The Next Generation of Infrastructure Services

July 12, 2017
Written by: and Kristof Kloeckner, Ph.D.

Today’s environment is one where business needs are rapidly changing and business cycles are accelerating faster than ever. To grow successfully, businesses are requiring improved efficiencies from the digitalization of existing processes and the ability to rapidly launch new digital offerings. Enterprises need consistent and reliable support to run their IT systems across a “supply chain” of services from multiple vendors.

As IT evolves to meet this demand, CIO’s are making decisions every day about how to transform application and infrastructure architectures, ensure the right workload runs on the right cloud, all while reducing IT costs. There is no compromising choice for reliability. Both play an equally important role in a business success, and they need the services they are using to continuously evolve.

For the IT services industry, this means a shift away from a systems integration model that focused on IT outcomes to services integration model that focuses on business outcomes. What has traditionally been a people-led, technology-assisted approach that relied on people-based processes using technology for executing simple tasks, has progressed to one that is technology-led, people-assisted, using advanced technology to address complex tasks. In other words, most standard tasks and processes that once required a manual administration will be executed by increasingly autonomic systems that are data-driven, cognitive and automated.

We are in a new Cognitive Era of technology where IT systems and services are fully integrated, where tasks and processes are being delivered by increasingly autonomic systems that are data driven. IT systems and services are becoming cognitive and software-defined, able to communicate among themselves and act autonomously. In the Cognitive Era of IT, cognitive computing is transforming the Digital Enterprise and we believe cognitive services delivery is the next stage of the delivery lifecycle transformation.

For example, a growing number of companies are using the IBM Services Platform with Watson and taking advantage of the wealth of operational data and experience. With this cognitive service, they’re gaining insights from their IT systems that either direct automated actions that result in better business outcomes, or that advise human experts to make better, data-driven decisions.

Using a simple analogy from biology, cognitive technologies like IBM Watson act as the cognitive brain (to generate the insights) and automation serves as the muscle (that executes the action). Information about the infrastructure systems we manage using the cognitive technologies is continuously fed back into the ‘brain’ to enable further learning and produce better outcomes. The infrastructure systems infused with the cognitive capabilities begin to understand, reason and learn, thus becoming self-healing and self-optimizing. In other words, they become autonomic systems.

Our cognitive services delivery is enabled by our IBM Services Platform with Watson that is comprised of IBM’s Data Lake, Cognitive Delivery Insights engine powered by Watson, and client-centric dashboards that provide full visibility into a client’s IT environment.

We expect that increasingly autonomic behavior will emerge in the context of business services or applications, with performance or user experience goals based on security and economic value guiding the behavior of the infrastructure services. Additionally, augmenting application performance management and event management systems with pattern recognition and deep learning is a critical part of the cognitive, optimized infrastructure.

Underlying federated ontologies will govern the interaction or the ‘glue’ among the different levels of cognitive capabilities and enable micro and macro learning mechanisms to support each other. For instance, learning that does not yet lead to automatic actions can still feed into the corpus of knowledge aiding a human expert, providing meaningful insights to help the practitioner with better decision making.

In the emerging hybrid cloud world, all of the cognitive services on the IBM Services Platform with Watson are designed, built and run with a workload perspective as the driving force. They rely on software-defined environments that surface the properties of hardware devices through software interfaces. This enables the right workload to be orchestrated and directed to run on the right cloud.

Cognitive services delivery and integration requires a platform to mediate between IT consumers and service providers, to bridge between the business perspective represented by workloads and their owners, consumers, and the services supporting them.

This Platform is evolving from our existing investments in service brokerage, orchestration for hybrid clouds and advanced automation and analytics for the operational lifecycle.

The platform has three layers:

  1. A broker layer for governance of IT consumption, supported by a federated self-service catalog. This allows CIOs to have visibility and control over who uses which services, while giving the users convenient access to services provided by potentially multiple providers from their services supply chain. Our IBM Brokerage Services provide leading functionality and are continuously being enhanced.
  2. An orchestration layer that ensures automated fulfillment and integration of the services across multiple providers, using blue-prints or patterns of configurations that embody best practices.
  3. An operational lifecycle layer that provides services management driven by automation and analytics. The Platform uses analytics and cognitive technologies on operational data collected to continually improve the quality of services delivery, coupled with automation for increasingly autonomic behavior for end to end security and improved efficiency.

The IBM Services Platform with Watson is data-driven, cognitive and automated, fueled by a vast data lake, a powerful analytics engine and cognitive services spanning all the layers and the entire lifecycle of the IT environment. Managed by this Platform, our clients enjoy a higher quality of service, better visibility and improved spend control of their IT environment. The next generation of infrastructure services is delivered by the IBM Services Platform with Watson.