOps

The SmartCloudOps solution uses Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) with GitOps approach as the core model for modern, cloud-native infra and workloads. It leverages the homegrown IaC solution, BinaryStack orchestration platform with an integrated code repository, CI/CD pipeline, RBAC, credential manager and a self-service catalogue. It enables DevOps experts, developers and cloud engineers to model and manage their infrastructure using code, through git-triggered pipelines and provides a framework to implement good IaC practices using conventions and structures popularly known as GitOps.

4. SRE Principles and Collaborative Problem Solving 

By leveraging site reliability engineering (SRE) principles and collaboration across multiple teams, Microland directs inputs received from customers to engineers in the form of SLOs. These inputs are then used to balance between time spent by engineers in fixing issues (incident management) and automating the infrastructure to improve resiliency, better observability, and reduced failures to the system.

5. Service Metrics, SLAs and CSAT

Customer satisfaction is paramount in the new digital world. Microland offers comprehensive service metrics to assess the success and accomplishments of the SmartCloudOps solution. The solution ensures a CSAT > 4.5/5 consistently. We provide transparency and the highest levels of service to our clients, ensuring smooth functioning of services to surpass committed SLAs.

How SmartCloudOps helps customers

Microland has vast experience in working with customers across the globe right from the early stages of cloud adoption. We have come across several challenges, provided suitable solutions to customers, and had significant learning experiences from customers to build a strong practice and tools that are required to get the CloudOps right in our first attempt.

Leveraging the SmartCloudOps we are reducing manual efforts of organizations by 30% and automating 70% of the task compared to 100% of manual activities in managing traditional infrastructure.

About the Author

Benil George PJ, Associate Vice President, Client Solutions (Cloud Unit). Currently focuses on building solutions, practices and products to help Microland's global customers adopt, build and run their Development, Test & Product workloads on public and hybrid cloud environments. In the last 2 decades, he has played various roles in the Technology and Service Management areas and recently was pivotal in building the Cloud business for Microland. He has conceptualized and built Microland's Public Cloud services and various, associated Intellectual Properties.