The Importance of Architecture Planning

Think back to when you were a child. Consider how you were taught to walk, to tie your shoes or to clean your room. There is a structured process for each of these tasks. You can't shortcut or jump between the steps and expect a reliable and repeatable result. Infrastructure architecture planning is no different but is frequently overlooked as IT organizations revamp their infrastructure.

When you think about tying your shoes, there's a few high-level assessments and sizing exercises you perform before you grab your shoes and put them on. 
  • How many shoes do I need for the number of feet I have?
  • What size should the shoes be?
  • Why am I covering my feet and what's the event I'm about to participate in?
    • Will I be hiking a mountain or am I going to the beach to play?
    • Am I going dancing or working in the yard?
    • Will I be sitting or walking a long distance?
  • What's the weather like; is it cold or hot, is it dry or raining outside?
  • How will I secure them to my feet?
  • Will socks help or hinder in this situation? 
  • Do they match what I'm wearing? Do they need to?

It's a straight forward process and most of us get it right every time. It would be ridiculous to begin tying your shoes having considered only the color and quantity of shoes. Perhaps the color green is of utmost importance, but you can only afford a single rain boot. Your chances of nailing that job interview with your chosen footwear will be significantly reduced. Consider your datacenter infrastructure and all the related components. Now reduce that down to a single focus area. 

For the sake of discussion, let's focus on replacing your old servers. Addressing the problem from a solid architecture perspective enables a structured approach to deal with the landscape while clarifying the components of the completed design and defining what functionality is required and at what level of quality. 

If we begin with the basics and expand as more details are revealed, as you see from the list below, there's a lot to consider. Maybe you've already answered these questions but, in my experience, many have not been considered and many more will arise as the journey unfolds.

  • Have I engaged IT Partners for a free CloudSmart assessment?
  • Have I engaged IT Partners for a free infrastructure assessment?
  • Have I engaged IT Partners to come onsite for a free lunch and learn with my team to review the current market trends, sorting through the fantasy and reality, to understand what all my options are?
  • Have I considered engaging IT Partners to help me develop a technological roadmap encompassing the big picture?
  • Now that I'm educated about CloudSmart, how much infrastructure will remain on-site?
  • What workloads and operating systems are in use and what's obsolete?
  • What hardware will be consolidated, and have I performed a physical and virtual consolidation assessment?
  • What vendors and technologies do my support team understand?
  • Do I need to incorporate training? Is that training included with the new hardware? Is that training per person or group? Is that training in person or online? Can I enable my team with vendor certifications as a result of this training?
  • What are my capital and operational budgets? How can I leverage each to purchase new hardware?
  • What procurement options exist? Should I buy, lease or consider a subscription such as HPE's GreenLake pay-as-you-go IT consumption model?
  • How will refreshing my servers affect my storage strategy? Will I need local, SAN, NAS, vSAN or another storage approach? Do I need to upgrade my Fiber Channel or Ethernet storage infrastructure?
  • What size should each server be? Should I purchase fewer CPU sockets and more cores or vice versa? Are there any licensing requirements or limitations that will dictate this decision?
  • What workloads will run on each server or group of servers? Will these be standalone or clustered servers? Do I meet all the requirements for clustering?
  • How will I manage the servers? Will my team need additional training? What is the expected ramp time?
  • Where will the servers be located? Do they fit in my datacenter? Is there enough cooling?
  • Is there enough power? Can my UPS infrastructure support the new load? Do I need to bring in an electrician to expand or consolidate circuits? Does my power panel support additional circuits or breakers?
  • What hyper-converged solutions fit my needs?
  • What conflicting projects, budgets, schedules are going to impact this effort in the short and long term?
  • Have I considered and adhered to the vendor architecture requirements and best practices (or best recommendations)?
  • Will the environment function as the vendor designed and be fully supportable?
  • Finally, I can ask the "important" question; how many servers do I actually need?
As a Principal Consultant with a focus on infrastructure architecture, a key part of my job is to ensure I address the important questions around who, what, when, where and why. If my customer has already done their due diligence and developed an optimal solution, including considering all the variables, analyzing vendor offerings, completing sizing exercises, addressing support and training options, comparing capital vs. operational procurement vehicles, etc. then where is the value that I should be bringing to them? 

I believe that most customers rely on IT Partners (and myself) because they admittedly struggle with some of these motions. This is not surprising, as their expertise primarily lies in delivering IT services to their government, healthcare, banking or manufacturing organizations. They excel in their space as we excel in ours. It can be a struggle to keep up with all the partner, vendor and technological offerings, and how to synthesize them into effective solutions to customer challenges, but that's part of the value we bring to the table.

Information Technology taken as a whole can be massive and overwhelming. I'm the first to admit there's more about IT I don't know than what I do know. But I do understand my business very well and I take the time to fully understand my customer's pain points and do my due diligence to deliver the best solution, with the best architecture, given their requirements. Sometimes elements of a solution may seem optional or even unnecessary until we can sit down and review the "why" and "how" behind the decisions that drove those choices. 

Sometimes the optimal "end-state" solution seems out of reach because it isn't really an end point but rather a starting point for multiple conversations and engagements. Once a well thought out solution is prepared, it can usually be broken down into bite sized chunks that any customer can consume on any budget with any technical expertise. Typically, the initial engagement becomes a much larger conversation and invariably there is some work the customer must start or complete prior to answering some of the required questions. 

As this architecture journey develops, the customer gains a better appreciation of where they are, what must be done before they can start, and a solid understanding of where they will end up. Frequently, the effort is split into multiple phases for more palatable procurement, implementation and consumption.

Architecture is your friend, let's enjoy the journey together. Contact IT Partners today to get Started!
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Wednesday, 26 February 2020