Defining ‘intelligent infrastructure’ in a modern organization

One of the first questions I always get in my conversations with business and IT leaders in the region is one of the simplest, but simultaneously one of the most complex: what exactly is intelligent infrastructure and how will it help my business?

This conversation has taken on a renewed urgency against the backdrop of COVID-19, where many organizations are struggling to adapt to new business and IT dynamics, such as supporting a large number of remote workers. 

The Intelligent Infrastructure is a concept that we have been discussing for some time at Hitachi Vantara, and it is laying the foundation to the Smart Data Center. It takes a holistic view of your IT infrastructure and guides you along the path to unlocking its full potential – not only squeezing out the highest performance you need, but actually getting the highest utilization of any investment you’ve put into your vendors.

To explain what we mean by intelligent infrastructure, I like to use the analogy of the brain, the engine, and the amplifier.

Think of the brain is the operating system that is actually running your IT platforms. It helps you see, listen, and adapt to the environment that you operate in, helping you cope with different workloads and deliver the performance that your users need.

The engine is all about automation. It sits beside the brain and communicates with all the different variety of vendors in your infrastructure in order to automate a workflow to serve your users’ needs, even as they constantly change and evolve throughout the day and week.

In the past 15 to 20 years, this has been all about scripts, which, while very powerful and effective, does not really scale. Plus, if you get a new product or have to handover existing products a new colleague, then you might have to create entirely new scripts from scratch.

Instead, when we say automation, we are referring to having a service portal in your environment where you can turn a script into a workflow template that you can then publish as a service to share with your users. So, if someone wants to spin up to databases in two different data centers at the same time at night, they can do so while you continue having dinner with your family at home.

And then we come to the amplifier, which really takes your infrastructure beyond what it is currently capable of. This is where you activate AI and add it on top of your automation engine, giving you the ability to do descriptive and prescriptive analytics and look out into the future.

I prefer to define AI as augmented intelligence, as the conventional thinking that AI is replacing what we’re all doing is not accurate. This will not happen for many years to come. Instead, AI expands our ability to accomplish tasks and make decisions much faster, guiding us to better results over time.

Hard infrastructure will depreciate in value over time, but AI is the exact opposite in nature. The more you use and train your AI, the smarter it will get in your infrastructure and the more value it will be adding to your organization. And when you eventually replace a product, the AI will still be there with its learned capabilities, staying hardware agnostic and always up to date.

The agnostic aspect is especially important from the customer perspective. We can talk all day about the AI in our own products, but what you as customers need is an AI that can look at your entire ecosystem – from the virtual machine to the physical server to the network to the storage – and tie everything together.

Imagine a scenario where you need to spin up a virtual machine, and you want to run that on node 25. But wait! The storage system pops up and say: hey, maybe that’s not such a good idea, because on Thursday between 1.00pm and 2.00pm, you will have a performance problem. This insight is delivered to you based on the AI’s understanding of your workload. It then falls to you as an administrator to take that information and do something with it.

What does all of this mean to you in a practical sense?

In sum, intelligent infrastructure operations is all about accelerating innovation while improving operational management, efficiency and resiliency in your data center. This is the ultimate end game that the brain, the engine, and the amplifier all work together to drive your organization towards.

It is not only Hitachi Vantara – the IT industry on the whole has all of the tools to implement an intelligent infrastructure today, and we are seeing more customers coming around to the idea that this will be the reality in the next four to five years. There is no better time to jump into it than now.