Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, SDN Journal

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Infrastructure 101 - Part 3 | @CloudExpo #Cloud #SDN #SDS #DataCenter

IT Infrastructure Fundamentals

When it comes to IT infrastructure, there are some big differences in the needs of the SMB vs the enterprise. What might be minor hiccups in the enterprise can be major challenges in the SMB. What are these differences and how should they affect the way solutions are provided?

This is my third and final article in this series. I've covered SAN and server virtualization and now I'd like to share my thoughts on the challenges of SMB IT shops vs enterprise IT.

To start, I should probably give some context on the size of an SMB IT shop. Since we are talking about infrastructure, I am really referring to IT departments that have less than a handful of administrators assigned to infrastructure, with the most common IT shop allocating only one or two resources to infrastructure. Since the makeup of businesses varies so much in terms of numbers of IT users vs. external services, etc, all of the lines do get a little blurred. It is not a perfect science but here's hoping my points will be clear enough.

SMB
Small and medium businesses, sometimes referred to as small and midmarket, have some very unique challenges compared to larger enterprise customers. One of those challenges is being a jack of all trades, master of none.  Now, there are some very talented and dedicated administrators out there who can master many aspects of IT over time but often the day to day tasks of keeping the IT ship afloat make it impossible for administrators to gain expertise in any particular area. There just isn't the budget nor training time to have enough expertise on staff. Without a large team of persons who bring together many types of expertise, administrators must make use of technology solutions that help them do more with less.

Complexity is the enemy of the small IT department during all phases of the solution lifecycle including implementation, management, and maintenance. Complex solutions that combine a number of different vendors and products can be more easily managed in the enterprise but become a burden on smaller IT shops that must stretch their limited knowledge and headcount. Projects then turn into long nights and weekends and administrators are still expected to manage normal business hour tasks. Some administrators use scripting to automate much of their IT management and end up with a highly customized environment that becomes hard to migrate away from when business needs evolve.

Then there is the issue of brain drain. Smaller IT shops cannot easily absorb the loss of key administrators who may be the only ones intimately familiar with how all of the systems interconnect and operate.  When those administrators leave for whatever reason, suddenly at times, they leave a huge gap in knowledge that cannot easily be filled.  This is much less of a problem in the enterprise where an individual administrator is one of a team and has many others who can fill in that gap.  The loss of a key administrator in the SMB can be devastating to the IT operations going forward.

To combat brain drain in the SMB, those IT shops benefit from fewer vendors and products to simplify the IT environment, requiring less specialized training and with the ability of a new administrator quickly coming up to speed on the technology in use.  High levels of automation built in to the vendor solution for common IT tasks and simple, unified management tools help the transition from one administrator to the next.

For SMB, budgets can vary wildly from shoestring on up.  The idea of doing more with less is much more on the minds of SMB administrators.  SMBs are not as resilient to unexpected costs associated with IT disasters and other types of unexpected downtime. Support is one of the first lines of insurance for SMBs and dealing with multiple vendors and support run-around can be paralyzing at those critical moments, especially for SMBs who could not budget for the higher levels of support.  Having resilient, reliable infrastructure with responsive, premium support can make a huge difference in protecting SMBs from various types of failure and disaster that could be critical to business success.

Okay, enough about the SMB, time to  discuss the big guys.

Enterprise
Both SMB and enterprise organizations have processes, although the level of reliance on process in much higher in the enterprise.  An SMB organization can typically adapt process easily and quickly to match technology, where an enterprise organization can be much more fixed in process and technology must be changed to match the process. The enterprise therefore employs a large number of administrators, developers, consultants, and other experts to create complex systems to support their business processes.

The enterprise can withstand more complexity because they are able to have more experts on staff who can focus management efforts on single silos of infrastructure such as storage, servers, virtualization, security, etc.  With multiple administrators assigned to each silo, there is guaranteed management coverage to deal with any unexpected problems.  Effectively, the IT department (or departments) in the enterprise have a high combined level of expertise and manpower, or have the budget to bring in outside consultants and service providers to fill these gaps as a standard practice.

Unlike with SMB, simplicity is not necessarily a benefit to the enterprise since they need the flexibility to adapt to business process.  Infrastructure can therefore be a patchwork of systems serving different needs from high performance computing, data warehousing, data distribution, disaster recovery, etc. Solutions for these enterprise operations must be extensible and adaptable to the user process to meet the compliance and business needs of these organizations.

Enterprise organizations are usually big enough that they can tolerate different types of failures better than SMB, although as we have seen in recent news, even companies like Delta Airlines are not immune to near catastrophic failures.  Still, disk failures or server failures that could bring an SMB to a standstill might barely cause a ripple in a large enterprise given the size of their operations.

Summary
The SMB benefits from infrastructure simplicity because it helps eliminate a number of challenges and unplanned costs.  For the enterprise, the focus is more on flexibility, adaptability, and extensibility where business processes reign supreme. IT challenges can be more acute in the SMB simply because the budgets and resources are more limited in both headcount and expertise. Complex infrastructure designed for the enterprise is not always going to translate into effective or viable solutions for SMB. Solution providers need to be aware that the SMB may need more than just a scaled down version of an enterprise solution.

More Stories By David Paquette

Starting with a degree in writing and a family history of software development, David entered the industry on the consumer end, providing tech support for dial up internet users before moving into software development as a software tester in 1999. With 16 years of software development experience moving from testing to systems engineering to product marketing and product management, David lived the startup and IPO experience with expertise in disaster recovery, server migration, and datacenter infrastructure. Now at Scale Computing as the Product Marketing Manager, David is leading the messaging efforts for hyperconverged infrastructure adoption.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
Nicolas Fierro is CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions. He is a programmer, technologist, and operations dev who has worked with Ethereum and blockchain since 2014. His knowledge in blockchain dates to when he performed dev ops services to the Ethereum Foundation as one the privileged few developers to work with the original core team in Switzerland.
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. No disruptive technology is without its challenges and potential impediments t...
If a machine can invent, does this mean the end of the patent system as we know it? The patent system, both in the US and Europe, allows companies to protect their inventions and helps foster innovation. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be set to disrupt the patent system as we know it. This talk will examine how AI may change the patent landscape in the years to come. Furthermore, ways in which companies can best protect their AI related inventions will be examined from both a US and...
Bill Schmarzo, Tech Chair of "Big Data | Analytics" of upcoming CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO New York (November 12-13, 2018, New York City) today announced the outline and schedule of the track. "The track has been designed in experience/degree order," said Schmarzo. "So, that folks who attend the entire track can leave the conference with some of the skills necessary to get their work done when they get back to their offices. It actually ties back to some work that I'm doing at the University of San...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...