Many, if not all, enterprise IT departments are organized into the traditional “silos of excellence”. Individual groups operate excellently in isolation and collaborate infrequently with the other departments. This situation can be dangerous for the business and the IT department when lines-of-business want to quickly achieve business results but are frustrated by the slow “Mode 1” IT department. This can lead to the business looking externally for service and occurrences of “Shadow IT”.
“Slow IT” can manifest when many manual processes add up to create extreme inefficiency and delays. For many organizations, when it comes time to allocate an IP address for a system, assign an Ethernet port to a particular VLAN, or add a permit rule to a firewall policy, there is usually a work-stoppage. To accomplish these tasks, a trouble ticket is generated to kick-off a workflow that triggers a human to perform some manual configuration change. Sometimes these types of changes are routine, but in other situations, the old-and-busted change management process requires these activities be performed during a scheduled change window. This further slows down an organization’s ability to deploy new systems. Sound familiar?
Silo’ed organizations struggle to adopt new technologies that blur the traditionally clear role definitions and demarcations of responsibilities. Technologies like Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) combine functions of network switching, firewalling, and load balancing into the server virtualization hypervisor layers. Determining who from which group is responsible for the configuration and management of the virtualized functional equivalent of the historically hardware-based system may not be straightforward. Traditionally, the Ethernet interface between these hardware devices defined the troubleshooting demarcation point. Organizations that cannot overcome these organizational challenges are unable to adopt new virtualized technologies like Software Defined Networking (SDN) and cloud services.
Reading the novel “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford, helps one become familiar with the concepts of DevOps. DevOps is not just a popular digital-age portmanteau, it is a movement of IT de-silo-ization that helps organizations accelerate software delivery and improve IT supporting the business goals. By culturally and organizationally converging teams, companies can realize greater business benefit from Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CICD) of new software features. CICD yields more benefits released to the business, your customers, partners, and suppliers more rapidly. This improves the organization’s competitiveness by keeping a high rate of new application features.
Organizations that subscribe to the “Agile methodology” realize the benefits of a small focused cross-functional teams working on the most impactful projects first. These groups rely on members who know many different technologies and function as “full-stack engineers” rather than having individuals who only function within their own technology domain. Organizations want stronger technologists on their teams and we are witnessing an “erosion of the IT middle class” as a result of having people on staff who are unable to adapt to technology shifts.
The networking industry has lived through these types of transitions in the recent past. When IP telephony systems first appeared, it combined the disciplines of the data networking teams and the PBX administrators. The PBX administrators either adapted to the VoIP technologies or they made a career change. Collaboration technologies moved beyond just voice and now video and web collaboration technologies are prolific. Now collaboration teams are even moving to the new software-defined paradigm, as evident by Cisco Spark for Developers program. Organizations that combined groups and allowed them to continuously learn and develop, morphing with technology trends, experience greater employee productivity using the innovative collaboration platforms.
Organizations that want to transition to “Fast IT” and experience digital transformation will want to break down these traditional IT solos. Organizations should integrate networking and security into their DevOps teams, thus forming an IT super group of DevNetSecOps. Organizations will not realize the full benefits of technologies like network programmability, ACI, DNA, and Metapod, unless they get their groups to become cross-functional and effectively collaborate. Companies that make these organizational changes will be less bogged down by management and ongoing operations of existing IT infrastructure (e.g. MOOSE) and reduce their “technical dept”. They will buy-back more time to work on new projects because they are spending less time doing mundane tasks that can be automated. That sounds like a much more fun and rewarding place to work.